Four members of the Fayette County High School Class of 1964 served in the military during the Vietnam War. One of those classmates, Air Force loadmaster Gary Pate, never returned home.
Pate, in fact, is the only known Fayette resident to be declared missing in action, a status he held for 41 years until a MIA search team in 2009 discovered his downed C-130 aircraft just inside the Vietnam border.
According to VFW Post 3650 Commander Ronnie “Stubby” Stubbs, an Army veteran and one of Pate’s classmates, Pate had been a crew member on a night reconnaissance mission when his plane, Blind Bat 01, was struck by enemy fire on May 20, 1968. The 2009 search team was able to identify each of the nine crew members by their dog tags.
Stubbs says all nine airmen are now buried in one large grave at Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial service for them was held in Nov. 2009 at New Hope Baptist Church’s north campus.
Seven years later, more than 83,000 Americans remain missing in action from World War II and subsequent wars and conflicts, which is why Stubbs and many other military veterans and American patriots continue to do what they can to keep hope alive that more will be found, identified and given a proper burial and recognition.
Dozens gathered in Peachtree City on Sept. 16 at the base of the American Flag on the city hall campus to honor the MIA and prisoners of war who have been brought home and especially those who have not yet. That American Flag is coupled with an official POW/MIA flag just beneath it.
Stubbs said Friday he will participate in the character of Gary Pate during this year’s Fayetteville Cemetery Walk, which is scheduled to take place Oct. 21-22.
Navy veteran John Hendricks was also an FCHS Class of 1964 alumnus. He now lives in Louisiana. The fourth classmate, Ray Coogler, died several years ago due to Agent Orange exposure from his time in the Army.