The American Legion Post 97 paid tribute to veterans and their wives during a special dinner at the Chinook Winds Casino Resort as part of the annual Celebration of Honor in Lincoln City.
The Sept. 25 event included two local area residents, Gordon “Mick” McLean and Joann Kangiser Schneider.
McLean saw duty during the Vietnam War as a Wing Executive Officer in the U.S. Air Force B52 Strategic Air Command.
“ I was the Jack of all trades,” he said. “I interviewed, photographed, and wrote up stories and Hometown News Releases spread out over four bases in Pacific. I flew wherever the Colonel flew, and when he was promoted to General. Anywhere he went, I went with my camera.”
McLean said he flew back and fourth over combat zones.
“My orders were to do whatever it took to convince the world that we were winning the war,” he said. “That the B52 was making it happen and that my General deserves the credit.”
Each mission was dangerous, Mclean said, recalling the 24-hour, around the clock bombings as the war intensified.
“You never knew if you were coming back and you got to know all the crew, each of them,” he said. “We lost 57 crew members in those missions.”
McLean said America did not win the war in Vietnam.
“Because of the politicians,” he said. “It seemed like there was going to be a settlement, but that’s when President Richard Nixon resigned and public opinion was ‘enough is enough.”’
After McLean left the Air Force he spent nearly 40 years in hospital administration. He also served as a board member with the North Lincoln Health District and is now retired and active in community affairs.
McLean said he is grateful to the American Legion and to Chinook Winds Casino for recognizing the servicemen and their wives. McLean said paying tribute to the wives of the servicemen is especially important.
“The spouses stayed behind and had to hold it together,” he said. “In my unit there were 1,100 men. We left all the women behind on the base when we flew our missions. There were maybe 900 women and probably 700 of them were pregnant.”
Lincoln City resident Joann Kangiser Schneider, 88, joined McLean at the American Legion dinner honoring the veterans and their wives.
Schneider grew up in the Rose Lodge area and lived there during the war. That’s where she met her husband, Larry "Red" Schneider.
“I had know him since I was 7-years-old,” Joann said. “He had lived at our house in the late 1930 and early 40s just before World War II started. We were just friends.”
Schneider joined the Navy with Joann’s four brothers following Pearl Harbor and they all saw action during the war.
“I was definitely worried about all of them,” she said. “It was a very sad time. We hoped and prayed that they would be coming home.”
During the time her brothers and Larry were away, Joann said she wrote many letters to them and to servicemen friends to show support and love.
“I used a lot of stamps and made many trips to the post office,” she said.
Schneider said the letters were very important connections between the servicemen and their families.
“It was so different back than,” she said. “We didn’t have such instant communications like today.”
One of Joann’s brothers was wounded in the line of duty in March, but the family didn’t get notice from the military until June.
“They didn’t tell us how he was wounded, or how badly he was wounded, or where he had been wounded,” she said. “That was very hard.”
Schneider said a letter from her wounded brother finally arrived in August.
“There was finally a letter at the post office for me,” she said. “I can remember that day. I saw that letter and my brother’s handwriting. I got that letter and I ran as fast as I could out to the car to read what he had written.”
All four of her brothers and Larry Schneider eventually retuned home from combat. Following his return from the war, Larry and Joann were married at St. Augustine Church in Lincoln City
Joann’s brothers and her husband Larry have all pasted away and sadly, many of the letters they had written each other during the war were destroyed in a fire.
“Most of the letters burned when our house caught fire,” she said. “It was during the war when the boys were away. We lost everything.”
Schneider said the Celebration of Honor and the American Legion tribute dinner is important recognition for those who have serviced in the armed forces and for their families.
“It’s important because of all that they have been through,” she said. “That should not be forgotten.”