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Veterans’ Voices Ve Honoring our men and women in uniform By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald E B By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald Dever, 75, ofupHewitt, nevertheir intended veryenlittle girl looks to and loves daddy, to and makeMcKey a career outisofnothe military.When But two Chantel Greer exception. the tours to Vietnam, toursschool, to Germany, Gatesville resident was two in middle she did and a some 22 years later, he retired from the U.S. history report on her father, Larry Wade McKey, who had Army as a lieutenant colonel in November 1988. served Vietnam. Deverinwas born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Greer asked her father if she interview him, but he the northern Virginia area. He could attended Manassas High ended up it because he discovered couldn’t School in recording Virginia and graduated when hehewas 18. talk about it in was fronton of his his daughter. were many occasions College mind andThere he enrolled in the University of Richmond but quitheafter semesters. when he stopped the tape because was three overcome with “I ran out of money and I ran out of grades,” he said. emotion. At the time, the school like athe So Through years,didn’t Greerfeel learned lotright aboutplace. her father Dever went to work forherthe telephone from her grandmother, father’s Born and raised in He was 21 years old when he received a draft notice Corsicana, left there as soon not as hetograduated school from Unclehe Sam. He decided wait untilhigh he was to join the U.S. Marines, despite having band scholarships drafted and joined the U.S. Army in November 1966 to goato college. like itplan,” was hisDever duty tosaid. go into with buddy on“He the felt “buddy Thethe Marines andisfight in Vietnam,” Greer said. joining the buddy plan designed to allow a person On Feb. 22, 1971, after he their turnedbuddy. 20, McKey found service to serve theirjust time with Things didn’t work outNam that Providence way, as both men wereAttached himselfquite in the Quang of Vietnam. assigned as platoon leaders of different ffof erent They to Fox Company of the 1st Platoon the platoons. 1st Marines never saw each other again. 2nd Battalion, he served as a platoon leader. U.S. Part 1 U.S. ARMY MARINE CORPS It wascompleting dangerous, his to say the training least. Theatmen taught After basic Fortwere Bragg, not toCarolina, accept packages Vietnamese child because North Deverfrom was any selected for Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. September they often tried to infiltrate the Marines with In homemade 1967 ― while Vietnam was in full tilt ― he was bombs. commissioned as anew second One day, a man to thelieutenant. platoon was spotted by “My paycheck as an officer was a grand of old McKey talking to a Vietnamese boy about 7 ortotal 8 years $300,” Dever said. “I asked how I could make more and holding a package. McKey knew instantly something money.” was and he sprinted over, was grabbing package, Thewrong answer, was told, flightthe school, so which he exploded, killing the boy and seriously injuring McKey. decided to go. He had to wait his turn and spent the so strong it blew off one arm above timeThe as aexplosion platoon was leader in a searchlights battery for a his elbow and the other arm elbow.Wells, He also couple of months before heright was below off to the Mineral Texas, flightwounds his side and stomach and got sufferedand several At this in point, Dever shrapnel his chest andmarried face. Carla Taylor in April 1968 in Virginia. It was twohis days aftertothe assassination McKey was taken against wishes an Army ofevacuation the Rev. hospital Martin Luther King Jr. Riots were in Da Nang before transferring to a everywhere when Dever and his new wife spent their Veteran Affairs hospital in Oakland, had honeymoon driving to Texas for hisCalifornia. training. He They wanted todrive stay at with his fellow but that wasn’t going couldn’t night due toMarines, a curfew. to happen. Although Greer doesn’t know how long he was in the hospital, she training estimates he was there about eight months. Helicopter Dever trained on the OH-23 lightwith observation McKey was medically discharged honors and a helicopter at Fort Woltersto inCorsicana Mineral Wells, Purple Heart. He returned and metthen andhe married learned flyHume. the combat Huey helicopter at Fort Sandra to Kay They were married 21 years, and together Rucker, even though that wasn’t what they hadAlabama, three daughters, one of whom, Tammy, hashe died. would fly in Vietnam. Greer never paid attention to her father’s prosthetics. They And that’s exactly where he went af after ter he graduated seemed natural and normal to her. “If anything, I wondered from flight training in 1969 ― straight to Vietnam, where he was stationed in the I Corps, the northernmost why other daddies didn’t have them,” she said.Vietnam “He could region of South Vietnam, bordering North at do