462 funerals. 176 carrier take-offs and landings. 88 missions. The numbers in Dale Dubbs´ life today are written on a whiteboard before a classroom filled with students but these are the numbers that defined a period in his life. Dubbs is the only service veteran on staff at Wiggins High School and he remembers these numbers like they were yesterday.
Dubbs’ plane was docked on the USS Hornet, which allowed him to be stationed close to Vietnam in order to act as ground support. Dubbs witnessed trial in war, sorrow, and saw the negativity the American people possessed for soldiers involved in the Vietnam War. Dubbs was an active member of the Marines during this time. He was the pilot of an aircraft known as the F-4, and he served as ground support for the American troops. Flying, especially as ground support, required immeasurable amounts of skill in the cockpit of an F-4. Dubbs, of course, possessed such skill and was able to be relied upon by many soldiers fighting on the ground. Dubbs recalls a specific job that entailed dropping Napalm over fire bases that were being overrun by enemy fighters. According to Dubbs, dropping Napalm slowed down the enemy’s advance into the American fire bases. This was an important task in the defense of our country during this violent time of adversary.
Another crucial job that allowed Dubbs to stay on American soil was a certain assignment called “weasel hunting.” Weasel hunting, as Dubbs described, was a search for missiles that had been reported to be seen as a threat to the country’s safety. The squad involved in the destruction of such missiles would fly to the location and retrieve the explosive. Dubbs made sure to point out that he was successful in the extraction of the missiles in every weasel hunt he was a part of.
After the Air Force had been grounded in the later part of the war, Dubbs’ next task was to carry out a service known as Escort Duty. “Escort Duty,” Dubbs describes, “is when you pick up bodies of fallen service members, such as Marines.” After picking up the bodies, those on Escort Duty would return the fallen heroes to their homes and families. Dubbs describes this as his “most difficult mission.” Bringing individual men back to wives and children who had never met their father was, as you can imagine, heartbreaking. Dubbs never escorted a man without meeting and grieving with the family. Being the officer in charge, Dubbs was tasked with the assignment to conduct the military- sanctioned funerals for the soldiers that lost their lives. The American people owe escorts a great amount, but that debt was definitely not repaid during that violent time. Crowds of rowdy and upset Americans would sometimes meet the soldiers in the insecure parts of the airport where they would face disrespect, dishonor, and pure hatred from citizens for fighting in the Vietnam War. Dubbs says, “Because the Vietnam War was not a popular war among the American public, I would get spit on and called names while escorting the caskets of the fallen service men.” Years later, Dubbs can still recall all 462 escorts he partook in because of the impact it left on him and fellow service men.
As Veteran’s Day is approaching, it would be fitting for the youth as well as the adults of this community to honor and respect all Veterans for all they did to serve and protect our country. Servicemen like Dale Dubbs deserve to be recognized and thanked for the sacrifice they made. Honor the fallen, the wounded, and the living on this day, for America would not be the land of the free and the home of the brave without men like Dubbs.