OREGON and the VIETNAM WAR JULY 1968
Sgt DAVID F. LANGLEY Bio.: Find a Grave
This Afternoon in a section of Portland's Washington Park set aside as a "living memorial" to Vietnam veterans, 25 families will gather for a brief ceremony. It will be a recognition that, for them, the Vietnam War is not quite over.
They are relatives of Americans still officially unaccounted for in the long Southeast Asian conflict.
Sen. Mark Hatfield will present each family with a special bronze commemorative medal. The medals were authorized by Congress last year for the 2,489 Americans listed as either MIA (Missing in Action) or KIA BNR (Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered).
There are 46 Oregonians on that list. Those families not attending today's ceremony will received medals in other states or later from Hatfield.
Six of the 46 have some connection with Lane County or the surrounding area. There may be others, but even official lists have incomplete information. The six listed by Hatfield's office or by the Oregon coordinator of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, are:
Navy Lt. Meril O. "Skip" McCoy Jr. - The son of Mr. and Mrs. Meril McCoy Sr. of Cottage Grove and a Cottage Grove High School graduate, he was piloting a mail plane that crashed into the sea after taking off from the carrier USS Ranger in 1970.
Air Force Maj. Theodore J. Shorack Jr. - The husband of Elva Shorack and son of Marcella Shorack, both of Eugene, and a graduate of Elmira High School, he was piloting a plane involved in a collision with another plane while on a rescue mission over North Vietnam in 1966. One parachute was seen after the collision, but no trace was ever found of either pilot.
Army Staff Sgt. William W. W. Stubbs - The son of Lily Hill Stubbs of Eugene, he has been missing since the South Vietnamese army patrol he was with was attacked by a Viet Cong unit in 1969. He was hit at close range by machine gun fire and grenades and appeared dead, but his body was never recovered.
Air Force Lt. Col. Edward D. Silver - The husband of Donna Silver of Corvallis and a graduate of Junction City High School, he was piloting an F-4 Phantom jet that exploded while on a mission in 1968.
Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzinga - The son of Rev. and Mrs. Richard Elzinga, formerly of Shedd, now of Pasadena CA, he was a military attache to the U.S. Embassy in Laos whose plane disappeared in a flight over the Plain of Jars in 1970.
Air Force Lt. Col. William Richard Andrews - His home town is listed as Eugene, but no other information was available.
MOST OF THE FAMILIES of these men know they are dead. But for some there is a lingering uncertainty. For all, there is an extra emptiness.
"I wish that I could at least get Bill's bones back," said Lily Hill Stubbs. "I have no grave, nothing but his memory, that I can look to as a memorial."
The McCoys have dealt with that in their own way. "His stone is up there in our lot in Sunset Hills Memorial Gardens in Eugene, " said Rayme McCoy.
Both Stubbs' mother and Shorack's wife say they have come to accept the deaths of their men. "I feel like he is with God," said Elva Shorack. "However, when the POWs were returned in '73, you know, I just sat there glued to the TV, looking at each one. You always wonder when you don't have any remains."
The Elzingas, whose don't plane was never found in Laos, still cling to some hope. "Three years after his plane disappeared, a Pathet Lao agent was captured and he had on him three of our son's traveler's checks, imperfectly good condition," said LaMila Jean Elzinga. "As long as they know where he was and that his traveler's checks were not burned, I know that he was alive that day (the plane disappeared). But how long could he have survived? . . . You don't have peace of mind. The not knowing is the worst."
Richard Durham, a Hatfield volunteer coordinating today's medal ceremony, said the Defense Department has received "over 500 first-hand 'live' sightings" of Americans since the war's end. Many have been discounted or disproved, but "about 150 cases are under investigation currently," he said.
THE VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT denies that any prisoners remain there. Strained diplomatic relations with Laos and lack of any relations with Cambodia have complicated efforts to trace MIAs in those countries, Durham said.
In a radio talk last year, President Reagan said: "I reaffirm by dedication to obtaining the fullest possible accounting for our Americans missing in Southeast Asia. . . We must not rest until we know their fate."
One who doesn't believe that the government has done enough to determine that fate is Robert Brett of Klamath Falls, state coordinator for the league of families. His son, Capt. Robert Brett Jr., has been missing since being shot down over North Vietnam in 1972.
"Rather than have Congress create a medal for these men, I would appreciate much more concrete action on the diplomatic and economic front to gain a resolution to this tragedy." Brett said. "It's a tragedy when a country that prides itself on the rights of the individual and the dignity of man will send men off to war and then turn its back on them."
However, Mrs. Shorack said of the medal presentation: "I think it's letting people know that this isn't resolved."
And on the face of medal themselves are the words: "You are not forgotten." (The Register-Guard, Eugene OR, Friday, 17 August 1984)
Thank you Oregon Genealogical Society
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