COQUILLE — Around every veteran-related holiday, Brenda Webb kept seeing four names brought up in Facebook community groups.
Those four veterans, Joe L. Hill, John L. “Pee Wee” Wilson, William L. Wilson, and Rickie A. Loomis, all attended Coquille High School before fighting in the Vietnam War where they lost their lives.
When Webb attended Coquille High herself, she remembered the WWII plaque that honored fallen local soldiers and began to wonder why nothing was done for these four who never came home from Vietnam.
This new plaque honors CHS alumni who lost their lives in Vietnam and now rests beside the WWII plaque above the senior bench.
After working to honor them for the past couple years, Webb finally stood in front of the Coquille School District and local community on Monday to talk about these veterans as a new plaque was mounted beside the one from WWII.
“I’m thankful that so many in the community reached out to provide information and provide financial support,” Webb told The World last week before the event. “The school has been wonderful to work with.”
Webb worked closely with CHS Principal Jeff Philly, who had the WWII plaque cleaned. One student, Lily Bergstedt, even painted the area behind the plaques to make it look new again.
“I’m a veteran of the Oregon National Guard, my father is retired military, my sister was eight years active duty, and so this is very close to my personal experiences, not what these families had, but it was important to recognize that this is a contribution that these kids made,” Webb said. “It has been an honor to be a part of this and get to know these young men, speak with their families and learn their stories.”
Webb’s hope is for CHS students to be able to learn about them like she did and even identify with them since these four were all between 19 and 21 when they lost their lives.
“I wanted to make a binder with information about them so kids at the school, if interested, could find out more,” Webb said.
While Webb was still working to get the plaque with the veteran’s names on it, she got an estimate and was surprised when it came back more expensive than she expected. Fortunately, one local Vietnam veteran, Winston Skinner, found out and paid for it himself.
“He was in class with two boys and the third was younger and grew up in his neighborhood,” Webb said. “He knew them. (Skinner) was the most vocal about them because he always seemed frustrated and hurt that his friends were overlooked.”
During the Monday event, Webb introduced Skinner to the crowd and thanked him for his role in making the day happen.
“This is humbling to play a part in this and support the families of these four heroes,” Superintendent Tim Sweeney told The World at the event. “I wish it had happened sooner, but I’m glad we did it.”
Rickie A. Loomis’ wife, Gayla Redlond, attended the ceremony as well and said she thought it was amazing.
“I’m so thankful Brenda put it all together,” Redlond said. “These guys have never had anything special like that for them.”