Letter to the Editor:
Can you find La Puente, California on a map? Have you ever heard of Bishop Amat Memorial School? Do you know the name of the school’s most accomplished graduate? Do you really care?
Why is it that Lewiston Mayor Laurent Gilbert continues to bore us with stories about his childhood friends’ military exploits during local veterans gatherings? Why does he continue to ignore the feats of local veterans? Does he feel their exploits do not rise to those of his classmates?
Perhaps sometime in the past you may have “talked turkey” with Marcel Moore. Many know him as a former local car dealer. You are probably not aware that during World War II he participated in the invasion of Italy. During that campaign he was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism.
Perhaps your life was touched by the late Robert Hammond. You may have known him as a local hospital maintenance worker. He may have been your Boy Scout troop leader. Did you know he served under General George Patton as a translator? He was also awarded a Bronze Star for single-handedly taking out a German machine gun nest.
These men and many of Lewiston’s sons and daughters have humbly returned home and reentered society. They look on their service as a duty owed their country and seek no recognition for it. The telling of their stories will instill more pride in this city than the “All America City” logo.
Thankfully our community is blessed with Sue Reny, an eighth-grade history teacher at Lewiston Middle School. Over the years she has brought many combat veterans into her classes, as part of a living history, to relate their experiences to her students. This allows them to hear firsthand the difference between reality and Hollywood.
The most memorable veteran to speak to her class was the late Albert Rowbotham. A graduate of Lewiston High School, Captain Rowbotham was a combat command engineer and bridge construction officer serving in the 20th Corps of Engineers, Third Army, under General George Patton.
Rowbotham’s assignment was to proceed in front of Patton’s rapidly moving Third Army, building bridges across rivers while under heavy German fire. His actions allowed Patton to continue his rapidly moving attack.
What made this memorable were the tools he used he used to accomplish this amazing feat: paper, a pencil and several mathematic equations he was required to commit to memory while a math student at Lewiston High. His presentation brought home the importance of math in our daily lives.
If you are imagining Capt. Rowbotham as some kind of academic, you would be sadly mistaken. He was a warrior being awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his European service.
Lastly, what Gilbert forgot—but the staff of the Thomas J. McMahon School, lead by the former Principal Althea Walker, did not—were the heroic actions of U.S. Army Specialist Fourth Class Thomas J McMahon, whose name the school bears.
On March 19, 1969, McMahon was serving as a medic attached to the Second Bn. First Inf. Reg. 196 Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division in Quang Tin Province, Republic of South Vietnam.
Coming under fire by North Vietnamese Army regulars, three soldiers were seriously wounded in the initial contact. Spec 4 McMahon left his cover under intense fire and ran to one of the wounded soldiers, administering first aid and carried him to safety.
McMahon again left his safe position, running through intense fire to a second wounded soldier. While bringing him to safety, McMahon was wounded by a mortar round. McMahon refused medical attention and ran back for the third wounded soldier, being mortally wounded during the attempted rescue.
For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
When the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to Lewiston, it was dedicated to the memory and honor of Spec 4 Thomas J. McMahon. His Purple Heart was placed at the apex of the Wall. Every child from the McMahon School, thanks to the principal and staff, knew about Spec 4 McMahon’s sacrifice and the honors bestowed him.
Yet, Laurent Gilbert, the Mayor of the All America City of Lewiston, failed to even mention McMahon in his speech to those assembled. How do you justify this omission?
Perhaps if Mayor Gilbert opened his eyes to the locals around him, he would find their lives maybe more interesting than the semi-famous people he meets in his travels throughout the United States.