PLYMOUTH – U.S. Army Pfc. Forrest Adrian McKinney was honored by his Plymouth High School graduating class Tuesday with an assembly, military honors and a plaque in his memory to be hung at the school.
The entire high school student body came to honor the 1965 graduate in the gymnasium.
McKinney, 20, a medic, was wounded in combat by small arms fire on Oct. 21, 1967.
He died Nov. 12, 1967 in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam.
High school students were joined at 10 a.m. Tuesday by McKinney’s family members and friends, members of the Class of 1965 and military veterans from Plymouth and Bellville for an hour-long service in McKinney’s honor.
His classmates, including Scott Smith, lauded their friend who went to Vietnam on Feb. 4, 1967.
“He risked his life to save theirs. This is how Forrest was killed,” Smith said. “In 1967 in Vietnam, he gave his all. He was a classmate, a friend and I miss him.”
Classmate Rick Reeder shared sobering statistics about the numbers of Americans who died and were injured in the Vietnam War with students.
“As of April 14, 2014, there were still 1,611 Americans still uncounted for,” he said.
Reeder said the McKinney family had 10 children. He rode the school bus with Forrest; they played at recess together, sat in classes together, ate lunch together, graduated together — and then went their separate ways.
McKinney was drafted into the war. After he was wounded, he was sent to Japan for recovery. He returned to active duty in Vietnam and was killed in action on Nov. 12, 1967. His body was brought back to Ohio. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Shelby, Reeder said.
“I did not attend his calling hours or his funeral. My family lost a cousin who lived with us in a tragic accident about a year before that,” Reeder said. “It was my first time to deal with the death of someone who was close. I had a hard time dealing with it. I could not bring myself to going to Forrest’s calling hours or funeral and have regretted that ever since. I thought of Forrest many, many times throughout the years
“For his military service, Forrest was awarded The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal, The Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign medals,” he said.
Linda Howard, Class of 1965 vice president, said Forrest was wounded three times amid gunfire.
“He was just 20 years old when he gave his life to his country,” she said. He was a quiet, shy teenager in school, she recalled. “He liked to play pool.”
McKinney’s brother Don McKinney said Forrest was missed everyday by their parents, the late Arnold and Ottie McKinney. “It was hard on them and I think that his death is what actually killed her.”
“He was just a good kid,” he said, fighting back tears.
McKinney said he loved the ceremony on Tuesday. “Everybody did a good job,” he said.
He said he is sure Forrest too was at the ceremony and that his brother appreciated the recognition.
“He was here (in spirit),” his brother said.
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