Honoring and commemorating veterans whom served for our freedoms.
“Two homeless kids in 1943, that’s how it all got started for Vivian and me. She had a bedroom suite and I had a cow. that’s how me and Vivian started out.”
Those are the opening lines of “Vivian” , the song John McFalls, better known as Jay, wrote with Freedom Sings songwriters Don Goodman and Steve Dean.
Jay grew up dirt poor in Rhea County Tennessee in the years of the Great Depression. Born in the winter of 1926, Jay was a middle child in a family of a dozen children. He left home for good when he was 12 years old to hire himself out to work on farms. He made his way to Sale Creek, and then to the textile mills in Chattanooga. He was 16 when, while working at the Margate Hosiery Mill on Main Street in Chattanooga , he met a skinny red haired girl named Vivian. Jay says he sat down next to this 15 year old girl, reached over, and took a long sip of her orange soda. She called him a bad name, “ Drink the rest of it you blankety blank!” It was love at first gulp!
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JIMMY RAY SELLS
Jimmy Ray Sells, was a friend to everyone who knew him. He didn’t know a stranger. He was a musician, a father of four, a son, a brother, and a sailor in war. Yet, above all else, he was a storyteller. He served his country proudly, and like many veterans was wounded in war, but these weren’t flesh wounds. His scars were far deeper, not visible to the eye. PTSD affects so many, but through his darkest moments he found a way to heal by telling his stories, and helping other veterans tell theirs. He found purpose teaming up with the guys from Freedom Sings USA, to help other veterans bring those scars to surface, just as he had, through songwriting and music therapy. The team at Freedom Sings USA in Chattanooga, TN helped change, I would even say save, my Dad’s life. They helped him look within himself and find music/songwriting again. We are forever grateful for that, and the memories we have with him. He’ll forever be a hero, not just to us, but to the many veterans he helped to tell their stories through song. He lives on in those memories and in his songs.
Leo Jackson Whaley was born in Cleveland, Tennessee. His parents were Joseph Jackson Whaley and Minnie Marie Lamons from Sevier County, TN. Leo was the eleventh child in a family of twelve children. There were three boysand nine girls. Leo always loved his country. His oldest brother Loy was in WWII and came homewith one arm missing but this did not keep him from wanting to go into the military. Another older brother, James served in the Army – both he and Leo were in the Korean War. Leo joined the US Navy at 17 and proudly served his country for almost four years (5 November 1952 - 19 July 1956).
On June 26, 2019, FSUSA was finishing the song of Larry Taylor, a Silver Star recipient and a hero who went against orders to fly his cobra into a rice paddy to rescue 4 men surrounded by Viet cong. This riveting story of what happened that night. Larry is up for the
Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor, for getting them all out alive.
We asked a great writer, who is an Iraq War veteran, to write a version of the account taken from the story Larry told Freedom Sings USA. James Eyler who knows combat and was there when Saddam Hussein was captured wrote our tribute to Larry Taylor.
Thank you Larry for sharing your story! It’s heroes like you that have kept our freedom intact!