Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Our Heroes On Memorial Day

Editor's Note: Today is Memorial Day, and I thought it would be appropriate to reprise three stories that we have done recently on the men in women from my hometown that have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have.

First off a story of the 1942 Fullerton High School CIF Champion Baseball team who to the man enlisted to serve our country. Many never came home. We call this one "How the Boys of Spring Became the Men of Summer and Our Heroes"

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

In Fullerton, California baseball is king. But in 1942 with war breaking out in Europe and our democracy being challenged, even baseball took a back seat in Fullerton to the war.

Almost forgotten that year in the events of the day, was the fact that Fullerton High School was busy working on another baseball championship and on the field was probably the best team ever assembled in Fullerton baseball history. That says a lot for a town that has produced the likes of hall of famers Walter Johnson, Arky Vaughan, Gary Carter, Willard Hershberger and a guy that should be in the hall of fame...Del Crandall.

During the backdrop of the war, the boys of Fullerton rolled on to a League championship and then were taking out opponents right and left in the post season. Anchored by a tall, lanky righthander Vaughan Jones and his battery mate Kenny Sullivan the team was virtually unstoppable. Except this story takes an unexpected turn.

In 1942 two things were happening. Number one, most of the interest was going toward the war effort and not on high school sports. In the CIF (California Intersholastic Federation) that year it was not like today with multiple divisions based on high school size, etc. There was only a major winner which was San Diego that year and a minor winner which was Fullerton. Fullerton was supposed to play San Diego that year to determine on the field which was the better team. That game never happened.

That's because all of the Fullerton High Senior boys and the popular coach of Fullerton High all went down before the season ended and enlisted in the military to serve their country. Most of those boys were in the battlefields by Summer. Most of the boys never got back home. Vaughan Jones the righthander was one of the 1942 Championship team that was killed in action that year.

Ken Sullivan, story was somewhat of a tragedy too. When you consider the fact that he was ticketed for the major leagues and could have added his name to the Hall of Famers from Fullerton. Ken took shrapnel to his leg and could barely walk. His baseball career was over. He was decorated for his service in World War II. He was a war hero.

Ken would go on to mentor the great Del Crandall as a catcher.

I met Ken eight years ago while I was organizing the annual Fullerton High School Baseball Alumni Game and Reunion. He was not bitter about his life. He couldn't be...he had a great family, great friends, a wonderful career, but one thing he told me was not setting well with him all these years. The CIF never recognized the 1942 team as CIF champions. The official winner that year for baseball was San Diego. I and some others tried to get the school to at least have a banner up with the other CIF Champions for the 1942 baseball team. They wouldn't do it.

Ken died a few years ago. It's strange how life is sometimes. I had started a community newspaper in Fullerton and one of the first stories I wanted to do was on Ken and the 1942 FUHS baseball team. I was going to make a phone call to interview Ken but before I made that call I decided to do some preliminary background research on the team and the year 1942. That's when I ran across Ken's obituary.

A good friend of Ken's, Tom Gregory, picked up the ball and ran with the CIF recognition. Fortunately, with Tom's hard work CIF reversed their ruling and officially made Fullerton High 1942 baseball team CIF champions. The team even made it to the banner that hangs at the Fullerton High Baseball Field.

But because many of them made the ultimate sacrifice and were great men, they will always be our champions.

Second up, a story by our Jim Helm on a young boy growing up in Fullerton in the late 1960's and his POW bracelet. We call this one "I Didn't Know Charles V. Newton, but I Will Never Forget Him"

By Jim Helm,
Special for the Daily Bosco

I remember when I heard the news but I can't remember who told me. His younger brother was one of the big kids in the neighborhood and he was so much older than his younger brother that I always thought of him as an "adult". A 20 year old adult. His parents didn't come out of the house much and his younger brother moved away shortly after. As they suffered their loss they probably never imagined that anyone but their family would remember them 40 years later. This is how I remember the war in Vietnam.

I remember when they said the kid up the street had died there. I remember the look on my mom's face when we heard her younger brother was going there. I remember the TV news with their daily counts of the wounded and dead. I remember the countless stories 30 years later of the men who were "Dealing with it".

I never went. I was never there. I can't imagine it, but at the same time I can imagine it because I have heard so much and read so much about it. I didn't understand it when I was a kid, but I knew it was bad. And mostly, the thing I remember was in High School and the relief that I felt hearing that I wouldn't have to go there. We had all thought about it, talked about it, and tried to prepare for it. And then it was over.

When I asked my mom for the $3.00 to buy the bracelet, her immediate response was "No". But, when I explained to her why I wanted it, I must have been convincing because she kind of sighed and got the money out of her purse. You see, $3.00 back then was about like $30.00 today. So imagine your 10 or 11 year-old asking if they can have that much money to buy a bracelet for a missing soldier from some guy on the street. Would you do it? Would you really do it???? My mom did it twice.

