Two young men from Brockport and one young man from Clarkson were killed in Vietnam; Gerald Joseph Downey, George Alfred Marks, and Ronald J. Fegan.
I never knew these men, but I have thirteen friends whose names are inscribed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, including the best friend I ever had, and I know how hard Memorial Day can be for the family and friends of the men and women whose names are on The Wall.
Take a moment this Memorial Day weekend to remember these brave young men from Brockport and Clarkson who gave their lives in Vietnam. Here are their stories.
Gerald Joseph Downey
PFC. Gerald Joseph Downey was from Brockport. Downey, who was single, was drafted into the Army and was killed on January 8, 1969 in a vehicle crash in Phu Yen, South Vietnam.
This is what a front page story, Students Honor Fallen Vietnam Soldiers, in the Brockport Post had to say about him on May 29, 1985.
Gerald Downey was born in Brockport April 10, 1949. He attended Nativity BVM School before going to Brockport High School. He was a science major who enjoyed playing on both the soccer and track teams. He graduated in 1967 and went into the construction business for a year before going into the Army in 1968.
Downey took his training and subsequent schooling at Fort Jackson, S.C. before leaving for Vietnam December 8, 1968. Gerald Downey, 19, was in Vietnam a little less than a month when as a passenger on a convoy mission his vehicle left the road and overturned in a small lake and he was drowned.
He is survived by his mother, Mary Downey, his sisters, Bernadette Argana and Patricia O’Malley; and his brother James Downey.
Gerald Joseph Downey’s name is on Panel 35W – Line 54 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
George Alfred Marks, Jr.
George Alfred Marks, Jr., 23, was a Navy Corpsman when was killed by artillery fire in Quang Nam, South Vietnam. Marks was from Brockport, New York, and he was single.
This is what the same front page story, Students Honor Fallen Vietnam Soldiers, in the Brockport Post had to say about him on May 29, 1985.
George A. Marks, Jr., died November 6, 1968, after two months in Vietnam. He was on duty as a corpsman assigned to a Marine unit – a job he held because he had a special interest in helping the sick and wounded.
George was born February 27, 1945. He grew up in Brockport. He started at the former Campus School then finished grades 8-12 at Brockport Central School, graduating in 1963.
George served the community as a member of the Protectives, a volunteer fireman’s association. He was also active in the Brockport Fire Department Ambulance Corps. He was well respected by his fellow firefighters and in 1968 was nominated Fireman of the Year. He is still remembered today on a monument at the Protectives Fire Hall, West Avenue.
George was enrolled in classes at SUNY College at Morrisville. He was a horticulture major because of his love of flowers and floral design and expressed an interest in opening a flower shop in Brockport.
After College he worked briefly at the General Electric plant in Brockport before going into the Navy.
Georg’s relatives include his father, George A. Marks, Sr., Brockport; his brother, Chris, also of Brockport; and his sister, Sally, Wyoming, N.Y.
George Alfred Marks, Jr. was a childhood friend of David Markham, and David now lives in George’s childhood home on King Street. You can read David Markham’s article about his friend George on the Brockporter website.
George Alfred Marks’ name is on Panel 39W – Line 28 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Ronald James Fegan
Ensign Ronald J. Fegan, 24, was a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) assigned to Fighter Squadron 96 onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61). On April 9, 1965, Fegan launched in an F-4B Phantom II on a Combat Air Patrol mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. The pilot was Lieutenant J.G.. Terence M. Murphy.
This is what the POW Network has to say about that combat mission.
…Mission aircraft engaged enemy aircraft at approximately 8:40 a.m. some 25 miles from the nearest land. After breaking off the engagement, Lt. JG. Murphy’s aircraft did not check in with the flight leader and was neither seen or heard from again. An aerial and surface search of the area turned up no evidence of a plane crash, seat ejection or emergency radio beacon. Search and rescue efforts covered an area of 2000 square miles utilizing aircraft from three carriers, destroyers and submarine. The search was terminated on April 11 with negative results.
It was later discovered the MIG aircraft that were engaged were not Vietnamese, but Chinese. The incident took place near the Chinese island of Hainan. Peking Radio stated later that day that eight U.S. military planes had intruded over the areas of Aihsien, Paisha and Changkan of China’s Hainan Island. They further stated that Chinese planes immediately took off to engage them and that a U.S. aircraft had been shot down.
Ronald Fegan was born in Clarkson, N.Y. New York, February 11, 1941. He grew up in Clarkson and went to Clarkson Elementary School for grades one through six. He then attended Brockport, Central School District for grade 8-12.
His sister Christine Fegan Graf, had this to say about him.
As a very athletic person, Ronald participated in football in grades 8-12 and also in intramurals for four years. He graduated in 1959. He went to college at Alfred Tech for two years and then for two more at Georgia Tech. During college he became involved in the ROTC program. After that he joined the Navy and became a navigator on a jet fighter. He had no regrets about going; he felt it was his obligation to his country.
Ronald J. Fegan was reported Missing in Action very early in the war. April 9, 1965, the Fegan family received word that Ronald was Missing In Action . He was one of the first 50 Americans reported missing, and to this day his body has not been found.
He is survived by his two brothers and two sisters; Richard, George, Christine, and Jeanne.
Ronald J. Fegan’s name is on Panel 01E – Line 103 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.