Remembering those who served
Throughout its history, West Virginia has been known to have some of the most patriotic residents, with statistics showing it has had the highest numbers per capita serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
West Virginians have been a part of some of the highest levels of military service since the late 1800s, with men and women stepping forward to take up arms in an effort to protect their home state and nation.
Many of those have paid the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives while in the line of duty.
Last week, area residents and special guests gathered at the Brooke-Hancock Veterans Memorial Park to remember and pay tribute to two of those most honored individuals.
Most probably aren’t familiar with the story of the Lost 74 of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans. The naval destroyer was split in two as a result of a collision with an Australian aircraft carrier during exercises in the South China Sea in June 1969.
Because the incident didn’t take place in the official conflict area designated by the U.S. Department of Defense, none of those lost are recognized as having died during the Vietnam War; their names not included on the war memorial in Washington, D.C.
West Virginia had two of its residents among those Lost 74 — Larry Cool of Clifftop and James Robert Baker from Weirton.
Thanks to the efforts of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Association — organized by some of the survivors of the incident, who work to make sure it is not forgotten — and Weirton Councilman George Ash, a memorial to the collision, listing the names of Baker and Cool, now stands in our area.
It is a tribute to their lives, their bravery and their service, none of which should ever be forgotten.
Similar memorials are in the process of being placed in close to 30 other states, representing the homes of each lost from the ship.
We applaud this necessary work, and encourage all West Virginians to learn more about the incident and those who were lost, giving the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country.