They called them POW Bracelets. The first ones were solid brass and etched with the soldiers name and date and location that the Soldier was lost. It was a flat piece of brass that had been shaped into a semi-circle. You couldn't get your wrist into it without bending it open slightly and once it was on your wrist you had to bend it shut again. When they came around a few months later, the new ones were stainless steel. Same engraving, same message. Somehow I talked mom into one of those too.

I remember they wouldn’t let me pick a specific name. You got the name they gave you. But each one had a unique name of a lost soldier engraved on them. That amazed me, one man, one bracelet. So I wore them, I wore them a lot. The first one, the brass one, was overcome by years of surfing and other abuse and wore through the engraving of the name of the soldier after about 10 years. Although I can't read or remember the name, I still feel like I am honoring him by keeping the bracelet. The stainless steel bracelet bears the following inscription:

SSG Charles V. Newton

17, Apr 69 SVN.

SVN, South Viet Nam. Wow, it sounds so far away when you are a kid. Now that I am older and the world has gotten so much smaller, it doesn’t seem so far. Still, I can’t help but to do the math in my head. He was SSG at that time so I assume he had been serving for a while. Let’s assume he was 18 or so when he went in and it took a year or so for him to make Special Forces Rank. He was only 12-15 years older than me. The date of 17 Apr 1969 is when he was reported missing.

I was ten.

There was no Internet back then. No other places for a kid to go to research and see if they were ever found. I know from watching the news some were found and they came back home to be reunited with their families. It would be nice to hear he was found too but I wouldn’t throw away the bracelet if that were the case. It’s spent too many years on my wrist and a bunch more in my dresser drawer for me to get rid of it now. And every once in a while when I’m wearing it someone looks at me and then looks down at the bracelet and then looks back up at me and smiles. They rarely say anything. They know what it is and they know that it’s my way to remember someone who gave their life for our Country. After I started writing this I finally decided to do a search for him on the Internet. Here's what I found.

Charles V. Newton

Charles Newton, was born and reared in the small Texas town of Canadian. Seven months after he graduated from high school, he followed in the footsteps of his three brothers, and enlisted in the U. S. Army. Charles completed Basic Airborne School with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and after a tour of duty in Germany, volunteered for Special Forces and Vietnam.

In November, 1966, Charles joined the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. He attended the Reconnaissance School in Nha Trang, and was assigned to Special Project Delta Detachment B-52.

During his second tour in Vietnam, Charles landed in the hospital at Long Bihn on January 11, 1968. Following are excerpts from a letter Charles wrote to his mom and dad:

Dear Folks,

Here I am again, flat on my back, however no real harm done . . . got one of the million dollar wounds. Caught a bullet on top of the head Tuesday a.m. and underwent surgery that afternoon. All are amazed that I'm here. I told them, you still can't keep a good man down. Hold all my mail. I should be state side in a couple of weeks.

Charles received a thirty-day convalescent leave, and arrived in his home town. He sported a chest-full of medals, including the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, air medal, and three Purple Hearts. He recovered from his wounds, and in May of 1968, married a home town gal. Two months later, he returned to Vietnam.

On March 22, 1969, Charles wrote a letter stating that he would be leaving Nha Trang in one to two days for I Corps (Phu Bai), Northern South Vietnam, and would be gone between thirty and ninety days. Each of his letters, left the reader with a definite sense that Charles intended a long career with the army.

Charles was a Recon Team Leader in Detachment B-52, referred to as "Project Delta." His team included three Vietnamese and three U.S. Special Force soldiers with a mission to conduct long-range reconnaissance into enemy occupied areas. These missions normally lasted for a three to five day period.

On April 14, 1969, his Team infiltrated Quang Nam Province in South Vietnam, and on the 16th, encountered enemy contact, but continued the mission. Shortly after noon on April 17th, the Team reported it was in contact with the enemy and requested air support. The last radio transmission heard from the team stated, "we're in a stream bed and hit bad".

Recon Team six which included SSG Charles V Newton; SGT Charles F Prevedel; SP-4 Douglas E Dahill; and three unidentified Vietnamese, became missing in action.

On this 28 day operation, between 29 Mar 1969 and 25 April 1969, Project Delta had suffered 5 KIA, 33 WIA, and 11 MIA, which included the loss of Road Runner Team 101 and Recon Team number six.

On December 16, 1969, five months after Charles Newton was declared missing in action, the U.S. Army promoted him to Sergeant First Class.

