Defense Media Activity (DMA) Riverside dedicated its first ever flagpole to American Forces Network (AFN) military personnel who died in the line of duty during war time during a small ceremony May 21, held on the March Air Reserve Base facility. American Forces Network Broadcast Center Director David Gebhardt presided over the event that remembered fallen AFN service members as well as all U.S. military personnel who have paid the ultimate price in defense of the Nation.
DMA Riverside has never had a flagpole of its own until recently. As part of a then-expanded March Air Force Base, there was no need for the facility to have its own. But once the installation was converted into March Air Reserve Base due to the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) in 1996, the fence line shrank, leaving DMA Riverside outside the base perimeter proper without a flag of its own.
For many years, the lack of a flagpole went unnoticed, until American Forces Network Broadcast Center (AFN BC) Deputy Director Lt. Col. John Clearwater spoke with DMA Riverside’s Assistant Facilities Manager Mike Dodge.
“I had a flag hanging up inside my office and the Lieutenant Colonel was paying me a compliment on it,” said Dodge. “I told him, that’s the flag we’re going to fly from the flagpole if we ever get one. He was surprised that we didn’t already have one and put plans in motion immediately to have a flagpole installed. Within a few months, we’re out there flying Old Glory in acknowledgement of all of those that have given their lives for our freedom. I couldn’t be prouder.”
The AFN BC has had many homes over the years, starting out in Hollywood in 1945. It moved to another location in Hollywood in 1954, where it continued operations through 1986. The Broadcast Center then moved to Sun City in 1987 before transitioning to its current home in Riverside in 1993.
AFN BC’s Chief, Television Broadcast Operations Chris Harpole remembers the flagpole located at the front entrance of the Sun City location clearly and is grateful that there is now one in Riverside.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Harpole. “We’re a Department of Defense activity serving our Nation’s military around the world and I think we should be flying the flag in celebration of that mission. Now that it’s up, I feel grounded, like we’ve finally finished the relocation from Sun City.”
More than 70 civilian and joint military personnel attended the ceremony in remembrance of the fallen. Among those specifically memorialized were:
Marine Sgt. Thomas Franklin Young, who died January 31, 1968 at American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) Hue, during an attack by North Vietnamese forces. Army Specialist Steve Stroub was captured in the attack and later executed.
On May 3, 1968 AFVN Saigon was attacked with a small taxi loaded with 110 pounds of dynamite. Three Sailors were killed: Journalist 1st Class William Ralph Wilson, Photographers Mate 1st Class Robert Guy Stricklin and Photographers Mate 2nd Class Carl William Hudgins Jr.
On April 10, 1970 an F-4 Phantom II was damaged over Vietnam, tried to land back in Thailand when the crew ditched the plane and it crashed into American Forces Thailand Network (AFTN) Udorn, killing nine of thirteen Air Force staff members:
Tech Sergeant Frank Ryan, Tech Sergeant Roy Walker, Tech Sergeant Jack Hawley, Staff Sergeant Jim Howard, Staff Sergeant Al Potter, Staff Sergeant Ed Strain, Sergeant John Rose, Airman First Class Andress McCartney and Airman First Class Tom Waterman.