The ground was swampy from the recent rains, but the crowd at Prairie Lawn Cemetery, met with a warm weather and a cool morning breeze as they gathered for the Memorial Day ceremony.
Volunteers from the VFW and American Legion were on hand. “Taps” was played, prayers wer said and the Boy Scouts of America hoisted a flag in the air. More than 1,200 American flags were set up, having been set up by volunteers for the Avenue of Flags the previous Saturday.
Jack Potucek, who served four years active duty with the Air Force and 18 years with the National Guard, gave a speech in which he honored four people whom he said “impacted our community, me personally and our nation.”
The men Potucek paid tribute to, all of whom are deceased, were: Father Raymond Schmidt, an Army battlefield Chaplain during the Korean War who went on to be pastor of St. Anthony’s parish in Wellington; Sgt. Jack Moore, Wellington resident and battlefield medic during the Korean War; First Lt. James Comiskey, an F-100 Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War and Capt. John McCain, the long-time U.S. senator and presidential candidate who served as a Navy aviator in the Vietnam War.
Father Schmidt offered the sacrament to mortally wounded Catholics and “words of peace and love for those of other denominations,” Potucek said. “We’ll never know how many Father Schmidt shared last moments with.”
Sgt. Jack Moore, of Nebraska, was educated by Jesuits, married a Wellington, Ka. girl, Carol, in Illinois and was “one of the best read people I ever met,” Potucek said.
“It had to be an extremely difficult duty, providing battlefield medical relief to the wounded in the frozen terrain of Korea,” Potucek said. “We’ll never know how many eventually returned home because of Jack Moore’s efforts on the killing fields of Korea. We’ll never know how many wounded made it to the MASH (Mobile Army Surplus Hospital) tents because of Jack Moore’s skills and efforts.”
First Lt. James Comiskey grew up in Oklahoma and attended Notre Dame. Patucek met him when he was assigned to the 357th Squadron at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. He was best man at Potucek’s wedding.
Comiskey was assigned an F-100 fighter/308th TAC Fighter Squadron in Vietnam. He was downed by ground fire on a mission, on June 13, 1967, in support of ground troops under heavy fire. Potucek was assigned to be Comiskey’s escort officer to his burial in Windsor, Illinois. Comiskey was survived by his wife, Nancy, and infant son, Jeff.
“We’ll never know how many survived in the trenches on June 13, 1967 due to Comiskey’s sacrifice,” Potucek said.
Capt. John McCain came from a military family and graduated from the Naval Academy. As flight and squadron commander, he was popular with his officers and enlisted men.
“He insisted on high combat skills, respect for his men and the chain of command -- in combat and later in captivity. He refused early release from captivity to remain with his men,” Potucek said.
“Upon return to civilian life, a combat veteran worthy of our consideration for President of the United States.”
At the end of his speech, Potucek said, “A nation who forget its defenders will someday itself be forgotten. Thank you for allowing me to share this memorable day with you.”