Three men to Remember
By Ronnie Clifton
Since the first year I was principal at Comanche High School in the school year 2000-01 I had put together a Memorial Day Observance or short program at Comanche High School. Last year marked the 20th consecutive year. This year we will not have that program at the school due to the COVID-19 situation. That however does not mean that we will not observe Memorial Day as one of the most significant days in the calendar year in this country. The flag at the Comanche County Courthouse will be lowered to half staff and the three bouquets of flowers will be placed at the base to represent a Grateful Community, State, and Nation.
As the thought of Memorial Day once again is racing through my mind, I want to share a short story or message about three men; two whom I knew very well and the third who I didn’t know at all.
William T. (Doc) Calhoun: Doc was a member of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team that made one of the most important jumps during World War II. He and his Regimental Team helped to liberate the island of Corregidor which was heavily fortified by the Japanese when the jump was made. They fought gallantly against overwhelming odds to hold the island and free it from Japanese rule.
The documentary of that group of men is more than impressive. Doc Calhoun is featured in that film and as usual is exceptional at telling a story that needs to be retold through the years. Also if you ever have a chance to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas you can find a case displaying Doc’s jump boots and a knife that he carried.
I heard the story about Corregidor first hand from Dr. Calhoun at a Lions Club meeting. The detail of that experience literally sent chills down my spine. Everything from the preparation for battle to the jump itself and finally the unbelievable battle was truly inspiring and left me feeling very inadequate in my gratefulness for all the men who fought during World War II to save the world.
Dr. Calhoun is no longer with us but his service, sacrifice, and bravery will remain forever.
Edward Letz: Edward is the uncle of my wife Mona. He grew up in the small west Texas community of Old Glory. It is a German community that was once named Brandenburg but was changed during World War I to show allegiance to the United States. I could write an entire page about that but will not at this time. Edward was the grandson of German immigrants and served in World War II.
His finest hours came during the Battle of the Bulge. Having read two books about the Bulge and chapters in other books I have continued to note that many times German prisoners were questioned by American soldiers who could speak the language. I know that Edward was introduced to the German language but unsure if he was fluent enough to interrogate anyone.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery at Lixing, France on February 1, 1945. He crawled 40 yards on his stomach under heavy fire to reach a radio to call for a readjustment on mortar fire for enemy positions. When he reached the radio the operator was dead and he carried the 300 pound set back to his position to complete the call. He was awarded a second time on February 24 when his outfit, fighting near the front, was very exposed and under heavy fire and needed mortar adjustment. He as Staff Sergeant, under full exposure, made yet another call that saved lives.
I first met Edward Letz in 1972, but never knew he served in the US Army, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, or was awarded two medals for his valor until two years ago.
Edward Letz is no longer with us but his service, sacrifice, and bravery will remain forever.
Ronald Glen (Red) Marken: The father of one of our local Vietnam Veterans Dennis Marken as well as his brother Larry from Jasper Texas. I do not have stories about Mr. Marken like I do about Doc Calhoun and Edward Letz. However I know enough just through my conversations with Dennis to know that he was among that countless number of brave men who jumped over the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Red Marken was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. During the drive across Europe and finally into Germany the 82nd also jumped in Operation Market Garden near Arnhem Holland. They would also be an integral part of the Battle of the Bulge. He was there also and served his country with remarkable valor.
Recently I was watching a documentary about D Day and it showed those thousands of chutes being dropped out of those transport planes. It was an awe-inspiring sight. I thought to myself, in one of those chutes is Red Marken.
Mr. Marken raised two boys into men who would also serve their country in the Vietnam War. Dennis who lives here in Comanche was stationed at a firebase just north of Pleiku during the war and his brother Larry saw combat action near the Demilitarized Zone.
Red Marken is no longer with us but his service, sacrifice, and bravery will remain forever.
As noted Doc, Edward, and Red all made it home from the war. Many of those with whom they served did not. That is why we celebrate Memorial Day every year: to honor those who died in service to their country as well as those who have passed after serving their country whether in combat or not. They are all heroes to this grateful nation.
So many lives have been lost and others have passed away
When those who remain speak, stop and listen to what they have to say
They have kept us safe and have gone where no others dare
The Bravest Americans; Our Military: Yes, They Were There