Monday, November 11, 2013

Vietnam - the War of Our Generation

It's mere coincidence that the article last posted here was about Howard Skidmore, a decorated WWII 'Ace' pilot who managed the Ko-Op until joining the war effort. But during the mid and late Sixties, the war of our generation was in Vietnam.

My connections were that my two older brothers were in the Navy - one training pilots at the Naval Air Station Meridian (MS) and the other on a carrier off the Vietnam coast. I remember when Lyle Mowery attended the Fairbury funeral of a close hometown friend who died in the war. A schoolmate and neighbor from my hometown was killed in 1969. Others from Findlay, IL also served; another neighboring farmboy was severely wounded, endured a long recovery, and today lives with the effects of those injuries.

Wars are terrible, and young men and women often make huge sacrifices. In this trying to recognize and remember those persons from my Ko-Op days who served, I risk unknowingly leaving people off the list . . . but here goes with those known:

Kel Thrush - When he graduated, I thought he was off to a management trainee position with Sears. However I've learned that he never made it to that job, instead was swept into the military and the war effort. Lives in Louisville, KY.

Russ White - Took a break from EIU in late 1967, joined the army and was stationed at a landing zone south of Danang in Feb. 1969 when he was wounded. After recovery, he was assigned to a burial team at Ft. Lewis for 8 mos. Russ returned to EIU, graduated and went into teaching, finished a doctorate at UofI, and retired as the Supt. of Schools in Wilmington, IL. Russ lives in nearby Bonfield.

Sam Steinman - Graduated in 1969. Married Brenda Karcher (Who worked at the Short Stop) and in the fall after his basic training, he was selected for the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Sam is a Vice President at AGCO Finance and lives in Suwanee, GA.

From earlier postings here, I know that both Gary Cook and Ken Lowry served in the Air Force.

There were also many who roomed above the Ko-Op but did not work downstairs. Certainly, several served in the armed services. I'm aware that Sonny Greco left EIU and went into the Army from 1966-1968. He was a staff sergeant and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Like Russ White, Sonny returned to EIU and was a 1972 honors graduate (Served in state government positions - Dir. of personnel under Gov. Jim Thompson and Dir. of finance for the state department of transportation). Sonny was also a Springfield, IL businessman. He died in June 1993, 46 yrs. old.

Earlier this year another close childhood friend and neighbor, Coy Thomas died after years of battling cancer. Coy served in the US Army from Nov. 1967 to Nov. 1968, in Charlie Company, 2nd Platoon, 3rd Squad, in the 22nd Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was no less a casualty of the Vietnam War, a soldier exposed to Agent Orange. Coy earned a Bronze Star, two purple hearts and a Combat Infantry badge as well as a good conduct medal - several of his service mates "are still trying to figure out who the hell in the US Army put Coy in for the good conduct medal!" He left behind numerous tales of his wartime escapades.

Today is Veteran's Day, a day when we honor the service and sacrifice of men and women from all armed services. It also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I - - "the war to end all wars." If only that were true.