‘Summer of ’67’ movie is special to Pinecrest pastor, Garry Edwards

Published 8:54 am Friday, August 24, 2018

Editorial Director
Pinecrest Baptist Church will host a free screening of the movie “Summer of ’67” Sunday at 6:30 p.m., after which there will be a question and answer session for the writer/director Sharon Wilharm and her husband, Fred.
Fred and Sharon work as a team, taking the idea from concept to paper and then on to the screen. Previous movies produced by the husband-wife team include “The Good Book” and “Providence.”
Their latest movie, “Summer of ’67,” is a Vietnam War love story told from the perspective of the women who stayed behind. The movie brings to life the turbulent times of the 1960s and the struggles faced by the men and women impacted by the Vietnam War.
The movie centers on the stories of the wives, mothers, and sweethearts of the sailors who served aboard the U.S.S. Forrestal, which caught fire during the Vietnam War in 1967. A total of 134 sailors were killed. Wilharm’s father served on the U.S.S. Forestal as did Pinecrest Baptist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Garry D. Edwards.
Wilharm said growing up she heard the stories about the U.S.S. Forrestal and wondered what it must have been like for the sweethearts, wives, and mothers who when they received the news of the Forrestal’s tragedy did not know whether their loved ones were alive, injured, or killed.
She told the Baptist & Reflector earlier this year that the movie “is a powerful tribute to veterans and their families who sacrifice much for the country” and that the movie “is a story of holding fast to our faith through life’s struggles.”
The story is very personal to Pinecrest’s pastor, who was saved July 29, 1967, while serving in Vietnam aboard the U.S.S. Forrestal. “That day when that fire broke out, I knew that I was probably going to die, and I knew that I was a lost man. Right there on that burning ship I gave my heart and life to Christ, and the rest is history,” Edwards said.
“There were 5,004 men on that ship the day it exploded. I was a support mechanic and primarily took care of C-18 aircraft that hauled mail. I was a member of the Alpha Crew and had been up all night helping get the planes ready to fly. I had gone back to my rack to get some rest and had started writing Sarah (his wife) a letter when the fire alarm went off. I was also on the firefighting team and when the alarm sounded, meaning that we were in immediate danger, I took off for firefighting duty. I and two other guys were blown 150 feet into another compartment. I, eventually from there, worked my way into a catwalk where I could see the flames. It was bad,” said Edwards.
The sailors were surrounded by water, but with nowhere to go, no way to escape, Edwards and his comrades watched in horror as flames began to engulf their ship. “It was explosion after explosion,” said Edwards.
“We hosed down hotspots, helped others, worked triage. We did what were trained to do,” said Edwards
The fire began when the Forrestal was hit by a missile, which detonated ammunition that had been stored on the ship.
Edwards was one of the lucky ones. Fire raged for almost a day. More than 130 of his shipmates were dead. There was a massive amount of injuries. The ship limped its way into the Philippines a few days later, at Naval Base Subic Bay, where Edwards and his comrades were taken off the Forrestal and sent home.
“God had a purpose for saving my life that day and I think he still has a purpose for me,” said Edwards, who shortly after coming home surrendered to the call of God to the ministry. He has pastored a number of churches in the area, among them Little Milligan, Happy Valley Baptist, Beck Mountain, Unicoi, Roan Mountain, and more recently he served as interim pastor at Oak Street Baptist and Boones Creek Baptist. He answered the call to Pinecrest earlier this year.
When Edwards heard about the movie “Summer of ’67,” he contacted the Wilharms and shared his story with them after which they offered to do a free screening at Pinecrest.
The film is set to be officially released November 16.
Edwards said the invitation to attend the screening at Pinecrest is on a first-come, first-serve basis. “We can seat 300 people before setting out chairs if needed,” he said.

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