WAR HEROES - Class of 1965
These men, our classmates & friends, lost their lives
in the Viet Nam War
Looking at "The Wall" in D.C.
Lance Corporal Willie Howard Adger
U.S. Marine Corps
"The Wall" panel 37E, row 72
Willie's brick at the NC Vietnam Memorial
Pfc. Chester Decatur Fewell
U.S. Marine Corps
"The Wall" panel 13E, row 130
Chester's brick at the NC Vietnam Memorial
Pfc Elvester "Big Boy" Hester, Jr.
U.S. Army Airborne
Elvester Hester Jr., whom we called "El", was a quiet, well-mannered trooper from Greensboro, NC. El had become a devout Christian who had promised not to take another life. To say it was peculiar for an Airborne Infantrymen in Vietnam to take that vow is nothing less than impossibility. But Elvester succeeded in keeping that vow unto his death.
In February 1968, our unit was west of BanMeThout on a search and destroy mission sweeping towards the Cambodian border. The NVA units in the area were mauled badly during the recent Tet Offensive, but were still offering strong resistance. We had been in contact with them for over a week with frequent firefights and sniper harassment. On February 12, 1968 we had humped past a burned out village and loggered on a flat plain just inside the tree line. My platoon was sent out to recon and soon found a large regimental size NVA unit that had also stopped for the night. We were immediately surrounded and cut off from our company. Elvester's platoon was sent to reinforce what was left of my platoon and was also surrounded and cut off from the main unit. There was a mass of dead and wounded troopers in need of rescue and there was Elvester dashing to save them. He succeeded in pulling a few wounded soldiers to safety and was headed out again when he was caught in a hail of AK-47 bullets.
Herein lies the irony. "El" (Elvester) carried his M-16, Mk-26 grenades, and all the other killing tools that were required but he never used them. When we recovered his body we found no bullet in the chamber of his weapon. No one could believe he was so dedicated to a promise that he would put his life in jeopardy for it. You can see now why this truly remarkable man is still indelibly etched in memory.
My platoon got wiped out that day in what came to be known as the St. Valentines
Day Massacre. Elvester's platoon suffered overwhelming losses as well, but there
are men alive today because of E's bravery.
May God grant him eternal peace!
Scott H. Smith
A CO., 1ST BN., 503rd Infantry
173rd Airborne Brigade (SEP.)
"The Wall" panel 39E, row 6
Bigboy's brick at the NC Vietnam Memorial
5th grade, middle row, behind John Stewart
(with Al, Levi, Ralph, Walter, Norris)
Sgt. Henry Thurman McCrimmon, "Hank"
U.S. Army Airborne
"The Wall" panel 52E, row 8
Hank's brick at the NC Vietnam Memorial
Corporal William Slade
3rd Battalion, 9th Regiment, U.S. Marine Corp
"The Wall" panel 44W, row 029
William's brick at the NC Vietnam Memorial
Vietnam Memorial in Lexington, NC
The NC Vietnam Memorial
Ralph Herbin & Jim Patterson- Memorial Day 2003
Purple Heart Wreath - Memorial Day 2003
Time doesn't always serve as the great healer.
That was obvious Thursday following the dedication of the new Wall of Honor at War Memorial Auditorium in the Coliseum complex. The wall replaces the Book of Honor and adds to the 541 Guilford County men and women killed in World War II and Korea the names of 77 men who died in Vietnam.
Mary Lou Nance, after spotting Benjamin Gaines Lang's name on the Vietnam plaque, couldn't reply when a bystander asked if he had been her brother.
Choking with tears, she tried to answer by holding up her hand and wiggling her fingers to emphasize a ring. An elderly woman standing nearby, Lucy Sligh -- teary eyed, too, after seeing her son's name -- realized the relationship.
"It's her husband,'' she said.
Finally, Nance composed herself and said she's isn't always that emotional.
"I can go for years at a time without getting upset,'' she said.
Still, she thinks of Lang, to whom she was married for three years, every time she looks into her children and grandchildren's eyes. She and Lang met in the 1960s as students at Duke University.
Facing a military obligation during an era with the draft, he became an Air Force fighter pilot. Before he left for Vietnam, the couple moved to Greensboro so she could be with her parents while he was away. She was pregnant with their second child. The baby was 2 months old when Lang's plane was shot down in 1971.
She remarried nine years later. Her son and daughter she had with Lang are doing fine.
Nance was moved during the dedication when the Rev. Mariolyn Clarillo of New Zion Baptist Church, an Army veteran of the Vietnam era, quoted George Washington, who said soldiers will be influenced by how society treats soldiers who went before them.
"For the sake of our country,'' Nance said, "I hope we have short memories.''
She remains angry at how some Americans viewed those who fought in Vietnam. While she and her children were living in California, one of her children's teachers told the class "that anyone who went to Vietnam is no better than a murderer.''
