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Friends gone but never forgotten

Bill O’Leary — we grew up together and he was my best friend. Died flying a B-17 Flying Fortress over Europe in World War II. He was a week short of his 20th birthday, a month younger than me.

Pat Fallon, a full colonel, died flying a rescue mission into Laos, a mission he volunteered for. He had a new son he had never seen. His third war. He is an MIA, missing in action, his body never found …

Tom Brandom, a major. Died while flying an extra mission he had volunteered for. Had a wife and four children. His second war. He had saved my life the day before.



Paul Lunsford, a major. Volunteered to fly for a friend who was not feeling well. A World War II friend, his third war.

Emerson E. Heller, lieutenant colonel, died flying his 100th and last mission. His third war. We were born the same year. A fine family man with several children … a good friend.




J.J. Jenkins, a major. He was black and a favorite with everyone, kept us all laughing. We never knew his first name was Joyful until he died; he was truly that. His first war.

President Ronald Reagan said it, “Who else but an idealist would choose to become a member of the armed forces and put himself in harm’s way for us? In life, they were our heroes; in death, our loved ones, our darlings. To the mothers, they were their pearls.”

It is so easy for us to forget those who gave their all so we might have this wonderful country. I remember them every day as I survived them. These are just a few of so many friends lost in three wars. Please remember and pray for them, including those lost in today’s conflicts. They lost their lives, their loves and their futures for us.

Roy L. Crain, USAF retired

Alta Sierra.


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