Vietnam comrades remember fallen hero in Florala

Gary DeRigne and Basil Clark traveled hundreds of miles to salute and remember a fallen comrade. (Source: WSFA)
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FLORALA, Ala. (WSFA) -- The mere mention of the name Rodney Evans evokes deep emotions for Basil Clark.

Sgt. Rodney Evans died in South Vietnam in 1969 - one day after turning 21.
Evans was awarded two medals posthumously. Using his body to cover a landmine, Evans’ ultimate sacrifice saved the lives of his comrades and probably many more. Evans led a squadron of around 12 soldiers.

Gary DeRigne was 20 feet behind when his buddy died.

“Horrible, horrible wounds I won’t describe," DeRigne said.

Clark and DeRigne remembered Evans during a special ceremony Thursday night in Florala at the very community center that bears his name.

Before the event, the two men paused to remember and saluted Evans at his grave on the outskirts of town.

“The gratitude for the life I’ve had and the sadness for the life he lost," DeRigne said at Evans’ final resting place at the Liberty Hill Cemetery.

This special moment would not have happened had Evans not re-upped for another tour in Vietnam, something he wanted to do after losing his wife of only a few months on Sept. 5, 1968.

Kim Williamson is writing a book on the native son.

“She was killed in a car accident. He volunteered for another tour in Vietnam because he was heartbroken," Williamson said.

If the two veterans needed a reminder of what a true hero looks like, they came to the right place in Covington County and found it etched in a tombstone for all eternity.

“The big thing for me today is when his body was carried past I was so dead inside I couldn’t cry," Clark said.

Both men lived out their lives as authors, a college professor and a successful businessman.

Evans was awarded two medals posthumously.

President Richard Nixon awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart to Evans’ parents in the White House in April 1971.

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