For 25 years, Jack Lee of Ethel has carried five index cards in his pocket. Every day, he places them in the pocket of his new shirt. But they are no ordinary cards. They are cards that hold a special place in his heart.
The information written on the cards is that of five students he taught while he lived in California. These five men all entered the service after graduation. These men also all died during their time in the service during the Vietnam War.
For a long time, Jack dreamed of doing more to honor these men. But now that dream is a reality.
A small chapel with a pew, cross and plaques with the information of each man were placed in Jack's backyard in Ethel along with five crosses bearing each man's name and a Fallen Soldier statue.
Through the help of several people, a memorial dedication ceremony was held this Sunday, Sept. 29. Members of Callao Argonne Memorial Post 360, Ethel Post 247, Chapter 228 American Legion Riders, the American Legion Bucklin Green Hills Post 57, the Patriot Guard, as well as interested community members gathered to remember these men for their service to their country. Deanna O'Brian, Jack's niece, introduced him at the beginning of the ceremony. Jack spoke of each man and gave a brief history of their life and death: LCpl. Ronald Lee England, 20, was from Lynwood, Calif. He was a rifleman in the U. S. Marine Corps. He died Sept. 19, 1966, from multiple fragmentation wounds. Corp. Gary Francis Gatti, 20, was serving in the U. S. Army. He was killed by an explosive device on Aug. 11, 1967. Spec. Juan Ramirez, 21, was from Lynwood, Calif. He was Army and was caught during small arms fire. He lived nine days and died Sept. 8, 1967. John Penfield Inglis, 21, was born in Los Angeles, Calif. He was serving aboard the Navy submarine, the U.S.S. Thresher. During a dive, the submarine was unable to surface and all on board perished. John turned 21, the day before his death on April 10, 1942. Spec. Paul Leslie Clark, 23, lived the longest of the five men. He was killed on Sept. 6, 1967, when his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire.
"America needs heroes," said Patriot Guard Larry Page. "And my heroes don't wear capes. They wear kevlar. These five young, courageous men were called home far too soon."
According to Page, approximately 1.5 million young men and women throughout the history of this country have given their lives to preserve the country. He, and fellow speaker, Ralph Thomas, Post 57 Commander, hoped that after the dedication ceremony people would leave with a renewed gratitude for the American veteran. They said anytime you see a veteran, you need to shake his or her hand or hug their neck and thank them for their service to their country.
Page 2 of 2 - Following the speech, a flag folding ceremony was held. The flag was then given
to Jack along with an engraved fired rifle cartridge. The Legion members held a military rites rifle firing and Taps was played.
Jack Lee is himself a veteran. He served in the Army at the end of World War II and attained the status of Sergeant.