Uniforms Offer Fitting Tribute
Military uniforms displayed on mannequins around Paradise Valley Estates are a year-round reminder of Veterans Day. John Parker of the Patriotic Committee is in charge of the project, or as he says, “That means the mannequins are kept in my garage.” He dresses them in Armed Forces uniforms loaned by residents.
A founding resident, Don Herington, was one of the first to donate his Army dress uniform. He earned Bronze Stars in both Korea and Vietnam, as well as a Combat Infantry Badge and a Presidential Unit Citation. For 17 years he managed the clubs at the Presidio in San Francisco where soldiers were welcomed home from Vietnam and Herington met President Richard Nixon.
Diann Hale O’Connor wore her uniform as the eighth Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps. She was the fourth nurse and eighth woman in the U.S. Air Force promoted to Brigadier General. The uniform was worn to meet President Ronald Reagan and some of the Army and Navy nurses who were held as POWs by the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII. She called it “an honor and a privilege to wear this uniform during 29+ years of service in the U.S. Air Force.”
As indicated by the size, Manny Escano was only 17 when he wore his Machinist Mate Second Class (MM2C) uniform aboard the first USS Lang and earned nine battle stars. The destroyer withstood 16 kamikaze strikes in the decisive Battle of Leyte Gulf alone in October 1944 in the Philippines.
Ken Mackie has repurposed several of his uniforms, donating his dress whites to the Air Force Museum at Travis and a formal blue uniform to the Suisun Theater for use as a costume. He recalls purchasing the version on the mannequin in 1988 after moving to Travis and being promoted to colonel. The Defense Superior Service Medal is chief among the insignia and ribbons from his 28-year service career, which included Operation Desert Storm and chief of medical plans and programs for Commander-in-Chief, Pacific.
Bud Card’s WWII Army uniform is by the Heritage Cabinet in the Quail Creek lobby. His daughters Janice and Carol remember his pride and satisfaction in being able to wear that same uniform for Veterans and Memorial Day programs at Paradise Valley Estates. Only the insignia changed. During WWII in Italy and in the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Mason in San Francisco, he was a lieutenant colonel and became a full colonel after 20 years in the Reserves.
These uniforms and other uniforms on display around campus are a fitting tribute to the many residents of our community who so bravely served our nation.