By John Hernandez
I am new to Facebook and still trying to figure it out. I do know it is good for reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, sharing ideas, political arguments, and meeting new people. I have become a part of a San Manuel School Group on Facebook. One day while reading an on line conversation between two friends and fellow San Manuel alumni I came up with this idea for a Memorial Day article. The two friends are both Vietnam War veterans and were talking about their experiences in Vietnam as young men. I happened to glance at my calendar and saw that Memorial Day was right around the corner. I then decided that I would ask my Facebook friends from the San Manuel School Group to write about their thoughts, reflections and memories of what Memorial Day means to them. Being that most of us grew up in the 50s & 60s our lives were touched by the War in Vietnam and indirectly by our parent’s experiences during World War II or Korea. We lived in the Cold War era with the threat of Nuclear War hanging over our heads. I still remember the silly drills we did at school of dropping to the floor, ducking our heads under our desks and covering our faces as if we would survive an atomic blast. Anyway, I asked those that responded to share a little bit about living in the Tri-Community and what they have been doing since high school. Kind of a where are they now story also. I would like to thank all of those San Manuel friends that allowed me to share their thoughts on Memorial Day with you.
WAYNE WEGNER – CLASS OF 1964
I have been enjoying the emails back and forth about our beloved San Manuel and the ongoing happenings. I am Wayne Wegner, and I graduated from the 1964 Class. Seems like only yesterday. Since then I graduated from Northern Arizona University (Arizona State College at the time), but took a short break for three years, 8 months, and 6 days (not that I was counting) to enter the U.S. Navy. Spent time in Beeville, Texas, and then ended my military career in the Philippines. I went back to NAU and finished up in 1972, where I went off to California to work at Lockheed for a couple of years utilizing my education of a BSBA with majors in Data Processing and Marketing. I then went to work for Computer Sciences Corporation for 8 years, then United Telecommunications for two years, then eight more years with Businessland, Inc. It only took 18 years to burn me out on corporate politics, so off I went to Anacortes, Washington with my wife Marlene, and we opened our own business, Play It Again Sports. This went on for 15 years, at which time I got tired of lifting 200 pound treadmills, so we moved on from Play It Again. I finished out my career as Executive Director of Skagit Habitat for Humanity, and just retired this past October. Retirement is a great job, and I recommend it to you all.
Marlene and I between us have five children and eight grandchildren, all of whom live in California. Well, Washington to Arizona is a long trek, so we began our planning for getting close but not too close as to annoy the kids and grand kids. That brings me to our upcoming move back to Arizona. We purchased a home in Buckeye this past June, and once we sell our home here in Washington, the trip home begins.
What prompted me to write to you was your idea of sharing ideas of what Memorial Day means to me.
I grew up in Oracle from the time I was nine until I went off to San Manuel and then to NAU. My close friends back then included Ron Noseck, Ted Johnson, Ralph Ramsey, Judy Hendrickson, and Mark Bateman. Mark was a neighbor of both Ralph and Judy. Ralph, Mark and I, ironically used to play war together, hiding from one another and taking aim with our toy guns. Little did any of us know what this meant for the future of Mark.
As I recall the story, and I don’t remember now who shared this story with me, was how Mark met his final end. He did end up in Vietnam and was wounded early on I believe. He was sent back to the states for recovery, but then was mistakenly sent back to the battle front. I say mistakenly, because as I recall, once wounded in that awful war, one was not supposed to be redeployed. The rest we all know.
Mark was a fine young man, and a prayer should be said for him this coming Memorial Day. Marlene and I went back to Washington D.C. on a vacation, and part of what we did was visit the Vietnam Wall. We took an imprint of Mark’s name, and I relayed stories to Marlene of our upbringing together.
We also lost Major Richard Hulse who lived in San Manuel for all of his grade school years. His father was the APS manager and was transferred to Flagstaff during Richard’s freshman year, I believe. Anyway, he was a graduate of West Point and was a Huey driver and got shot down in 1967. It sure seems that the tri-city lost more than its share of young men in the war. I thank the good Lord everyday that I managed to make it through two tours with no visible wounds.
JONI M. HUDSON
We lost our nephew James Lee Coker during that same time. We saw the Virtual Wall in Payson a few years ago and I saw the young men’s names from our area. God bless them all! I saw the Virtual Wall in Tucson years ago and I never forgot the feeling that came over me. Then we saw it again in Payson, it’s a time of giving thanks to those that fought for their country and lost their precious lives. Their memory will never leave us, I think of Jamie a lot lately and I know if he was alive and young again, he would go and fight for our country again.
BRENDA (RODGERS) STANLEY – CLASS OF 1967
I lived on Avenue B. My maiden name was Rodgers. My mom’s name is Mary and my Dad was Floyd…He passed away 13 years ago on the 21st of this month. I went to school from 1st grade and graduated from San Manuel High in 1967. I married Ron Stanley in June of 1967 and we have two girls that are both married and live in Colorado and we have five grand kids. I have a grandson that will graduate from high school in Colorado this month and will be going into the Air Force in September, so Memorial Day will hold a place in our hearts.
I knew Allen Ingram and dated him for a short time. He was a great guy. The thing I remember was going to Washington D.C. with my husband and girls and visiting the Vietnam Memorial Wall and how overwhelming it was to see names of servicemen I knew. I took a rubbing of Allen’s name and brought it back to his parents. I remember them being so pleased with the rubbing and how much it meant to them.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me….Philippians 4:13
STEPHANIE BATEMAN BENEITONE
John, thank you for always remembering those who left us so tragically. Families never forget and Memorial Day is always tough. If people are interested, they can post a note on-line, on the “Virtual Wall” for Mark, Johnny, Gary, Allen or any fallen Vietnam soldier. Marcia Pappas told me about www.virtualwall.org a few years ago. She has never forgotten Mark’s birthday on May 3rd. We have been so appreciative of people who still remember and share their memories and stories with us. We held a small memorial service for Mark in October 2007, at the Oracle Cemetery. Forty years had passed since we lost him. It was just going to be my sisters, our aunt and uncle, Edna Mae and Harry Hendrickson, and our cousins Judy and Jeanne Hendrickson. But Judy and Edna Mae spread the word around Oracle. We were so touched to see a line of people making their way up that dusty, rocky, cemetery road to join us. It was an amazing and meaningful day!
Note: Stephanie is the younger sister of Mark Bateman. She now lives in Prescott, Arizona.
REST IN PEACE:
Mark Andrew Bateman, May 03, 1947 – October 03, 1967
Allen Wade Ingram, December 12, 1949 – September 09, 1968
Gary Everett Graves, April 10, 1948 – November 11, 1968
Juan (Johnny) Manuel Garcia, December 27, 1948 – November 20, 1967
Arthur Martinez Garcia, April 15, 1947 – February 07, 1970
Norman Ray Garrett, June 23, 1942 – February 15, 1965
Tony R. Arriaga, October 07, 1938 – May 06, 1966
NOTE: Sergeant Tony Arriaga is not listed on the San Manuel High School Memorial plaque as he left school around 1959. Tony grew up in Tiger and lived in San Manuel for a while. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and while stationed in Hawaii met and married a Hawaiian girl. When he was killed, he was survived by his wife who was eight months pregnant and their three children. He is buried on the island of Oahu in Waipahu, Hawaii. Some of his family was still living in the Tri-Community at the time of his death.
“GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.”