the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. amazing things with his hooks. He could pick up pens and Deverand waseven assigned as platoon leader for an Air glasses cook with them. He also dressed himself. He Cavalry troop: F Troop, 8th Cavalry. His to flydo was very independent. There wasn’t anythingjob hewas couldn’t the “scout bird,” as they called it, or Loach, for light with those prosthetics.” observation helicopter (OH-6 Cayuse). It was one of the the years after he was released from theHis Marines, mostIndangerous assignments in Vietnam. job was to McKey worked for Goodwill in Tyler. He ended up enemy running fly out low to the ground and observe where the may Once theyhis found enemy, a couple of Cobras the be. plant and had own the office. would come in to take careago, of things. Approximately six years McKey was notified by “I’m the bait,” he said. doctors that he only had about six months to live because of The small helicopter might take fire, and a crew congestive heartthrow failure.a smoke bomb to mark the location member would “Six months became years. Hethe wasCobras a very tough andand of the enemy. Then theysix fired until arrived determined man,” she said. they could get away. “Sometimes youhisdon’t see anything. You’re justtwice cutting Greer became caretaker. She took him at least holes in (with the sky,” he three said. appointments a day) to the VA a week usually hospital in Temple. She took him to every appointment, Shot down pushing in a wheelchair in months and out of elevators theChu He washim in Vietnam for five flying over at the VA hospital. “I was very proud to be able to do that because Lai region doing search-and-destroy missions over the everyone atOn theone Temple VA Hospital were so very nice.”“I got mountains. mission, the crew chief yelled, one running!” bird turned it took As they satAs withthe veterans, Greerback heardaround, her father small armsstories. fire and lost They were he trying exchange “He feltanatengine. home there because was to get thehis copter to a small clearing the way with brothers,” she said, addingbut “It hit wasaatree veryon humbling down. experience pushing my dad … up and down the halls of the 574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • Benresident Dever, of Gatesville Hewitt, Chantel McKeyretired Greeras is a lieutenant colonel proud of her father, Larry after 22who years of Wade McKey, was service in the U.S. a U.S. Marine during the Army. Vietnam War when he Photo Drennon lost parts of by hisMary arms to a bomb. “We just crashed in enemy territory,” Dever said. Photo by Mary Drennon The crew chief and observer both were okay, but VA hospital … sick or not.fractures I didn’t want himback. to be sick and Dever had compression in his Two did Cobras started the enemy a neither he, but it stillshooting was a veryathumbling andand proud Huey came and picked them up. “We were not on the experience.” ground fivepassed minutes,” said.20, 2021 at home. Larrymore Wadethan McKey away he March was taken to an aid station, thenand to Shelly an evacuation HeHe is survived by his daughters Chantel LaFranco, hospital in Vietnam. From there, he went to a hospital of San Antonio, as well as eight grandchildren and five greatin Japan, then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in grandchildren. He is buried with full military honors at the D.C., effectively ffectively ending his tour. tour. Central in Killeen.and sent AfterTexas aboutState two Veterans months Cemetery he was stabilized to Fort Maryland, for light duty.misses Righther after Greer,Meade, who works for Johnson Roofing, father he got out hospital, he was Memorial promotedDay to captain. terribly. Sheof is the planning on spending visiting Dever spentwhere abouthea year Fort Meade, becoming his gravesite, finallyathas a headstone that she hasn’t company commander of the Army garrison before he yet seen. left. Greer didwent indeed her historytraining report done on her father. He then to get an advanced course at Fort She will never forget it. “He was very proud to do the report,” Sill, Oklahoma, where he geared up to go back to she said. “He was very proud to be a Marine.” Vietnam. “I loved my dad very much,” she added. “I thought of my week: Dever serves again in Vietnam and goes dadNext as my hero.” directly to Germany. His military service continues with a “Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about variety of assignments, including commanding troops. Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. “V erans’aVoices,” featuring stories about Central To“Vet suggest story about a Central Texas Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest veteran, please email a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email Voices” is “Veterans’ Voices” is proudly“Veterans’ sponsored by proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing. Johnson Roofing. At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.

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