On this Memorial Day I would like take a moment to share a bit of wisdom from my father, William E. Wynne Sr. 1925-2017.
Above, 1967 photo from Vietnam, my father is second from the left. The aircraft is a C-123 Provider.
First, as most members of the armed services will remind us, and the public has mostly misunderstood, Memorial Day is not Veterans Day, it isn’t for thanking those who have served, it is intended to be a day of remembrance of all the Americans who lost their lives, and everything they might have ever done on this earth, in service to our Country.
My father spent the years 1943-76 on active duty and last year he has laid to rest at Arlington, but he was no militarist. He very rarely spoke of his views outside the family. He had one personal value that I’d like to share here: He adamantly believed that no American should express an opinion on a conflict until they have memorized the name and personal story of at least one fellow citizen who lost their life fighting in it.
My father lead by example on this, and even when he was ninety, the could, given an hour of your time, tell you the names of 100 people who paid a terrible price and should be remembered on Memorial Day. If the number seems exaggerated, I can assure you it isn’t . WWII provided him with a somber start, as it took the lives of several dozen of his high school classmates, 23 in a single day.
My fathers strongest bond to service was born of his years in the Seabees. Perhaps for this reason, he selected the name and story of Marvin G. Sheilds for me to learn. By the time I was nine I could share a brief biography of Shields. If you are among the Americans who cannot name a single person lost in Vietnam, perhaps spend 10 minutes of this Memorial Day reading his Wikipedia page and find out how his this man’s name became engraved on panel 2E of the Wall in DC.
As he became older, my father developed a ritual. At the very end of a good day, he like to take some quiet time and reflect on men he once knew. To outsiders this was a mystery, but to dad it was the only way to come to terms with his unearned fortune of having a life that was taken away from them. Below is an excerpt from a story I wrote about my parents 65th wedding anniversary:
“Sunday night, with most of the family and friends on their way home, found my parents home suddenly quiet. While all of the afternoon’s conversations had been on family and good memories, my father, now almost 90 and somewhat frail, took the last hour of the evening to meet an obligation he finds very important; I sit beside him and listen while he looks back through the decades to remember and speak the names and the stories of good men, who’s devotion to their Shipmates, the Navy and our Country cost them everything, including a chance to grow old with the families they loved. This spoken remembrance is central to my father’s gratitude for the great fortune of being married for 65 years.”
11 Replies to “Memorial Day Thought”
I am very fortunate. All my uncles and my father came home from WWII, changed, but they came home, created families and lived well into their seventies.
I want to remember George Myrick. I played center, and was a senior, while George was my quarterback, a year and a half behind me. (We had both Summer and Winter classes then).
George was a good quarterback, and by the time he was a senior, he was an excellent one, as well as a good cross country runner over 55 years ago.
After High School, George, facing the draft, joined the Navy and became a Medic. Our high school honored him a few years back by immortalizing him for his service. When they had the ceremony, a former Marine traveled from New Jersey to Los Angeles to honor George.
He said that he was a small Marine, hardly 110 pounds soaking wet. George was attached to his platoon. In a fierce firefight, he was seriously wounded. George braved the intense fire, grabbed him, and dragged him back to safety, telling him, “You’re going to be all right.” while he provided first aid in spite of his own wounds.
George continued to rescue wounded Marines, and when the Medevac arrived, loaded him on board. That was the last the young Marine saw of him.
George continued his work until it was time to be evacuated himself. Loaded aboard one chopper, it was so damaged, it got shot down, and had to immediately land. Another Medevac chopper came in, and George was loaded on it. Just after liftoff, that one was again shot down, crashing in a ball of fire, killing George.
The former young Marine made the trip to show his thanks to George’s family and school mates. He said that he owes the rest of his life and family to George’s actions.
Rest In Peace, George Myrick.
2nd Lt Clarence “Bud” Hoehn was my uncle, and he served as an assistant radio operator and gunner on-board B-17s flying out of Australia on missions over New Guinea starting in 1942. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star and survived serious head and shoulder wounds from Japanese 20 mm cannon fire. When he returned to the States, he was able to have the fact that he had suffered a head wound to temporarily “fall” out of his official record and successfully applied for pilot training. He completed basic and advanced training as a pilot in P-47s. In April 1944, he was on his final training flight prior to deploying to Europe when he failed to maintain situational awareness while on a strafing run at a gunnery range on Galveston Island. He dragged a wing tip and cartwheeled his plane. He was survived by his father, 3 brothers, and 2 sisters, 3 of whom also served in the military during WWII.
There are 3 vets in my family that sadly I did not get to talk to or meet before they passed away. All three survived combat and returned to their families. My Great Grandfather (fathers side) served in the trenches in WWI came home and then served as the adjutant Major for the 359th fighter group. He died in the 70’s after falling off a ladder. No one ever was able to ask him about his service, and since a fire destroyed most of the WWII records, we will never know. My other Great Grandfather was also in WWI, he died in the 1990’s, never talking about what he went thru. Lastly my grandfather. He was in the Navy and the only story anyone heard before he died in the early 2000’s was that he was in Okinawa during the end of the war.
On another note I am great full for my present job working for the army. I get the opportunity to work with some of the best solider’s and civilians to develop new systems that will help prevent more of our young men and women from paying the ultimate price.
Thank you to all that have served especially those that paid the ultimate price for my freedom.
They died as teenagers for their country.
Both grew up within one block of me. Carl and I learned to ride a two wheel bike together by running along side and holding each other up. God how I wish I could hold him up now. I also enlisted in the army but I came home to a good life and a wonderfully family. A life I wish they had to share.r
I want to remember Roland Florio, my roommate for 9 months of Warrant Officer Flt school. Roland lost his life at the age of 21 on the way to a mayday call in VN. He was due to be home in two weeks. I came home two months later an have enjoyed another 50 years of blessings that Roland missed. He is sorely missed. RIP
I remember my brother in arms, Victor G. Lamberty, 49th Security Police Sq., Holloman AFB, New Mexico, killed on duty 2 Aug 81.
Nice, Very Nice and true. I am retired Vet and what you said is true. Thank You!
Jerry L Green
CWO, 240th Assault Helicopter Company
My great Uncle that I never got to meet. A helicopter pilot in Vietnam that was unfortunately killed by friendly fire. My grandfather always spoke highly of him and never got over his loss. My grandfather’s dying wish was to be buried with him, my amazing grandmother drove across the country to make that come true. I have been blessed to be one of many in my family that has had the opportunity to serve and I am glad to call him family.
Gary Manchester was a classmate from the class of 1967. He was a kind, quiet person who simply endeavored to serve his country. He went to Viet Nam and and died in combat, one of those over 58,000 who gave their last measure.
I wish to remember my uncle, Wilbur Lind, who was a fireman aboard the USS Tangier which was anchored on the backside of Ford Island on 7 Dec., 1941. He shared vivid memories of that day along with stories of his service throughout the Pacific during the entire rest of the war. He later served aboard the USS Pensacola and was present at several major battles and events. Among those memories and stories were several about shipmates who never made it home and his talking of them made a powerful impact on me as a young boy. Uncle Willie was under no illusion about the real cost of war or the necessity of sometimes going in to conflict. He was proud of his navy service and the entire family expressed many times how fortunate that he came home unscathed. He’s been gone many years now, but is well and often remembered.