I met Ward when my family moved and I changed elementary school - Washington to Martin. Ward was older than most of us probably because he had moved around the country with his family. His father was a Marine Corps Pilot. Ward was also bigger and stronger at that time and was coming up on a precocious puberty. Ward had a girlfriend in the 5th grade when we all though girls had cooties.
Ward hated bullies and being small and frail at that time Ward was one who kept the thugs away from us shrimps. We probably need a lot more Ward Hoopers today in elementary schools. His sense of justice was strong and he did well in sports. We used to go swimming together in the summer and Ward was faster - but to his delight when he moved back to SA I had become very successful in that sport. Ward could also dive - do a one and a half off the 3 meter. No fear there.
We went through 5 through 8th grade together and his father was transferred. Two years later he was back and he was surprised to see I was bigger and stronger than him and had become a competitive swimmer. He missed all the fun I had getting back at the elementary school bullies during my 9th grade year at Smedley but I told him about it.
There were often other kids at the Hoopers, and maybe it was because he had two cute sisters - Pam and Peggy. There was always chili available for anyone who wanted it but then we were off on our bikes to the park... or to some form of mischief.
Ward played Fooball at Mater Dei for the great Dick Corrie coach of Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte. It was fun to see him on and off but we never got back to hanging around. We did talk about him joining the Army to fly but other than that I dont know much about his outlook on the war. However like many people of his generation he did feel it was an indirect confrontation with the great drunken Soviet Empire.
Ward died in Vietnam at the hands of another pilot. The initial report said he was responsible and "crashed while landing" The final report was made public as late as 1998 I believe. He had given the controls back to the Aircraft Commander a commissioned and senior officer when they went over a saddle into a socked in valley. The AC made the fundamental error or turning the aircraft instead of reversing it in place. The AC flew the Huey into a mountain and I believe only the crew chief survived. So in the words of Gus Grissom it was the AC who screwed the pouch not Ward. Goes to show you the Army will always protect its "Brass"
My Ward rest in peace, may his family be comforted that he served his country honorably and may all the Chicken Hawks now in office who had avoided service during Vietnam respect those who served and did not have "other priorities.
Tim Henrich, Ph.D. <a>[email protected]</a>