1 — Tribute to 62 Fallen
2 — Remembering Wayne Downing 1940 – 2007
2b. Jim Kimsey – Classmate and Friend
2c. H Ross Perot
2d. LTGEN Bob Wagner – Army’s Special Ops Command
2e. Phil – Kathy’s son
2f. Class of 1962 comments
2. General Wayne Downing
Jim spoke from the heart – there were no notes. He spoke for us, Wayne’s Classmates. We do remember …
“Wayne led the World’s most lethal fighting force, and was its most compassinate man”.
Kathy’s son Phil — The myriad dignitaries, military personnel, friends, and family gathered here today attest to the greatness of General Wayne A Downing’s monumental professional career. I am here to attest to the monumental beneficence that Wayne showered on everyone who was fortunate enough to call him a friend. Men of Wayne’s professional stature do not need to spend any more time on personal relations than is dictated by their busy schedules- but he did. Men of Wayne’s stature do not need to stop and chat with people who had heard of him but who didn’t know him personally- but he did. And Wayne certainly did not have to love, support, nurture and grow the family he inherited when he met my mother- but he did. Such was the character of this patriot- he possessed that rarest of combinations: unquestioned professional skill melded with the most generous humanity of any person I have ever met.
The world knows Wayne by reputation- skilled combat leader, brilliant strategist, and counter terrorism expert. These are things that made him a legend. I imagine that knowing all this about Wayne must have been very intimidating to a soldier or a new colleague. But then you get to know Wayne and you realize that he had a personal Then he became not Wayne the General, but one of the guys.
I knew about those things when I first met the man. What made him immortal are the times that we shared when he no longer wore the uniform, when he was just a guy hanging out and having fun- and believe me, Wayne was the source of much hilarity.
2. From the Military to Mom
a. Wayne’s Crusades
Keith Jackson; Football Betting; Adding his tiremarks to local curbs (perhaps Wayne was around dogs too much because—)
b. Wayne Generosity
Generous financially, but definitely a Midwestern frugal.
Wayne Helps You Get Hired and Fired —- Wayne has helped many people in this room get hired—and opening his emails could easily get you fired
c. Stories –
Lost wallet in Germany; Face Plant on Volvo; Regular fuel in a diesel engine — Wanted this information kept — “close hold”.
d. Wayne in Highschool
Spalding Academy class of 1958 — Wrestler, football, basketball, ice dancing — oh wait–
e. Wayne with the grandchildren
Opening Christmas gifts for them;
Makeup (to contrast the SpecOps camo face paint) By the way, this would later explain why Wayne would get caught breaking into Mom’s makeup case
f. Wayne strongly encouraged to live in a micro room in a giant house.
g. Wayne’s Warrior Personality was visible long after his retirement
Wanting to “gut” a driver who cut him off
Relieving himself in a bush during a nature hike
h. Wayne and his Daughters
Halloween costumes reflect his incredibly poor timing
1972 — Dressed one as the Vietcong
1976 — Dressed one as an Arab Sheik (oil embargo)
Apples for Halloween candy. Told his daughters that it was “healthier” for kids. They assured him that the apples would be returned — 70 miles per hours against the house.
i. Wayne and Noni’s Dogs
Trooper always disappeared around midnight. He was getting fed at the Officer’s Club on McDill AFB.
Wayne picking up land mines created the only “tropical rainforest in Colorado Springs”
Canine Guantanamo Bay – House was divided up into sectors to keep dogs from fighting. Required him to open and close a half dozen gates to go to the bathroom
Wayne Multi-Tasking for National Security — Wayne would often be on a secure line discussing matters of national interest while throwing a tennis ball for one dog, preventing another from mounting his leg, and while preventing a third from eating his sandwich.
j. Wayne and His Grandchildren
k. Wayne and Noni Dynamic
House decoration — Military vs. Country
Mom the Homecoming Queen —“Shhh you had me at buzz off”
Giant price tag
Wayne could not keep a secret.
