Veterans remember fallen comrades during Janesville Memorial Day ceremony
JANESVILLE--Marine Corps veteran Mike Jeffords thinks about his fallen comrades every day.
“Them guys always come back at night with my quilts and the demons,” he said.
On Memorial Day, Jeffords paid tribute to six buddies who were killed June 30, 1965, in Vietnam.
“We made an agreement when we landed in Nam that anybody who didn't make it, we'd have a drink to him on Memorial Day,” he said.
After participating in Monday's Memorial Day activities, that's what the 71-year-old Janesville man did.
“I do a little ceremony by myself. I stop and drink a shot for all six,” Jeffords said.
“Then I'm shot,” mentally and physically, he said.
Jeffords recalled that day 49 years ago like it was yesterday.
“We were on normal patrol after being in country less than eight weeks. It was hot. Everybody was walking in a fog and sweaty when an enemy IED (Improvised Explosive Device), not buried very deep, exploded.”
One of the Marines in the bush touched wires that set it off, Jeffords said.
“Them boys didn't walk away. I walked away with a hearing problem,” he said.
Jeffords was among the six-member honor guard during Monday's Janesville Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Plaza in Traxler Park after the parade.
Memorial Day is to commemorate those who have died in active military service.
Other honor honor guard members talked about who they lost and remembered Monday:
-- Mike Johnson, 65, Janesville, who served in the Army from May 1968 through May 1971 during the Vietnam War, said he doesn't think about just one veteran but all who have served since World War II.
“I've lost a lot of friends from the (Veterans of Foreign Wars) club over the last 10 years that were WWII vets,” he said.
This included his father-in-law, Calvin Grorud, in 2010.
During the Memorial Day ceremony, “I stand there and remember who a few years back was standing on that (honor guard/firing squad) line with me and no longer are,” he said.
-- Lamar Deuel, 80, Janesville, who served in the Marine Corps from 1952-54, primarily in Korea, was reminded of his uncle Charles W. Deuel, who was killed during the Battle of the Bulge; his brother Charles Frank Deuel, who served in the Marines; his son LaMar Deuel Jr., who was wounded in Vietnam, and his grandson Cody R. Legg, who was killed in 2008 in Iraq.
“All of my heroes are in my family,” he said.
-- Ray Ehle, 56, Janesville, who served in the Navy from 1977-84 in 15 different countries and Army National Guard from 1991-92, said he didn't lose any comrades but remembered his grandfather John West, who survived the Bataan Death March.
“He didn't die there but lost part of his life there,” Ehle said.
Participating in Memorial Day activities provides him the opportunity to honor all the men and women who have given the supreme sacrifice from the Revolutionary War to present day, Ehle said.
“Our vets fought and died to preserve the freedom of our country.”
-- Robert Tiegs, 71, Janesville, served in the Air Force from 1963-67 in the Philippines, Vietnam, stateside and Argentina.
Tiegs remembered many veterans he served with in addition to his father, Robert Tiegs, who was a WWII vet, and his uncle George Tiegs, who was a major in the Army during WWII.
“They didn't talk a lot about it, but I appreciate their service more as a vet,” he said.
-- Richard Brakefield, 62, town of Center, served in the Army and United Nations Army during 1971-72.
“I honor the vets who served and died for this country,” he said.
That includes his father and brother, who served during WWII and Vietnam, respectively.
“I remember all vets,” Brakefield said, “who served this country.”