Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last 416th West Pointer

The West Point class of June 1943 produced many heroes, some of whom lost their lives on the field of battle, others who went on to serve their country with distinction for more than half a century after the end of World War II. Sixteen members of that class who became aviators were assigned to the 416th Bomb Group. Bill Cramsie was the first member of that group, and of his class, to be killed in action. Dick Wheeler was the last surviving member of that group. He was not only a classmate of Cramsie, they were close friends. Dick wrote the obituary for Bill Cramsie that appeared in the West Point newsletter, "The Pointer" in 1946.

Dick Wheeler passed away on December 30, 2009. After enjoying Christmas with his family, he suffered a heart attack early Monday morning. His spirit remained strong but his body could no longer keep up. He passed with his wife Alice at his side and surrounded by all of his children and grandchildren. It was my distinct honor to know Colonel Wheeler, who was clearly a hero, having won a Distinguished Flying Cross during the war and another during peacetime for his world-record setting parachute jump of 42,449 feet at Holloman AFB, NM in 1950. During the 416th Bomb Group Reunion this past September, I video-taped about two hours of discussion with Dick about his years at West Point and with the 416th. Attached here are a few short clips from that interview. He will be missed by many, but especially by those who understood his untiring devotion to "Duty, Honor, Country."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

When a Soldier Comes Home

One of the many "pass it on" emails circulating widely deals with the widened perspective that war forces upon all, but especially upon the young. That email was created by Captain Alison L. Crane, a nurse in the 7302nd Medical Training Support Battalion. Rather than simply pass it on to my email list, where it would quickly be lost in the morass of cyberspace, I decided to put Captain Crane's message and photos into a slideshow movie that could be posted here. The images will advance automatically. As background, I added the a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace by the Cactus Cuties, from Lubbock, Texas. I hope it's as inspiring to you as it was to Doris and me. To view a larger image, just use the zoom-in feature of your browser (under the "view" menu) while playing the presentation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Matter of Aesthetics

A 90-year-old Virginia Medal of Honor winner and veteran of WWII and Vietnam has been ordered to remove the flag pole from his front yard because it does not conform "aesthetically" to the standards of the homeowners association where he lives. They want the most highly decorated combat soldier alive to fly his flag from a wall mount. The story is covered by out of Richmond.

In the first day of posting, more than 3,000 comments have been appended to the article and the issue is gaining national attention.