PsyOps vs. Noni — “Amateur hour”
l. Wayne Relaxation
The Bears. He was very happy to see the Bears do well. He was at his most relaxed with a Bears game playing on his projector and his Labrador sitting at his side. In fact, he was taken to a game last year. But back in 1985 at Ft Benning, he couldn’t see the Bears on local TV. He and another Illinois officer at Ft. Benning, Ron Rockusz, could see the Bears on satellite TV. So every Sunday these two men would check into a local motel for two hours–
m. The Legend of Wayne — My neurosurgery friends would routinely pose the question — Could Wayne take The Rock?
n. Wayne Before Noni
Polyesther Suit- crushed to find out that Brooks Brothers did not make a polyesther safari suit
o. Wayne Language
Ending sentences in prepositions. Wayne had a habit of ending his sentences with a preposition. “Kathy, where’s Ranger at?” Invariably, Mom would correct him, saying that one should not end their sentences his sentences with a preposition. Indignant, Wayne responded, “Your criticism is something I’m not going put up with!” To which Mom responded, “It IS something up with which you shall put!”
Profanity —- Mom assured us that Wayne was a perfect gentleman. He only used profanity when he found it necessary to speak
Both enjoyed walking the dogs, watching classic movies
Phil’s voice broke as he said he would miss Wayne –
Memorial Service for Wayne Downing – Peoria, Illinois, Saturday, July 20th, 2007 by Brian McEnany with assistance from Bob Meceda and Don Kauer
General Wayne Downing Classmate, company mate, retired-4-star general, former Nat. Security Advisor for Terrorism, Commander of all Special Operations Forces and NBC news analyst, passed away this week. A memorial service was held in Peoria, Illinois his home town -at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church.
Thirteen of us climbed into a Gulfstream at Dulles at 0745 this morning – Jim Kimsey, Denny Reimer, Jack Reavill, Phil Stewart, Harry Hagerty, Art Bondshu, Brian McEnany, John O’Neal, George Handy, JJ Heigl, Bob Meceda, George Kirschenbauer and Jack Nicholson from the Class of 56 and CEO of the American Battle Monument Commission also came. Brian Williams’ moving tribute to Wayne was played on the plane ride to Peoria. It generated a lot of conversation and remembrances of Wayne for the rest of the trip.
1 hr 45r min flight – smooth and level – dropped us into the green, flat, agricultural lands around Peoria – the heartland of America. The city, nestled on the banks of the Illinois River, had turned out to honor one of its own. Flags flew at half-staff, the local police controlled the routes in and out of the church area.
St Thomas is a huge Catholic church and it was filled by 10 AM. Classmates sat in two rows reserved for us. High white ceilings – sunlight streaming through the large stained glass windows, lit up the interior of the packed church. Violins and trumpets played before the mass began – a fine tenor and choir sang during the service. And it was a wonderful service.
The priest, the Bishop, clad in maroon and carrying his staff, the girls and boys carrying the Cross, Bishop’s crook and candles proceeded to the front of the church. Then, the multi-colored berets of the honor guard, all Senior NCOs carrying Wayne’s casket marched behind. Sharp, crisp uniforms with bloused trousers, spit-shined jump boots – chests filled with rows of ribbons. There were nine pallbearers Two Marines, Two Navy, Two Air Force, Two Army and was led by an Army NCO – all Special Ops. Sprays of flowers from the various Special Operations Commands laid across the room and the big, red SOCOM patch leaned against the altar. The memorial program was filled with Wayne’s career assignments – “Rangers Lead The Way” emblazoned across the bottom of one page, the Ranger Creed printed on the back cover.
Several more classmates showed up at the church – Don Kauer and his wife, Jim McQuillen and his wife, Phil Burns, Ralph Lurker – a few others whose faces I recognize, but forgive me, their names escaped me. I think about twenty of us sat down in two rows near the front. The audience was filled with brass – each of the service Special Ops chiefs – 3 and 4 star generals – was present along with their retinues. All names you would recognize. The Army’s Special Ops CSM Hall and its commander were present. Do not believe there was any representation from the White House, but I could be mistaken. A few other gray-haired gentlemen in suits, past members of the legion of shadowy warriors, crowded into a few more rows. Also in attendance was more than one former member of Wayne’s various commands on crutches. Wayne’s extended family filled the rows on the right. His mother, Eileen and his wife, Kathy, were escorted to the front.
Brian Williams and the NBC news and camera crew sat right behind us. I had a chance to talk with Brian Williams after the service and thanked him for the wonderful tribute he gave Wayne on NBC News. He seems like a good man – firm handshake, listened to what we were saying. His father had been an Army Captain. Several of our group also thanked him for his words. Later, as we walked together into the parking lot, he told me that he and his wife will be at West Point for the funeral on Sept 27th. He was appreciative of our thanks for his tribute. One of the guys told me later that Williams told him that he looked at the two rows in front of him in the chapel and could see the Long Gray Line.
