The Forgotten Memorial

By: 
Kim Dean

submitted photo

SP4 Randy L. Schultz, pictured her in '68 or '69 in Vietnam where he spent 10 months with the Army Ordinance Company, courtesy of his family.

By Kim Dean

NLJ Managing Editor

 

T

he ravages of time grip many things in their path, including people and places. A veterans memorial created in the Cowboy State in the town of Newcastle nearly 50 years ago appears frozen in time. 

On top of a hill, within city limits and a stone’s throw from the Anna Miller Museum, in Greenwood Cemetery near a flagpole, sits a concrete building and grassy area where residents gather each year for a Memorial Day service. However, very few people know there is more to the story and purpose of the memorial area than what can be seen. In fact, most of the original crafters whose vision and labor resulted in the final memorial area are now buried alongside it, in the town’s main cemetery.   

Ardys Parrish reached back in her file 50 years to 1969 and recounted the story of the involvement and duties of her husband, James Parrish, in the creation of the memorial area. At the time, the Parrish family owned the News Letter Journal and James was the paper’s editor and battery commander of Newcastle’s National Guard unit.

“There was a young man from Newcastle who served in the Vietnam War, and he had returned home and shot himself. And his parents donated his memorial funds to create a memorial in the cemetery. I did not know the young man, but these funds were given to Jim to use to create a memorial in the cemetery. The young man’s name is displayed on a plaque on the building,” Ardys said.

Ardys explained that this young man’s parents wanted his memorial funds to go toward a memorial of some type, and that Jim was given the money and task of coming up the design to honor him.

According to Ardys, James went to coffee on a regular basis, and the group of civic-minded coffee-goers devised a plan for the memorial and each member also sought to make a contribution as well. The idea had the dual purpose of being a place to hold memorial services and serving as a memorial for the young man. It would be built with the intention that more veterans’ plaques could be added. 

“It was the men’s idea to have the memorial in the cemetery. Before that, it (the area) was a hill covered with dirt and rock,” she said, adding that James spoke with Clete Highland, the city shop supervisor at the time, and they worked together on the plan.

The area was smoothed out, and a new building was erected to house the equipment used by the cemetery’s crew. 

“With the memorial money, Jim bought those letters (white capital letters saying ‘In Memory of Those Who Served’), and he mounted them, along with the plaque, and that was his idea of what was going to be a memorial of this young man. He used a small amount of money and bought greenery for the front of the building. It was his idea to change the front of the building to a concrete surface,” said Ardys, who noted that there was no grass around the building. Grass was planted along with four trees, one in each corner of the building. She said it was their family ritual every night after work to haul water there and water the foliage, which she said was before the installation of water at the cemetery. The grass did not take and the rabbits and other critters wreaked havoc on the trees, but Ardys said eventually the city put sod in and replaced the trees.

“The cross was donated by Pete Field, and the men at the [saw] mill built the cross,” said Ardys, who guessed that Frank Humes may have donated the rock altar, which has stones mounted in it. 

A Dec. 2, 1976, News Letter Journal article detailed the work for the planned ceremony area, stating that “the flag pole was donated to the project by the Newcastle Lions Club, who received the pole from Mrs. Les Vines, who donated it in memory of her husband. Plaques will be placed in the area and a cross will be constructed next spring.”         

With the unexpected death of James Parrish on March 2, 1992, Ardys said, the memorial wall part of the project was never fully promoted and never took off as Jim intended.

“After Jim passed away, there was a small amount of the young man’s memorial money left in an account, and someone had taken all the flags. So I donated the rest of the money to the ladies auxiliary so they could buy new flags,” Ardys said.    

“There are two plaques on the building, the young man’s and the other plaque was purchased by Flora Wright, (longtime employee of the News Letter Journal) when her husband, Myrlvin, who was a veteran, passed away. She knew of Jim’s goal and vision for the memorial project, and keeping with the theme, she bought a plaque for her husband to be hung on the memorial,” said Ardys. 

Wright’s plaque hangs to the right of the white lettering. The name on the golden plaque, which is affixed to the left on the concrete block building for whom the memorial was created, honors Randy L. Schultz.

Randy LaVerne Schultz was born on Feb. 9, 1949, in Mitchell, South Dakota, the third son of LaVerne and Carmen Schultz, joining brothers David and Doug. The family lived in Plankinton, South Dakota, before moving to Newcastle in 1954.

“I came here Sept. 28, 1954, that date I’ll remember forever,” said David Schultz, who said he was five years older than his youngest brother, Randy.

“Doug is three years younger than me, and two years older than Randy, and my sister, Jeanne, is five years younger than Randy,” he said. “My Dad had an electrical business. Newcastle was on the tail end of the boom. It was just tapering off, when we moved here.” 

A 1962 graduate of Newcastle High School, David joined the National Guard along with 18 of his classmates. Doug graduated from Newcastle High School in 1965 and was attending college in Laramie. 

Randy, still in high school, hung around with the “ag” kids, liked animals and rode horses.

“My brother Randy, he was the one who was interested in animals. We had a few horses that we would ride. They were kept at the Fountain Inn,” said Jeanne Gary, who said that she had a close bond with her brother and that Randy was not embarrassed to be seen with her, as her older brothers seemed to be at times.

“He was my closest brother in age, so we were very close,” she said, adding that David Bickford was his best friend and the three often hung out together. 

Bickford described growing up the 1960s as the best of times, and that the he and Randy shared a strong, brotherly bond.

