Paden City Class of 1966 Honors Veterans
By ED PARSONS
PADEN CITY – Saturday, July 2 will be a special day as alumni from far and near will be in town for the annual alumni events.
Fifty years is a long time, and as a child growing up in a small town like Paden City, looking ahead to fifty years later probably never passes one’s mind. However for the 1966 graduating class of Paden City High School, that is exactly where they now find themselves.
The Class of 1966 was a unique class made up of 60 young men and women who would go out into the world and make an immediate impact on the future lives of not only the people of Paden City, but every American citizen then and now. This was indeed a special class! At that age one does not normally know what lies a head. One may have thoughts of the future, yet he or she does not really know where they will end up, whom they will marry, whether they will have kids, or what kind of life they will lead.
Somehow this class was different. Nearly every boy and girl participated in some kind of extracurricular activity. Whether it was sports, academic clubs, cheerleading or the band, they all took part.
Without a doubt, this was a talented group with a desire to succeed and a mission to help better the world. Five of these graduates formed one of the area’s first, and maybe the best, 60s rock bands. They were known as the Golden Tones. As I write this column on the class of 1966, I have fond memories of dancing to their music.
Out of this 1966 class some fifty years ago came doctors, lawyers, educators and professionals in nearly every field. Some became vital to society by working in the local plants and coal mines, but none seemed to fail. This was the result of an outstanding school system with quality teachers, the famous Paden City High School, their alma mater.
Upon graduating they went right to business, some off to college and some to work. Some no doubt married and started families.
However it was a time of turmoil in this country; a terrible war was going on in a land far away – Vietnam.
As I mentioned the quality of people in this class, I never mentioned the bravery of each and every one of them. Although they were a very close knit group, they had now departed company and were heading in their separate ways. The war in Vietnam played a major factor in the lives of many of this class. For seven straight years, from 1966 through 1972, someone from this class was there representing America, Paden City and the Class of 1966.
They paid their dues, just as they had done at Paden City High School, and they did it with honor. They were taught well; they paid attention and learned well. Of all the great things that can be said about the Class of 1966, and I have not even began to touch on them, – for there are many – the most impressive is that 21 young men out of a class of 60 graduates served in the military. That is over one third of the class.
Four of those 21 individuals chose military careers, and two served in two branches of the military. There are currently 16 living veterans from the class, who represent 124 years of combined service. Various ranks and positions were held by this group of veterans – Fourth Class Specialist, to Sergeant, to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army; Seabee to Commander in the Navy; Captain in Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps to Commander in the Air Force; and Captain in the Marines.
They did it all. A Navy seaman ran heavy equipment that built a runway which unknowingly a fellow vet/classmate flew his aircraft off of. One Army vet was awarded both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Another Army vet was also awarded the Bronze Star.
One classmate was appointed to the Navel Aviation Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla. An Air Force vet was commander of U.S. Forces in Uzbekistan, supporting the war on terror in Afghanistan. A Navy vet from this class was working at the Pentagon on 9/11.
Yes, these young men grew up very fast. They had to. At PCHS they could put a name with almost every face. Now they were out of our vision, and for far too many, out of our minds. There were new names and new faces. Nothing was familiar. One vet said he was in a fox hole and could not see his family’s faces, but he could remember each classmate’s face. These military veterans/alumni exemplify what is good and desirable in a PCHS graduate.
Paden City is very proud to welcome back the 1966 graduates who so unselfishly gave back to society through military service, through advanced education, and through the examples they set in their everyday lives. This is truly a great group of people who are held high in the hearts of all Paden City citizens, especially those who have the opportunity to know them.
Serving in the U.S. MILITARY from this class are the following individuals:
Living: Dick Alexander, Army; Roger Baker, Navy; Jimmy Billiter, Army Reserves; Doug Burrow, Navy; Larry Eddy, Army; Phillip Fraizer, Army; Rodney Markham, Army; Bill McNeely, National Guard; Mike Mitchell, Air Force; Richard Powers, Army; Larry Putt, Army; Jim Sapp, Navy and Marines; Vic Slider, Navy; Glen Underwood, Army; LeMoyne Watkins, Army; Jim Wilson, Air Force.
Deceased: Bill Gallagher, Marines; Jim Hays, Air Force Reserves; Bernard Muiznieks, Navy and Army; John Judge, Army; and Eddie Stine, Army.
This class will meet on Friday, July 1 at the old middle school cafeteria. If one gets the opportunity, stop and say hello, and thank each member of this special group for his or her 50 years of being a contributing member to society, and for the example he or she has set for future generations to follow.