Bridge Dedicated to Vietnam Veteran
MIDDLEBOURNE – Vietnam veterans, family and the community honored the memory of a Tyler County soldier by naming a bridge after him.
Members of 101st Airborne Division Bravo Company shared their experiences about U.S. Army Corporal Gary Wayne Weekley during a solemn ceremony Saturday at Tyler Consolidated High School.
Weekley, 20, was in Vietnam only six weeks when he was struck by an explosion ordinance on April 4, 1970 in Binh Hinh Province.
“There’s nothing worse than losing a child prematurely; when you saw what the Weekleys went through. The parents are never the same,” Captain Jim Waybright, who was then Commanding Officer of Bravo Company.
State Representative Roger Romine, R-Tyler, read House Resolution No. 26 about how the bridge on Elk Fork Road was officially named the U.S. Army CPL Gary Wayne Weekley Memorial Bridge. Family members were presented with replicas of the green signs like those placed by the bridge.
The bridge crossing Point Pleasant Creek was dedicated to the man known by his comrades-at-arms as “Little West Virginia.”
“He was one of the finest soldiers I had the privilege to serve with,” said Lieutenant John Greene, who was Weekley’s platoon leader. “He wanted to make a career of the army. He seemed to like it, enjoy it.”
Sergeant First Class Ben Currin, who served guard duty with Weekley the night before he was killed, recalled a wild boar that had charged into the perimeter.
“We told Captain Waybright that we had killed a boar and Gary had suggested that we skin it and cook the meat so as to chow down with some good old pork the next morning,” Currin said.
There were no pork filets when Currin and Weekley had breakfast for the last time. Weekley’s squad was selected for patrol duty.
“We always said something when you departed. My last words to Gary were ‘I’ll see you in a few minutes. Be safe,'” he said.
The crowd in TCHS auditorium was silent as Currin added in tear-strained voice, “I’ve learned through life that it’s not our call. When our time comes, it comes. The good Lord makes that decision, not us. If we made it, we’d all live forever.”
When Currin returned home years later, he was the first person from Bravo Company to contact Weekley’s parents to talk about the man that had been his friend, their son.
“We had a heck of a conversation. The first question out of their mouth was did Gary suffer? That was their concern. I assured him that he didn’t,” he said.
Waybright described Currin as “the spirit” of Bravo Company.
“I’m proud to have known Gary Weekley,” Currin said. “He’ll be in our minds until the day we leave. God bless the Weekley family.”
A native West Virginian, Weekley was the born Oct. 6 1949 in New Martinsville, the son of Millard and Pauline Weekley. He was a graduate of Tyler County High School and joined the United States Army and began his tour of duty in Vietnam in the 1st Platoon, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division on January 30, 1970.
Weekley, who grew up hunting and fishing, was very knowledgeable about jungle combat.
“He was one of the smartest men I have ever worked with in the jungle,” Greene said. “He would go out an analyze the situation and carefully check it out for us. And he was doing exactly that when we lost him. I will always remember Gary and think very well of him as well as this community because Gary came from here.”
Though Weekley died instantly in the attack, Platoon Medic James Cox took his death pretty hard, Waybright said. Cox helped a couple of men injured in the attack live longer.
“I was supposed to be the one to keep them alive, to get them home. That was my job,” he said.
The men “saddled up” for duty that fateful morning “never realizing what was going to happen,” Cox said. He described it as a “normal morning” as the men were going down the trail.
“I heard the blast,” Cox said.
This medic checked on Lieutenant Greene, who had a concussion, then Weekley.
“Gary was gone. I tried and tried and tried to revive him. I couldn’t,” Cox said as he held back the tears. “I can honestly say he did not suffer if that can be of any comfort at all to you For 46 years, every day, I’ve thought about Gary and others that were lost. I’m so proud to get to know his family and to be here.”
A Gold Star flag was presented to the Weekley family by Cathy Post, American Legion Auxiliary Fourth District President. Post knew Weekley when they attended Tyler County High School.
“Gary answered his country’s call,” she said. “After six short weeks in Vietnam, Tyler County lost one of its own. Gary’s passing brought all of our schoolmates to the realization of the ravages of war. Everyone I knew paid their last respects to Gary and the Weekley family for their ultimate sacrifice.”