Sligh was so moved by Nance's expressions of love for her late husband that she hugged the stranger. Nance's late husband had been among the last from Guilford to die in Vietnam; Sligh's son, Alvin Sligh, was among the first.
Sligh expressed gratitude for the Wall of Honor, designed for the Coliseum by the One Design Center of Greensboro and funded by Pepsi-Cola.
"I want someone besides me to know about my loss,'' she said, "It has been the greatest loss of my life.''
Those who died in World War II and Korea never saw the Coliseum complex, which opened in 1959. But many of those killed in Vietnam attended events as children and teenagers at the place that now memorializes them.
"He was out here all the time,'' Lucy Sligh says of her son.
The Vietnam dead run from A to Z, from Willie Howard Adger to Jose Enrique Zayas. They range from privates to officers to a major. They include a Medal of Honor winner, Army Pfc. Phill G. McDonald, who gave his life to save his comrades during a battle in June 1968.
Before entering the Army, McDonald worked in a lumber yard across from the Coliseum, a site that's now a Coliseum parking lot.
He attended hockey games at the arena and passed the building daily walking (he didn't have a car) from his rooming house on Immanuel Road to Central Assembly of God on Florida Street. He was one day from being too old for the draft, 26, when he received his draft notice, his family said after his death.
The Vietnam dead include a West Point graduate, Billy Flynn. He had grown up in modest circumstances in the mill villages of northeast Greensboro and had been an outstanding student at Page High School. His dream was to attend West Point, but lacked connections to win an appointment. He was told he might qualify if he joined the Army as a private and followed a certain route. Flynn quit Page his junior year. Two years later, he entered the academy, graduating in 1966. He was killed seven years later as a second lieutenant with the Army Rangers.
Ellen Jordan, his 81-year-old aunt, wanted to attend Thursday's ceremony, but she is getting feeble and spends all her time caring for Billy Flynn's mother, Margie Flynn, who is 88.
Their emotions match those of those at the dedication. Vietnam and the loved ones lost never fade.
"It seems almost like his eyes follow me when I walk across the room,'' Jordan says of a photo of Flynn that hangs in her sister's apartment on Summit Avenue. "I'm always saying something to him. He was such a precious boy.''
Contact Jim Schlosser at 373-7081 or email@example.com
NAMES OF VIETNAM VETERANS ADDED TO THE MEMORIAL
*Willie Howard Adger*
Asher Aubrey Anthony
Tony Ray Bingham
Terry Adam Bryson
Easley Phillip, Byers, Jr.
Roger Dale Cheek
Charles Claybourn Cox
Rembert Crawford, Jr.
James Edward Crosby
Alvin Euclid Cross
Thomas Monroe Crow
Glenn Charles Dyer
James Hampton Edge
Donald Frank Ervin
*Chester Decatur Fewell*
Milton Eugene Flowers
Billy Wayne Flynn
Jackie Lewis Ford
John Carl Foy
Lewis Bernard Gill
David Lee Gilliam
Roy Lee Griffin Jr.
Mark Steven Hailey
James Shreve Hall
Michael David Helmstetler
*Elvester Hester, Jr*
Kenneth Wayne Hicks
William R. Higginbotham
Ted Delane Holliman, Jr.
David Rodney Holt
James Earl Jenkins
Roger Wardell Jenkins
Donald Albert Jones
Doward Leroy Jones, Jr.
Larry William Jones
Dennis Michael Keefe
George Thomas Kelly III
Benjamin Gaines Lang
Jerry Smith Leonard
Samuel Swann Linville
Ronald Craig Lovett
Ronald Lee Mabe
Curtis Owens Matier
John Ulmer McAlister
William L. McCormick
*Henry Thurman McCrimmon*
Phill Gene McDonald
Robert Nelson Morden
Daniel Owen Murphy
Hasker Lee Nesbitt, Jr.
Philip Owen Parrish
Gene Ray Phipps
Harry Davis Pickard
Billy G. Riggins
James Marcus Robinson
Melville Brice Rose III
Phillip K. Ross
Donald J. Shang
Carl Douglas Shirley
Alvin C. Sligh (Dudley High 1963)
Floyd Tyrone Spencer
Vickey Earl Stanley
Robert Ferrell Stockard
James Ernest Thomas
Larry Wayne Walker
Jerry Lee Wall
John Friel Webb
Bruce Wayne Westmoreland
Ernest W. Wiglesworth, Jr.
Howard K. Willhite, Jr.
Paul Douglas Williamson
Jose Enrique Zayas
As well as being members of Dudley's class of 1965, Willie, Big Boy, Hank & William were
Jonesboro Elementary School and Lincoln Junior High School classmates. They were in the same home room from the 2nd thru 8th grades.
~Deceased War Medal Winners (not killed in action)~
James Alston - Bronze Star, Vietnam
Hillis Haygood - Distinguished Flying Cross, Vietnam
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