The readings came from two of the family and then, three of the grand-children stepped up to the mike and read the prayers in their clear, children’s voices – they bore the gifts to the altar a short time later.
The priest spoke as if he knew Wayne during the Homily – He choked up at one point so I think they were friends. The Eulogies were given by H Ross Perot, Phil (Kathy’s son), Jim Kimsey, and LTGEN Bob Wagner the head of the Army’s Special Ops Command.
Perot, still erect and proud, loudly spit out his words, punctuating them with quotes from various more famous people. He paraphrased Churchill’s – “Never Quit, Never, Never” quoted during WW II in relation to Wayne and his approach to operations. He talked about some of the projects where Wayne helped get immediate care for soldiers or helped get people out of harms way — When questions about what happened, Wayne always replied, “Perot, you don’t want to know how I did it”.
Phil presented a family side of Wayne that most of us never knew. He loved being back in Peoria — tales about clothing his daughter in North Vietnamese officers uniform and sending her off to trick or treat or inadvertently filling up the rental car in Europe with gas when he should have filled it with diesel during one trip.
Jim’s talk was heartfelt. He spent many hours and days with Wayne on various projects. He had just came back from Israel with him only two weeks ago. He spoke about his friendship and said, “Wayne led the world’s most lethal fighting force, and was its most compassionate man”. He finished with words that most of us truly felt as well – he would miss him.
LTGEN Wagner told his story from the soldier’s viewpoint. He mentioned the names of all the brass and some of the elder statesmen. He served under Wayne and said that “Wayne was the father of America’s special operations”. He left a standard that all had to measure up to. Many project and operations were planned and invariably, someone would say –“how would General Downing have done it?”.
As we started filing out of the church, three volleys were heard. A bugler played the sweet, sad notes of Taps from the entrance as the soldiers loaded his casket into the hearse. Afterwards, the crowd surged around Kathy as literally hundreds tried to comfort her. A C-130 roared overhead in a fly-by to end the ceremony at the church.
Finally, the family climbed into white limos and slowly drove behind a police escort to the reception. Lots of people stood on street corners or watched from their porches as the procession filed past. Police and State police blocked all the roads – lots of town people taking care of one of their home town guys. He was their hero, and ours, being laid to eternal rest.
The reception was held at the Peoria Country Club on the bluffs above the Illinois River. The large building with rambling terraces and rooms up and down stairs hosted the many hundreds that came. Good food was piled on tables, many tales about Wayne heard from the groups that milled about the cookies and shrimp and roast beef sandwiches. Brian Williams and Lisa Meyers, and the rest of the NBC contingent of twelve stayed throughout the reception, and were genuinely interested in relaying their regard for and affection for Wayne.
At 2 o’clock, we loaded up and headed for the airport. Good conversations and we were back on the ground at Dulles by 5:30 EST. We were all very thankful to Jim Kimsey for flying us out there.
A moving ceremony – many stories told – and a great man, patriot, soldier, and family man was given a terrific send off. He will receive many military honors at West Point and I am sure the US Marines guarding the halls of heaven will welcome him as he arrives at the Pearly Gates. He will be buried at West Point on Sept 27. That is the first of a three day reunion weekend for our class … many of us will attend the early burial before the reunion begins.
Emerson wrote – “When nature takes from us an individual such as this, we immediately look to the horizon for a successor. But, there is none… and none will come. For his class is extinguished with him…”
We classmates and company mates will miss him — Be Thou at Peace!
1. West Point Vets Pay Tribute
BY LAURA JESSE EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER as amended
For four years, in nearly identical rooms their rifles stood just below their Shakos, they ate the same food, dressed in identical clothing and ran the same obstacle course. They knew each other’s grades and class standing – they were posted every week for all to see.
Within 5 years of graduation, most had already returned home and were preparing for their 2d tour of duty in one of America’s Wars.
At the Alamo the summer of 2006 members of the Class gathered to Honor Classmates who never returned. They were asked — When you got up this morning, did you hug and kiss your wife because those men gave that up. They didn’t get to dance with their daughters at their weddings. They didn’t coach their sons’ baseball teams. They gave all of that up.
They had represented Army on 8 teams and on 7 competitive Clubs. Just as the Classes of 1893 and 1950 lost their Football Team Captain, so did the Class of 1962.
After the ceremony class members visited soldiers wounded in Iraq who were being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center. Some were very anxious to talk with members of the Can Do Class.