ST. JOSEPH — Lest We Forget, an organization that honors American veterans, will hold its annual gathering, with the theme “Air, Land and Sea - Anchors Away,” and featuring the U.S. Navy, Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23 at 275 Upton Drive, St. Joseph.
There will be beach landing marine assault re-enactments at 11 a.m., 3:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Sunday.
Activities will include presentations from two Medal of Honor recipients, medics James McCloughan, speaking at 1 p.m. Saturday, and Donald E. (Doc) Ballard, speaking at noon Sunday.
Ballard, a Navy corpsman, “volunteered” to be a medic for the Marines. He was assigned to Vietnam in 1967, where he officially received three Purple Hearts, even though he had been wounded eight times and treated himself on five occasions. One of his heroic actions was to smother a hand grenade so that it wouldn’t injure a group of Marines. Fortunately, it never went off. Ballard later joined the Army and retired as an Army colonel. He operates a funeral home in Missouri and provides funerals for veterans who don’t have funds.
McCloughan was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and became a combat medic. In May 1969 he distinguished himself in fighting at Nui Yon Hill, in which he treated the wounded while fighting North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. McCloughan was wounded multiple times during the battle but refused evacuation. After his discharge from the army, he returned to his hometown of South Haven, Michigan, where he became a high school teacher and athletic coach.
The National Museum of the American Sailor representatives, Tricia Runzel and Kelly Duffy, will present “The Skies Above Great Lakes,” about the Naval Aviation History at Naval Station Great Lakes, at 2 p.m. Saturday. Daniel Brandt from the Restoration Department at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo will discuss the restoration of two World War II aircraft recovered from Lake Michigan at 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
On June 22, Jason Kuntz will tell the story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, that was sunk in 1945 after delivering parts of the first atomic bomb with a large loss of life. He will speak at noon.
John Meeks will have a presentation on war dogs, which he handled while in Vietnam, at 4 p.m. June 22 and 2 p.m. June 23..
Adam Gray, of Baroda, will relate his experience diving to the scene where his great-uncle Albert Rybarczyk’s plane went down in the Pacific during World War II, at 4:30 Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
In addition to these speaker presentations there will be several displays. The USS Silversides (Ss-236), a Gato-class submarine, was one of the most successful submarines in the Pacific Theater of World War II, with 23 confirmed sinkings. The USS LST 393 is an LST-1-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. Of 1,051 built, this LST is one of only two to survive in original configuration. The USS Edson, a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer, served in the Western Pacific/Far East, operating particularly in the Taiwan Strait and off the coast of Vietnam.
Master modeler, Jerry Lindquist, has military artifacts and several base camp dioramas with thousands of green chiclets for sand bags.
Lest We Forget welcomes back three WWII boats, an LVT-2 Buffalo, a DUKW and a Higgins Boat. Membership in Lest We Forget includes rides in all three watercraft. Attendees will be able to join LWF on site. One year membership dues are as follows: Individual, $10, 2 Adults and children 17 and under, $25, 1 adult and children 17 and under, $15; and 80-plus years old is free. The American Huey 369 will offer Honor Flights to member/owners. A $100 donation will make you a member/owner for one year.
The Fortunate Sons, a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band, will perform a free concert from 7-9 p.m. Saturday. You are encouraged to bring your own lawn chair.
Food vendors will be on site. For a complete list of activities and speaker time schedule visit www.LestWeForgetUSA.org.