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Major Kelly stadium rededication event to kickoff fall season

The first of next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Maj. Charles L. Kelly. At the regular-season opening football game of the Screven County Gamecocks’ 2014 season, the Sylvania stadium will be rededicated in honor of the Vietnam War officer who heroically flew his Huey helicopter into war zones to rescue the wounded.
With the game opponent of the Islanders visiting from St. Johns High School in South Carolina on a non-traditional day of a Saturday, Aug. 23, plans are being made to bring more attention to Kelly, who was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and commanding officer of the 57th Medical Detachment from January 1964 until his death in action July 1 of that same year as he tried to evacuate a wounded American advisor along with several South Vietnamese soldiers.
Kelly was willing to fly into danger area to rescue the injured. Kelly often flew missions at night, claiming that all the times he had been hit had been during daylight. He was killed by a single bullet after being warned out of a “hot” landing zone, to which he replied, “When I have your wounded.”
A rededication ceremony at the stadium for the Sylvania High School graduate will be conducted before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff to new Gamecock season.
As the Aug. 23 event nears, more information will be released by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7116 and the Friends of Charles Kelly Committee. In preparation for the rededication, Vietnam veterans are encouraged to contact VFW post commander Peter Mayer at 912-266-1752.
The stadium was named in honor of Kelly Oct. 15, 1965, after the school’s letterman’s club, the S Club, sponsored a contest as students submitted potential names for the field. A committee of community leaders, civic clubs and school personnel then reduced the list down to three. The school board took those three choices under advisement and made a decision.
Kelly was posthumously awarded the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, South Vietnam’s Cross of Gallantry with Palm and the National Order of Vietnam, Fifth Class, the highest honor for the country of South Vietnam.
As commander of the helicopter ambulance, Kelly assumed the call sign “Dustoff.”  When Kelly died, his “Dustoff” did not as it became the call sign for all aeromedical missions in Vietnam. “When I have your wounded” would become the personal and collective credo of the Dustoff pilots who followed Kelly.
Kelly was inducted into the Dustoff Hall of Fame in February 2001.