As Veterans Day approaches, Orange resident Mark Wayland recalls his own military service in Vietnam, but his ongoing dedication to all those who serve is always foremost on his mind.
Presiding over the flaglowering ceremony every Wednesday evening in Old Towne Orange Plaza Park, Mark has seen the numbers of attendees grow through the years. The ceremony honors current servicemen and women, along with our veterans.
We started with just a handful of people and now we have well over 100 who come each week, said Mark. We lower Old Glory to the playing of Taps.
Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1967, Mark soon found himself in Vietnam. His 105 Howitzer unit traveled to at least 20 locations throughout Vietnam during his tour. Assigned to Hotel Battery, his duties included FDC, gun duty, radio operations and forwards ops.
Serving in Vietnam during TET of 68 provided me with enough combat to last a lifetime, said Mark.
Mark remembers his feelings in vivid detail the first day he arrived in Vietnam.
After a very cold and uncomfortable 1,300mile ride in a C130, we landed in Da Nang. As the rear ramp lowered, the red dust and oppressive heat swept into the hold like a blast furnace. When we walked to the back of the aircraft, we were greeted with the sight of caskets loaded onto pallets. We knew where they were headed, the States. I thought, there was no way I was going to make 13 months here; I was only 19 years old. I knew this was going to be daytoday survival.
Born in Santa Barbara and raised in La Mirada, Mark relocated to Orange after the military to become a firefighter. Midway through the fire academy, Mark found himself without a date for the badge ceremony. His Battalion chief set him up on a blind date with his nextdoor neighbor, Kathy, a native of Orange, who became his wife. Theyve been married 36 years and have four children.
Their youngest son Casey enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and served in Iraq.
Mark, who currently serves on the Orange Unified School District Board of Education, retired from the fire department six years ago after an injury. He is a member of the American Legion Riders (ALR) and Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group that offers motorcade services for military funerals.
Also helping to raise awareness about the POWMIA issue, Mark has twice ridden the 2,800mile Run for the Wall with 700 other motorcyclists.
Its incredible the number of fallen who have never returned from all of our conflicts, Vietnam, Korea and World War II, he said. We want to keep them in our hearts and minds.
Published in the Nov/Dec 2011 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Karen Anderson, Photograph by Jeanine Hill
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