Son honors his dad’s military service with unique golf cart

John’s Golf Cars owner John Stern (standing) and his father, Cliff, with the golf cart John recently completed to honor the service of his dad and all military members who served in Vietnam. Photo/Ben Nelms.

It was a way to pay honor and respect to a man who served his country decades ago in Vietnam and to all those who served so far from home.

And for John’s Golf Cars owner John Stern, it was a way to blend his work with his appreciation of the service that his father, Cliff Stern, gave as a Huey helicopter pilot. The finishing touches were completed last week and John’s unique golf cart project is ready for Veterans Day this coming Sunday.

John and Cliff were at John’s Peachtree City business last week, admiring the look of the one-of-a-kind golf car that features a Huey helicopter and insignia denoting Cliff’s service with the 174th Assault Helicopter Company.

“My dad served in the war as a Huey helicopter pilot transporting troops into the field. I have always been proud of his service and when I was a kid I wanted to actually buy him a Huey helicopter. Well, I couldn’t afford that so I settled on the next best thing,” John said of the now-completed golf cart.

“I’ve always been extremely proud of what he did in Vietnam, but it was only when I got older did I appreciate it. They weren’t shown respect when they came home. The project was a way of showing respect and letting him know I’m proud of him and the others that served. This is for him and others to see on the cart paths,” the younger Stern said.

John noted that the 174th AHC was well-known during the war, likely due to their gunships called “Sharks” that sported teeth painted across the nose and based on the Flying Tigers of World War II.

As for the golf cart, John said it is extremely powerful with an upgraded, high-torque motor system to outfit the 2010 chassis. The body is airbrushed with a mural sporting the helicopters Cliff flew, known as “Dolphins.”

The rear body of the driver’s side has troops being dropped into a landing zone and, on the passenger’s side, a “Shark” gunship carrying out its mission. The art work on the cart also includes a symbol of the maintenance crew known as “Witchdoctor” and the patch for the 174th AHC, both on the interior kick panel.

The front of the cart is outfitted with Senior Aviator wings on the top of the cowl and with the tail number of Cliff’s helicopter 15215 above the bumper, John explained, adding that the cart’s battery charger is fitted inside an ammo box.

Standing next to the golf cart outside John’s store, Cliff commented on the significance of the project his son had just completed.

“I was a 23-year-old captain. Like the others, we were really young. There’s a camaraderie in war you can’t duplicate anywhere else. We never left anybody on the ground,” said Cliff, whose call sign was Dolphin 26. Cliff was part of the group that led the assault into Laos. “I’ve always been proud of the 174th. This cart is an appropriate tribute to the Vietnam vets.”

John thanked Industrial Services of Peachtree City, Nevermore Industries of Peachtree City, the 174th AHC and Golf Depot, Inc. of Panama City, Fla. for their help with the project.

Aside from what will be a highly visible tribute to his dad and all the 174th AHC veterans, Cliff’s golf cart will journey to the 174th AHC reunion in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. next May, and has been submitted as an idea for an article in the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association magazine.

As for the project to honor his dad and all Vietnam veterans, John could not be more grateful for the opportunity.

“I have built some unique vehicles and driven them on the paths of Peachtree City for years, but this one has become my masterpiece. I originally intended it to simply be a tribute to the 174th AHC, but it quickly took on a larger scope, and I think it’s a way of honoring all who served in the Vietnam War,” John said. “I believe that any veteran who sees this vehicle will see something deeper and more meaningful than just a golf cart with helicopters on it. I think that they’ll see something that a tremendous amount of thought and effort went into and, hopefully, they’ll realize that there are many of us who are proud of their service.”