Of more than 3,500 veterans who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, two of them are from Odessa, and their service will be honored during a special banquet next month to raise money to help struggling veterans.
Alfred “Mac” Wilson and Marvin “Rex” Young graduated within two years of each other from Odessa High School and Permian High School, respectively. After graduating, both went to Vietnam and both men died within seven months of each other sacrificing themselves to save their fellow soldiers.
Wilson was a Marine who died after he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade to save the lives of those around him. Young, a soldier in the Army, rescued several men while under enemy fire, but suffered fatal wounds in the process. Both are buried in Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
The event is being organized by the nonprofit Friends of Wilson and Young Medal of Honor 1970 and Friends of the Monument of Courage. Danny Koch, a member of Friends of the Monument of the Courage, is helping put together the event. He said the event is to bring attention and honor to Young and Wilson and bring attention to issues facing veterans in the country today.
“Who are we as a society if we don’t honor our heroes?” Koch said. “We do this to honor them, honor all of our veterans, honor our wounded warriors, and honor our heroes, because they represent the best of us.”
Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients James McCloughan and Paul Bucha will attend and tell stories about Young and Wilson at the event, while also talking about issues such as veteran suicides.
“Twenty veterans die by suicide daily now,” Koch said. “It’s remarkable to talk about PTSD, and a real, growing problem.”
Koch said they will also be reaching out to Gold Star families, families of soldiers who died in battle, as well as other veterans and students enrolled in the JROTC program.
The event is asking for corporate sponsorships to provide tables for veterans’ groups, ranging in price from $1,000 to $10,000.
Steve Oien, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 0900, is one of the hosts of the event. He said the event is about keeping Wilson and Young’s memories alive and to tell their story to those who may not be familiar with them.
“Our nation has become quite casual about the cost of their freedom, and so we’re trying to resurface that awareness throughout our region,” Oien said.
Wilson and Young do have some notoriety in Odessa, as a middle school was renamed after them in 2015 from Hood Junior High School to Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School. John McCollum is one of the men who came up with the idea for the name change, and said that since he and Bill Brown have been working on bringing veteran events to the school to keep the theme of honor and commitment and honesty.
“It’s for them to understand that when they say veteran, they’re not talking about any particular age, any particular color, they’re talking about Americans who have joined to serve their country,” McCollum said.
Brown said he grew up playing summer league baseball with Young and went to high school with Wilson. He described both of them as outstanding and hard-working young men.
“These guys are a passion for me, because there’s only been 3,500 Medal of Honors given since the Civil War, and Odessa’s got two of them,” Brown said.
The banquet will begin at 6:30 p.m. April 20 at MCM Grande Hotel & Fun Dome, 6201 Business I-20. Sponsor tables and tickets can be purchased from Koch by calling 832-492-4083.
- What: “A Night of Courage” Banquet.
- When: 6:30-8:15 p.m. April 20.
- Where: MCM Grande Hotel & Fun Dome, 6201 Business I-20.
- Tickets: Sponsor tables available ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
- More information: Danny Koch at 832-492-4083.