A Bronze Start with Oak leaf and three Purple Hearts. Somehow I knew he was a tough guy. 82nd Airborne were the bad boys they dropped in to clear the way for our other men. Project Delta were Special Forces Units of 5 or 6 men that went deep behind enemy lines. It was nice to hear that he was from an Army family following in his brothers footsteps. But the best thing was to read the letter home and to get the slightest feel of who he was and how much he loved his family. The sense of humor he used to tell them he was wounded but OK and would be returning home soon.

You don’t have to have a bracelet to remember them. There are many ways you can show your thanks for our soldiers. My wife can’t get through the start of any sports program without a tear in her eye if the Color Guard is performing. It’s because she remembers and she is proud and thankful for them. Others may stop in the airport to shake the hand of a retuning soldier to thank them for their service or to let a deployed one know that we pray for their safe return and thank them for putting their life on the line for all of us here at home.

I didn’t go....I was never there.... I didn’t know Charles V Newton. But I will always have this bracelet to remind me of the ones that did.

And finally, our third story....

With the death of Al Qaueda leader Osama Bin Laden last year, the first thing many of us were probably thinking about was the tremendous cost of human life, suffering and sacrifices made by our brave men and women in the armed services and their families. Many were our neighbors and friends.

The day seemed like it may never get here. It felt like sometimes we were chasing a ghost and maybe we might give up the chase. But in the end we, as Americans, did not forget and we will never forget that horrible day on September 11, 2001 and all the horrible things that happened before and since at the hands and plans of that man.

In the city of Fullerton, we had five men that either lived, were born or came from the National Guard Station in our town that paid the ultimate sacrifice in this war and were instrumental in arriving at this day.

Today, on Memorial Day we thought it would be an appropriate thing to remember them again. They are our hometown heroes afterall and we will never, ever forget their service. Thank you. - Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Army Sgt. Shin W. Kim

Died June 28, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Fullerton, Calif.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died June 28 of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Balad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices. Also killed were Sgt. Michael J. Martinez, Sgt. Giann C. Joya Mendoza, Spc. Dustin L. Workman II and Pfc. Cory F. Hiltz.

Shin Kim's Story: During two weeks of home leave from Iraq in February, Army Sgt. Shinwoo Kim surrounded himself with friends and relatives, binged on junk food and traveled to Las Vegas.

The combat medic from Fullerton, however, couldn’t leave Iraq completely behind. Before returning to the battlefield, he visited a memorial to Iraq’s dead on a Santa Monica beach and left the name of a fallen friend on one cross in the precise rows of crosses.

“It was like something he just had to do,” said his girlfriend Tammy Cho.

Shinwoo, 23, was among five soldiers killed in a June 28 Baghdad attack. Last weekend, it was his family’s turn to pay tribute to him at the memorial, known as Arlington West.

“We know he’s gone. But I guess we haven’t fully accepted it,” said his sister Shinae, 27. “My mom and dad are having a difficult time coping. We all are. Shinwoo was the baby. My mom never stopped calling him her baby.”

The family keeps a shrine with his picture and combat awards in their living room, and a certificate granting the South Korean native posthumous U.S. citizenship.

Kim’s parents, Yoo Buk and Kum Ok Kim, emigrated from South Korea with their three children 20 years ago. They said they didn’t want their son to enlist in the Army.

But he was moved to enlist by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“He kept newspaper stories about the attacks and terrorism,” his brother Josh, 31, said. “We didn’t want him to join, but after he did we all supported him.”

Kum King, with Josh translating, said if she spoke better English she would have demanded the recruiter tear up her son’s enlistment contract.

He volunteered to be a medic because he wanted to help people, not hurt them, Cho said.

Kim served in South Korea for a year before deploying to Iraq. He came home on leave in 2006 and thought he was to be permanently assigned to Fort Carson, Colo. He was ordered back to Iraq soon after.

Josh Kim said his brother did not die immediately from the attack. A doctor in Iraq held a telephone to Kim’s ear as his family bid the unconscious soldier goodbye from their Fullerton home.

Army Sgt. Eric M. Holke

Died July 15, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

31, of Crestline, Calif.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; died July 15 in Tallil, Iraq, of wounds sustained from a non-combat-related incident. His death is under investigation.

Eric's Story:
Sgt. Eric Holke, hungry for life experience, performed at Renaissance fairs, spent two years in the California wilderness and served with the Army and National Guard.

Holke, 31, was on his second tour in Iraq, serving with the California Army National Guard, when he died in a non-combat incident in Tallil. Family said he died when the Humvee he was in swerved and flipped when it tried to avoid hitting an Iraqi.

“It’s very sad that he’s gone,” his sister Erin Holke said. “I wish he was still alive and coming back to his huge family and all the things he loved to do.”