The duo put on a lot of miles in the saddle, broke horses and raised sheep together in FFA.

“We were in the drill team together,” he said, describing how they both dreaded having to wear pink plaid shirts, white hats and green and white chaps that were required for performances.

The dynamic duo also had its share of fun, even venturing a bit on a wild side.  

“He (Randy) liked to have fun. We got in a lot of trouble together. We were fun-loving kids, and we had more fun than we should have. We knew the game warden by his first name,” he said, admitting they had been caught skipping school to spend the day shooting guns and fishing in their youth. 

Bickford also admitted that they would fill the trunk and sneak into the local drive-in to see the show with their friends.

While the two were known to have tons of fun, they also worked together, stacking hay on a job that earned them a nickel a bale. He said that Randy’s dad, LaVerne, kept them employed at his business, Pioneer Construction Co., during the summers. 

And while their carefree summers of fun would come and go, there was a war going on that would ultimately touch their young lives, as well as the lives of many they knew and loved, causing them to grow up rather quickly.   

“The Vietnam war was a long, costly and divisive conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The conflict was intensified by the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. More than 3 million people (including over 58,000 Americans) were killed in the Vietnam War, and more than half of the dead were Vietnamese civilians. Opposition to the war in the United States bitterly divided Americans, even after President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. Communist forces ended the war by seizing control of South Vietnam in 1975, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year,” according to history.com.

Many young men and women from Weston County took the call to serve in the Vietnam War, and Schultz’ family and friends were amongst them. His friend Leonard Zerbst joined the Army on May 2, 1965. Bickford entered the Navy Seabees on Jan. 4, 1966. Doug Schultz joined the Army in January of 1967, Terry Adkins entered the Army July 26, 1967, and Randy volunteered for induction in the Army in August of 1967.

Jeanne recalled baking cookies with her mom and sending letters to both of her brothers while they were serving their country during that time.

“At that time, two family members could not be in Vietnam at the same time, so Randy had to wait for Doug to return before he could go,” said Jeanne.

According to the Aug. 10, 1967, News Letter Journal article, 20-year-old Pfc. Doug Schultz, a rifleman in Troop A, 1st Squadron, of the division’s 4th Cavalry, was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division near Di An, Vietnam, on  July 13. 

Upon Doug’s return, Randy’s tour of duty with Army Ordinance in Vietnam followed. He was released from active duty in the Army on Aug. 15,1969, at Fort Lewis, Washington, after his tour of duty in Vietnam. 

In the beginning of the war, there was public support by Americans for the war effort, but as the war dragged on, large-scale antiwar demonstrations became more frequent. High-profile people, including Hollywood actress Jane Fonda, joined in the protests. Many servicemen and women  were encouraged not to wear their service uniforms home because they would be targets for the protesters. They endured name calling, while some were spit on and had rocks thrown at them.

The 50-year time span cannot erase the scars of Vietnam for the Schultz family and many other veterans and their families. The raw emotion of recalling her brother’s death instantly took Jeanne back to the day when she was 15, a day she said was the worst day of her life.

“It’s very difficult, it was terribly painful. He came home in August, and passed away Oct. 11, 1969,” Jeanne said emotionally, and she noted that neither one of her brothers would ever talk about their experiences in Vietnam.

“They (Vietnam veterans) didn’t see much appreciation when they returned. Thankfully, we treat our returning servicemen better now,” she said.

Ironically, six years after Randy died — five years after the Vietnam War ended — post-traumatic stress disorder was officially recognized as a mental health condition. 

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as having flashbacks, upsetting memories, and anxiety following a traumatic event. It was first officially recognized as a mental health condition in 1980, only five years after the end of the Vietnam War. For hundreds of years, these symptoms have been described under different names in soldiers from many wars. However, Vietnam Veterans with these symptoms were the first to have the term ‘PTSD’ applied to them. Despite the passage of 50 years since the war, for some Vietnam veterans, PTSD remains a chronic reality of everyday life,” according to www.publichealthva.gov

“When Randy came back, it hurt him a lot. He committed suicide. Doug won’t talk about Vietnam,” David said, adding that Randy is buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, S.D.

“That place was just getting started when he (Randy) was buried there. My brother Doug wants to be buried right next to Randy,” David said, noting that he can’t believe how much the cemetery has grown since 1969. He remarked on the rapid growth of veterans’ graves from when they visited his brother’s grave a few months after his burial.

Randy’s death has also scarred his best friend. Bickford was released from active duty in the U.S. Navy on Oct. 14, 1969, and his friend’s death still troubles him.

“I’ve always thought, if I had made it home five days sooner, he might still be with us,” he continued, “I was pretty blessed to have known him and have him for a friend.” 

The Schultz family left the Newcastle area shortly after Randy’s death and were not aware of the memorial created with his funeral funds.

“My Dad had several businesses, and he liquidated them and we moved to Portland, Oregon. My dad was a union member and went back to work in Oregon for the union as an electrician,” said Jeanne.

Schultz’ family and friends will always carry the pain and scars of Randy’s death, but they are thankful to have lasting memories of the times they shared together.   

Even though Randy L. Schultz’s name does not appear on the Vietnam wall, perhaps the Schultz family and friends can find some solace knowing that a memorial was created for him and his name can be found on a golden plaque affixed to a concrete block wall honoring him on a hill in Newcastle’s Greenwood Cemetery. 

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News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

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