B. G. Burkett – Dallas, Texas
Texas native B.G. “Jug" Burkett grew up the son of a career Air Force officer. Life on military bases around the country placed Jug in direct contact with veterans of World War II and the Korean War. His heroes were people like “triple ace" Joe McConnell, and double-war ace Frank “Gabby" Gabreski. In 1962, Jug went off to college at Vanderbilt, graduating in 1966. An inner-ear problem meant he couldn’t pass a pilot’s physical, so Jug joined the Army.
After Basic at Fort Jackson, AIT at Fort McClellan, he attended Ordnance OCS at Aberdeen Proving Ground. An avid golfer, Jug took a wedge and three balls to Vietnam, serving with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, serving with B Company, 7th Combat Support Battalion. Years later Jug became the pivotal man in the effort to build a Vietnam War Memorial in Texas. In the course of the struggle to raise funds for the memorial, he became aware that the national media had for years given a stage to people that were not the Vietnam “heroes" that they purported to be. Worse, the realization hit Jug that there had been a “massive distortion of history" – that pervasive negative myths had been created about who our Vietnam veterans really are.
Exposing the “wannabes" is a passion for Jug and led to his acclaimed book, Stolen Valor. A successful Dallas stockbroker, Jug is also known today as a military researcher and appears on ABC’s 20/20. He is still an avid golfer.
Frederick Gregory – Washington, DC
Frederick Gregory’s childhood prepared him for a life of service.
Fred served in Vietnam as a Rescue Helicopter pilot with Detachment 7 – 38th ARRS. Although he wanted to fly fighter jets he felt his role in Vietnam was just as vital. On one mission he picked up a downed pilot. He learned later that same pilot flew a highly successful mission – deep down he felt he was a part of that combat mission since he had saved the pilot’s life before.
After the war, Fred joined up with NASA and later became the second African-American in space. He has been the Commander on two space shuttle missions and is now NASA’s Deputy Director – not to mention a great husband, father and grandfather!
Carl Gene Drost – Oskaloosa, Iowa
The product of an Iowa farming family and a one-room schoolhouse, Carl learned family values and a sense of duty at an early age. By the mid-60’s, Carl’s life was honey and roses. He was a teacher, a husband and a father. Carl thought there was no way he could be drafted.
Then one night he and his wife watched the draft lottery. Carl’s world shattered when his number was drawn. Together he and his wife decided a deferment was not an option. Carl found himself the only draftee in Artillery NCOCS. After receiving his orders for Vietnam, Carl learned everything he could about being a soldier, hoping it would improve his chances of survival.
While on leave, Carl came back to Iowa and put in his father’s winter crop. It was then that Carl watched President Nixon address the nation about sending troops home before Christmas. Carl fit the profile.
After arriving back in the states, Carl wasn’t interested in teaching – he wanted to start his own company. With a small loan he and his wife started a small John Deere Equipment Company. Today, Drost Equipment is one of the largest John Deere dealers in southern Iowa.
Robby Robinson – Denver, Colorado
Growing up as Lewis Robinson’s son was an honor for Robby. Although his parents were divorced, he would spend summers with his father. At 14, Robby switched living arrangements by spending summers with his mom and living with his dad. Lewis was in the military and flew bombers during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Robby had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps, but because he didn’t have perfect vision, being a pilot was out of the question. So Robby set his sights on West Point Military Academy. After being accepted to West Point, Robby enjoyed talking with his father as an adult, as a man.
During his junior year, tragedy struck. Robby received word that his father had been shot down and was MIA. Over the next year, several Officers would pull him aside and tell him that his father was shot down in Laos and that he had saved the lives of the guys on the ground. Fifteen months after graduation, Robby arrived in Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant with L Company 75th Infantry. He returned for his second tour as a Captain.
A few years ago, Robby received a call telling him they might have found his father’s remains – did he have any dental records? He didn’t and the matter hit a dead end. He was contacted again this year asking him if his father had a living sibling – yes, a sister – her DNA revealed they had indeed found his father. In August, 1999, Robby flew to Hawaii and escorted his father back onto American soil and buried him at Arlington National Cemetary. Lewis Robinson was finally home.
Cassin Young (‘Ted’) Stacy – Titusville, Florida
Cassin was named after his grandfather who had the nickname “Ted" after Teddy Roosevelt. And so it was with the young Cassin Stacy. Patriotism was a way of life in Ted’s family. In fact, several U.S. “Ships of the Line" have been named after family members. Ted is especially proud of his Grandfather (and namesake), Cassin Young, who received the Medal of Honor for action at Pearl Harbor and the Navy Cross at Guadacanal. The son of a Lieutenant Colonel in Army Intelligence, ‘Ted’ calls the world his childhood home.
Ted followed in the family’s footsteps by serving as a military intelligence officer attached to the 25th ARVN Division. After 10 years in the Army, and 16 years as a civilian, Ted joined the Coast Guard. Since 1992, Ted has worked at the Cape Canaveral Coast Guard Station as the Chief Petty Officer working with space shuttle security support. When not at the Station, you can find Ted and his wife in Titusville or visiting their two grandchildren on the Florida coast.
Jim Swailes – Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Born and raised in a tiny village in the hills of Pennsylvania, Jim had never seen much of the world. Jim was uncertain of his plans after high school and being the son of a WWII veteran, Jim decided to take a hitch in the U.S. Air Force. Trained as an aircraft mechanic, Jim worked much of his tour in Thailand. One of his jobs was to TDY at Cam Ranh Bay patching up the war wounded aircraft and loading ordinance for ground support sortees.
When Jim returned from Vietnam he was determined not to take life for granted. Returning to Pennsylvania, he married his high school sweetheart, attended college and earned a teaching degree in his favorite subject – history. Jim is very popular with his 8th grade students and the Mercersburg, Pennsylvania community where he grew up, raised his three children and still lives today.
Bill Wynne – John Day, Oregon
One of nine children and the son of an award-winning newspaper photographer in Ohio, Bill Wynne had an interesting childhood. The fact that his dad was the trainer of the most famous Yorkie in the world, Smoky, made things even more fun. Bill senior had acquired Smoky during his WWII service in the Pacific and came back to make Smoky a household name of the time, culminating in his book “Yorkie Doodle Dandy."
When it came to the question of doing time in the service, Bill didn’t hesitate, serving his tour with the USMC in Da Nang. Bill has now lived for many years in the in the high country of eastern Oregon where he works for the local phone company and cares for his champion stallion “Orf" with his wife Toni.
Bill has been an influential member of his adopted community of John Day, Oregon. He has held leadership positions in several local organizations and was instrumental in the construction of the beautiful war memorial that honors all Grant county soldiers that paid the ultimate price for our freedom.