This included anything in the outdoors, such as hiking, skiing and snowboarding. He joined the California Conservation Corps after graduating from high school and spent two years in the woods of Northern California.

After returning from the wilderness, Holke became active in the Renaissance fair circuit. At the fairs, he demonstrated how the German military lived in the 1400s through 1600s.

“It was a lot of fun seeing him get into the character,” said Tom Wilson, a fair producer. “You could talk to him for an hour and he would still have the accent.”

Holke, who died just a few weeks after his deployment, left behind a new wife and son, parents, a sister and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

He met and married his wife Cassidhe after returning from Afghanistan and Iraq as a soldier with the 82nd Airborne.

He had been honorably discharged from the Army in 2005 and was studying business and film at San Bernardino Valley College when the two met. He also had recently joined the California National Guard.

Holke and his wife also lived with her 16-year-old son, Steven. He was called to serve and in March left for Camp Shelby, Miss. He was deployed to Iraq in June.

At his funeral service July 22, the military presented his family five medals, including the Bronze Star.

Army Pfc. Shane M. Stinson
Died June 23, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of Fullerton, Calif.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.; died June 23 in Balad, Iraq of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by insurgents using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire in Baghdad. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Michael D. Moody Jr. and Sgt. Chris Davis.

Shane's Story: Shane Stinson got to do a lot on his first leave home from Iraq.

For two weeks last month, he celebrated his 23rd birthday with his family in Orange County, went to the beach and took in three games with his favorite baseball team, the Angels.

But he wanted to get back to work.

“He was happy to be home, but he said he missed his buddies in Iraq and he was ready to go back and serve,” said his brother, Rhyan Stinson. “Coming home, several people stopped him to shake his hand and thank him for his service. That made him very proud.”

Stinson, an Army private, was killed June 23 when attackers fired on his unit in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Benning, Ga.

“My brother believed in what he was doing over there and he wanted to better his life,” Rhyan Stinson said. “It hurts that he doesn’t get a chance anymore.”

Stinson told his brother he eventually wanted to attend business school and open a sporting-goods shop.

Stinson was born in Artesia but attended Troy High School in Fullerton. He earned his general-equivalency diploma in 2001.

He worked for three years at Toys “R” Us before deciding to enlist.

“We were all concerned for him, but he’s the kind of guy you don’t talk out of it,” said a friend, Justin Matthews.

In addition to his brother, Stinson is survived by his mother, Evelyn, and his stepfather, Joseph Hackerd.

Army Spc. Marcelino R. Corniel

Died December 31, 2005 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

23, of La Puente, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; killed Dec. 31 when an enemy mortar attack occurred in the vicinity of his observation post in Baghdad.

Marcelino's Story:
An Army National Guard member killed in Iraq was posthumously promoted to sergeant and will be awarded a Purple Heart, officials said Friday.

Marcelino R. Corniel, 23, of La Puente, was killed New Year’s Eve during a mortar attack in Baghdad. He had just five days left to serve in Iraq. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, based in Fullerton in Orange County.

Corniel had served in Iraq as a Marine and joined the National Guard in June. He volunteered to go to Iraq, said Maj. Jon Siepmann of the California National Guard.

The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who are wounded by the enemy and can be presented posthumously to those killed in action.

Corniel also will posthumously be awarded the Bronze Star, national Defense Ribbon and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

Army Spc. Mike T. Sonoda Jr.
Died September 22, 2005 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

34, of Fallbrook, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, Calif.; died Sept. 22 of injuries sustained Sept. 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M113 Armored Personnel Carrier in Baghdad.

Mike's Story: Mike Sonoda Jr., a specialist with the California Army National Guard, was killed in Iraq last month when a homemade bomb blew up near his armored personnel carrier.

Sonoda, 34, died Sept. 22 of injuries suffered a day earlier in the Baghdad explosion. He was the only soldier killed.

Sonoda had been living in Fallbrook in San Diego County before he was deployed to Iraq in January with the guard’s 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment.

Sonoda often was the first to volunteer for patrols, said Maj. Daniel Markert, one of his commanders.

“He was the kind of guy the younger soldiers would look up to and the older sergeants could rely on,” Markert said. “He was a real spirit of the platoon.”

He relaxed by reading science fiction and history.

“He could read a 300-page book in a day, and he would always come back for more,” Markert said.

Sonoda was “very caring and generous, inquisitive and dedicated,” said his sister, Irene.

“He was my big brother and my hero. Our entire family is so proud of his service,” she said in a statement.

Sonoda joined the Army in 1995 and served about two years as a parachute rigger with the 325th Airborne in Italy.

He joined the National Guard two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and served in Kuwait until March 2002.

He was due to return to the United States early next year.

In addition to his sister, Sonoda is survived by his parents, Mike Sr. and Emiko.

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