By SABRA STAFFORD
A recent trip by the Central Valley Honor Flight group in April took more than 60 area veterans to visit the war and military memorials in Washington, D.C. The men and women joining the expedition have had a variety of experiences during their years of service. Here are just a few from the 209 area:
Tom Farnham was just 17 years old when he left his home in Kennewick, Washington to enlist in the Army. He was assigned to the 23rd Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and soon found himself operating a machine gun during the Korean War. During one operation his company had sustained heavy losses and were about to be under mortar attack. Farnham told his fellow soldiers to clear out, while he held off enemy forces with his machine gun. His actions were credited with saving the lives of those soldiers and he was awarded the Silver Star. Farnham returned home to marry his sweetheart Marlene, then returned to Korea for another tour. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after a grenade explosion seriously injured his shoulder.
Farnham, now resides in Los Banos where he and his wife of 65 years own the Lucky Strike bar. Taking a place of honor at the bar is Farnham’s Silver Star citation.
Growing up, Harvey Hickey had plans of joining the United States Marine Corps. It would be a well-worn path that had been trod by his father and his brother, but for Hickey the path was about to diverge. Told he was too short for the Marines, Hickey found another avenue to serving his country by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. Hickey volunteered to serve on a submarine and made three forays into the waters off of Korea during the Korean War on the USS Tilefish and USS Sea Devil. Hickey was a fire control officer and it was his responsibility to maintain the torpedo tube circuits, periscopes, and other essential equipment. Hickey was discharged in 1952 and went to work in the burgeoning space industry. He worked on autopilots used during re-entry on NASA’s first six attempts to reach the moon. The foray into the Navy only lasted during his service, as his son and grandson each became a Marine. Hickey, 87, now lives in Jamestown with Jean, his wife of 57 years.
For Bill Moniz, 83, of Atwater the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 had a lasting impact on his life. Moniz was a native of Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island and remembers clearly seeing the smoke rise across the sea as the attack raged on. America’s decision to join the Allies would send Moniz’s father to Europe, where he would partake in the D-Day invasion at Normandy. His time in the Army inspired Moniz to enlist and fight during the Korean War. As a member of the 3rd Infantry Division, Moniz fought for nearly two years on the front lines of some of the deadliest encounters during the war. Moniz volunteered to drive a 2.5-ton truck on one mission and the convoy came under attack. Some of the shrapnel struck Moniz on the left side of his head, resulting in the loss of his ear. The injury happened just three weeks before his duty in Korea was scheduled to come to an end. Moniz has yet to receive a Purple Heart for his wound.
Jules Comeyne, a Rhode Island native, decided to make a career in the Air Force. Enlisting in 1954, he started by working on F-86 simulators, but as the tensions ratcheted up in Vietnam he called upon to serve as an Electronics Warfare Officer on B-52s. He would complete 100 bombing missions in Vietnam during his service. During an outreach operation that saw flight crews meeting some of the ground troops they helped protect, Comeyne was exposed to Agent Orange, which has caused health issues for numerous Vietnam veterans. Comeyne continued to serve in the Air Force until 1974, when he retired from the service as a Major. He is currently 81 years old and lives in Merced.