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In Honor of Those Still Missing

Mar 05, 2020 06:13PM ● By Ed Helmick

The American Legion is an organization to support our military veterans and the Spanish Fork Post recently honored seven World War II veterans who did not return to their families in Spanish Fork.

It was a touching event and Serve Daily would like to share with you details of this tribute. In front of the podium was a table with seven chairs and place settings. A Certificate of Honor and a photo of each individual was at each place setting. Then American Legion member Steve Wilson commenced a reading of “An Empty Table” which provided a beautiful explanation of the evening tribute.

An Empty Table

Those who have served and those currently serving the uniformed services of the United States of America are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation, and internment.

Tonight, we will pause to recognize our POW’s and MIA’s. We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor. Tonight, it is set for seven symbolizing the fact that these members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POW’s (Prisoners of War) and MIA’s (Missing in Action). They are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence. We call them “comrades”.

The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The single rose in the vase, signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the families and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return. The red and black ribbon on the vase represents the ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us today.

The American Flag reminds us that many have not returned and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom. A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of family as they wait. The glass is inverted symbolizing they cannot toast with us tonight.

The chair is empty because they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to open the arms of a grateful nation. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families. Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices. (Helmick is a Serve daily contributor.)

George Melvin Close 

Born Feb. 23, 1923, Played on the Spanish Fork High School basketball team.

Two months after marrying Elsie Webb he was drafted into the army. He was on a British transport ship, HMT Rohna, in the Mediterranean Sea headed for Egypt when it was bombed by a German airplane on Nov. 27, 1943 which resulted in the greatest loss of “troops at sea” in U.S. History.        

Blaine Arthur Hales

Born Dec. 16, 1920 in Spanish Fork. He enlisted on Sept. 1, 1940 in the Army Air Corps. Private Hales was stationed on Corregidor Island in the Philippines when the island was captured by the Japanese. He became a POW and was a survivor of the Bataan death march. Blaine became an interpreter in the Philippines for Prison Camp #1. He was being relocated on an unmarked Japanese transport ship, the Arisan Maru which was torpedoed by a U.S. submarine and sunk Oct. 24, 1944.

Blair Reed Johnson 

Born Sept. 9, 1918 in Palmyra, Utah. He enlisted on Sept. 13, 1940 and joined the 60th Coastal Artillery regiment. Blair was a sergeant stationed on Corregidor in the Philippines as part of the Battery C unit. The Japanese captured the island and he spent three years as a POW. Blair was being relocated on the unmarked Japanese transport ship, the Arisan Maru. The ship was torpedoed by a U.S. Submarine and sank on Oct. 24, 1944. Almost all the POWs drowned and were lost at sea. 

Floyd Earl Stoker

Born March 9, 1920 in Spanish Fork. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Oct. 5, 1939. Floyd served on the U.S.S. Houston as an Electrician’s Mate Second Class. The U.S.S, Houston survived several big battles. Unfortunately, during the battle of the Sunda Strait, his ship was sunk by the Japanese and Floyd was reported missing in action on Feb. 28, 1942.

Ralph Leon Simmons

Born March 18, 1925 in Spanish Fork, and was drafted into the U.S. Navy on July 16, 1943. Ralph was a Soundman Third-class on the destroyer, U.S.S. Stack. While in the Pacific Ocean at the Linguyen Gulf, Ralph disappeared during his eight to 12-hour watch on Jan. 12, 1945. He was never found, and the Navy deemed him missing in action and dead.      

Waldon Williams 

Born May 10, 1918 in Spanish Fork. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and received flight training in England and was flying the P-39 Araroba in the South Pacific with the rank of Major. He was scheduled to return to the United States in mid-April 1943. On April 7, a group of Japanese Zero fighter airplanes were spotted on the base radarscope. Although he was not required to go, he joined his squadron anyway in a P-39 Airacorba. Reportedly he had two wingmen alongside of him. An enemy Zero fighter got behind Major Williams; he made a steep dive knowing the Zero could not sustain the dive. The Japanese fighter peeled away but Major Williams could not pull out of the dive and went into water. It was later determined an error in the P-39 design caused the plane to not be able to pull out of a steep dive at certain speeds. Major Waldon Williams was reported lost at sea in the South Pacific in the Guadalcanal Campaign on April 7, 1943.

Daniel Rulon Gull

Born April 11, 1926 in Spanish Fork. He enlisted in the Navy on April 25, 1943. He was a Seaman First-class aboard the SS H.D. a tanker with 103,000 barrels of gasoline and kerosene. The ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Arabian Sea April 14, 1945. (No photograph available.)