partlycloudy
Saturday August 1st, 2015 6:20PM

Hero's son challenges students to 'do hard things'

By Rob Moore Reporter
Related Articles
CORNELIA - "Do hard things." That was the message given to Hilliard A. Wilbanks Middle School sixth-graders Monday morning.

The words came from John H. Wilbanks, son of the late Capt. Hilliard A. Wilbanks, on the 47th anniversary of the captain's death in Vietnam.

The sixth-grade students filled the Cornelia Community House as special guests for Capt. Hilliard A. Wilbanks Day.

Spellbound, the students heard firsthand accounts of Wilbanks' heroism from eyewitnesses through means of video.

Wilbanks was a Medal of Honor recipient who was presented with the honor posthumously on Jan. 24, 1968. He died while protecting friendly forces from the Vietcong in his single-engine, unarmed plane.

Citing the book Do Hard Things, John Wilbanks provided examples of George, David and Clara, young people who changed the world.

Those young people were George Washington, David Farragut (the U.S. Navy's first admiral) and Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross).

Some of the students gasped when they learned that Farragut was given command of his first ship at age 12 - the age of many of the sixth-graders gathered.

Wilbanks told the students those three young people and others did hard things. Similarly, his father did many hard things.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he joined the Air Force in 1950, right out of high school which he attended here in Cornelia," his son said. "Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he qualified for aviation school ... in 1955. Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he left his expectant wife and two children and family and deployed to Vietnam on March 18, 1966 - only two weeks before my twin sister and I were born.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he buckled the seat harness of his 0-1 Bird Dog for his 488th combat mission, not knowing at the time it would be his last," John Wilbanks said. "Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he flew reconnaissance ahead of the 23rd Battalion of Rangers as they approached the tea plantation, not knowing the ambush awaited.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he spotted the VC forces and marked their position with smoke rockets, and began to direct the fire of three helicopter gunships to cover the retreat of the Rangers," Wilbanks said.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when one of the helicopter gunships was hit and he ordered the other two to escort it to safety, leaving only himself to support the 23rd Battalion Rangers," he said.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when he assumed a close air support role, flying low over the treetops firing his M-16 out the window of his unarmored 0-1, drawing the enemy's attention away from the Rangers below," his son said.

"Capt. Wilbanks did hard things when on his third and final pass he gave his life," John Wilbanks said. "To be sure, many did hard things that day. But Capt. Wilbanks' unselfish acts of courage and heroism were able to minimize friendly losses. Before the battle was over, the Rangers had lost 36 members, but had it not been for Capt. Wilbanks that number would have been many, many more."

Wilbanks challenged the students to "do hard things" to impact the world around them.

Following the ceremony inside, students and others gathered outside, where the Wilbanks family placed a wreath beside the memorial to Capt. Wilbanks.


© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 7 months ago )
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 7 months ago )
Sheriff: Man shot 2 on I-85 because he wanted car
A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.
5:21PM ( 7 months ago )
Local/State News
Confederate flag support rally held at Stone Mountain Park
Hundreds of people gathered at Stone Mountain Park, just outside Atlanta, to rally in support of the Confederate battle flag.
By Associated Press
4:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
Film crew shoots Dare Stones docu-drama at Brenau
A local legend is returning to the small screen while a film crew shoots a docu-drama about the Dare Stones on the Brenau University campus.
1:46PM ( 4 hours ago )
GMRC Workforce Development Center career coach to visit Hall, Forsyth counties in August
A "mobile career coach" will be on hand at several locations in Hall and Forsyth counties in August to help anyone looking for a job.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:28AM ( 6 hours ago )
UPDATE: Oakwood, Flowery Branch police may have suspect in business scam
The Oakwood and Flowery Branch police departments have been working together to bring charges against a woman who has allegedly been trying to scam area businesses out of cash.
11:00AM ( 7 hours ago )
GOP proposes protections for clergy on gay marriage
A top-ranking Republican leader wants to make clear that Georgia clergy can refuse to perform gay marriages, a protection they already enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.
By Associated Press
6:48AM ( 11 hours ago )