YUCCA VALLEY — Donald Fry, 91, got a handmade red, white and blue quilt and the chance to tell part of his story of service in Korea during a Veterans Day celebration Friday at the Yucca Valley Senior Center.
Fry joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17 and was accepted into the pathfinders, a group of infantrymen who parachuted into war zones to set up airborne operations.
He went on to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve. Stationed in Korea during the war, he was injured in combat and received a Purple Heart.
He remained in the Reserve for 17 years.
Fry told the audience he was a sergeant stationed in Korea when a Navy wife saw an armed civilian climbing an old water tower. She called the guard house, where everyone was gone for lunch except for Fry and a private first class, who answered the telephone.
“He says, ‘I think you’d better take this,’” Fry recalled.
The Navy wife told him what she’d seen and he told her to call the barracks and alert a captain.
Fry said he armed himself with his pistol and a 30-caliber rifle that was hanging on the wall, then grabbed the keys to a pickup truck.
He recalls a Navy man was walking by. “I said, ‘Do you know how to use this?’ and I showed him the pistol. He said, ‘I think so.’ I said, ‘Jump in.’”
The two drove as close as they could get to the tower and positioned themselves behind the truck, where they could see the armed man.
“I said, ‘If he raises up with that weapon, I know it’s a long way for a pistol, but I think I can make the shot.’”
Then his Capt. Bledsoe and a group of armed men arrived. “I said, ‘He can’t go anywhere, captain. Stay here.”
But Fry said the captain jumped over a fence and ran up the stairs to the tower, where the armed man threw down his rifle.
“I always said Capt. Bledsoe was a guy who had more guts than brains,” Fry joked.
At the senior center Friday, Fry was presented with a handmade quilt by Betty Leone, a Yucca Valley volunteer with the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Members of this national foundation make quilts for service members and veterans.
“This quilt is an expression of gratitude meant to thank and comfort you,” Leone said.
She, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, Councilman Jim Schooler and former Councilman Bob Leone draped the quilt around Fry’s shoulders.
“Where was this in Korea?” Fry quipped.
Mayes also gave a speech thanking all service members, singling out the several veterans in the audience.
“When you sign up, you are saying to your community, ‘I am willing to give all I have for your freedom and for your safety,’” Mayes said.
“That’s why veterans are so special … even after your service, that passion never leaves you.”
That is why it is incumbent for all of us in America to thank veterans, he said. “Thank you for loving us, thank you for caring us, thank you so much for being willing to give your lives for us.”