HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Sandy Weand is one of the most interesting people to talk to. He’s funny, kind and humble. He saw and did a lot in his Army career and this year, he’s being honored for his service.
During the annual Veterans Week celebration, the Madison County Heritage Commission inducts six new members into the Hall of Heroes- vets who have received awards for valor. Weand is one of the 2018 inductees.
He is a master aviator who was in the Army for three decades and fought in Vietnam. His career culminated in missile defense work at Redstone Arsenal. Now, he continues to serve- helping protect his community as a reserve sheriff’s deputy.
Pictures help explain his journey.
“This is the H-1 Cobra. That was our gun ship in Vietnam. That’s me with my helmet and striking aviator pose. I was there with super guys. They did fantastic jobs,” he said as he looked at old photos from his time in Vietnam brings back a lot. “A lot of great memories of the guys who worked hard as a unit to keep the aircraft flying so we could do our mission.”
Colonel Sandy Weand was born Sept. 7, 1947 and raised in Blountstown, Florida.
“At that time, airplanes were still a rarity. So I would always get very excited when I saw one. I would run out of the house or wherever I was just to watch it fly over. I always liked airplanes,” he said.
He graduated from Blountstown High School and went to a junior college near Fort Rucker, AL.
“While I was there, I could hear all of the helicopters flying all day long and it intrigued me to be an aviator. So I took the appropriate tests when the recruiters came,” he explained.
The Army was interested and he went from the junior college to Florida State University. They had a two year program of ROTC that was just getting started. They also introduced an Army flying program.
“I was able to participate in this civilian training program paid for by the Army. That allowed me to earn my private pilot’s license. The big payoff was when I went to flight school, I already had the basic air sense. I knew how to navigate and communicate while flying so that was money well spent,” Weand said.
He was a Distinguished Military Graduate and earned his Private Pilot Certificate through the Army ROTC flight training program at Florida State University. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army and was designated an honor graduate of the Rotary Wing Flight School at Fort Rucker, AL. While attending flight school, he married Carol Elaine Cannon. He served with B Troop, 3/17th Air Cavalry in Vietnam flying the AH-1G Cobra and serving as Troop Aviation Maintenance Officer.
“When I arrived in Vietnam, I was assigned to 3rd 17th Air Cav and at the time, we were stationed close to Siagon. We flew from Siagon all the way east to the Cambodian border and all the northeast to the Cambodian border. I flew combat missions for about three months and that allowed the current aviation maintenance officer time to finish his tour and then once he completed his tour, I was reassigned back into the maintenance troop and I became the aviation maintenance officer. I did that work and flew some combat missions on the side for the remainder of my tour,” he explained.
They were operating up Highway 13 into a Cambodia area called Chup Rubber.
“Lam Son 719 had just been completed earlier that year in ’71 so the North Vietnamese were using Highway 13 as an infiltration route. They would build these large supply and relocation camps across the border in Cambodia and at night, they would trickle down into South Vietnam. We did a lot of flying at, near and across the border. In two different operations, we had some significant fighting and that’s where the two air medals with valor were awarded to me,” Weand added.
After Vietnam, Weand stayed in the Army, in testing and evaluation and research and development commands.
He served at the Army Engineering Flight Test Activity, attended Fixed Wing Flight School and was the Distinguished Graduate. Weand served at the Cold Regions Test Center; TRADOC-Schools and Headquarters; Program Executive Offices- Comanche and Tactical Missiles; U.S. Army Aviation Command; 10th Mountain Division (Joint Task Force Somalia); and Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science, United Kingdom. He completed the US Army Command and General Staff College, the Defense Systems Management College, and the U.S. Army War College. A Master Army Aviator, he attained the rank of colonel and retired from the Army in 1999 after 30 years of service.
He finished his career in Huntsville as an assistant program executive office with tactical missile program executive office.
“Redstone Arsenal was my final assignment. I worked in PEO tactical missiles and then retired here. We just stayed. I became involved in the community in several different aspects,” Weand said.
He works as a reserve deputy for the sheriff’s office and he’s active in the Vietnam Veterans of America and The North Alabama Chapter Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.
His induction into the Hall of Heroes is very meaningful.
“I feel there are other people who are more worthy and I’m just thankful I got the opportunity to be inducted,” Weand added.
Sandy and Carol have three children and he attributes his success to the support from his wife and kids.
“I have a great family. My wife and I have been married for almost 50 years. I have two boys and a daughter and they’ve all been great kids. I have to give thanks to God because He’s blessed me with opportunities to do the things I wanted to do. Having all the blessings of the family and the Lord, I’ve had a great life. I’ve enjoyed what I do and I just get up with a purpose each day to carry on,” he said.