Councilman won’t forget missing soldiers

Councilman won’t forget missing soldiers

Jasmine Lee

Councilman won’t forget missing soldiers

TORRANCE: Ted Lieu, himself a veteran, wants to focus attention on the POW/MIA issue by regularly flying the flag.

No American witnessed Rodney Strobridge’s crash in an Army helicopter in South Vietnam. The Army captain from Torrance was just shy of his31st birthday when, on May 11, 1972, enemy ground fire hit the tail of the aircraft he was co-piloting along with Capt. Robert J. Williams. A Vietnamese refugee reportedly claimed that he later found skeletal remains in the area.

No remains have been recovered. Strobridge was once thought to be the unidentified soldier from the Vietnam War buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, although a DNA test in 1998 ruled him out.

No one in Torrance will forget Strobridge and other soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war, if City Councilman Ted Lieu can help it. In an effort to keep the spotlight on the nation’s service men and women, Lieu is pushing for the city to fly the POW/ MIA flag on a regular basis. About 2,000 soldiers are listed as MIA from Vietnam and thousands more from Korea and World War II.

“It should be a daily reminder,” Lieu said.

Don Latham, a friend of Strobridge, said he often thinks about the childhood pal who showed tremendous determination as a youth. When the two went to Torrance High School, Latham said Strobridge would continue to pitch in baseball games, persevering despite a skin condition that made his hands crack and bleed.

“He was an extremely gutsy individual,” Latham said. “He never let anything holdhim back from what he wanted to do.”

Latham, who also served in Vietnam but prefers not to talk about it, said Strobridge would probably be pleased that his hometown remembers his service to his country.

“I can’t think of anybody more deserving than Rodney,” he said.

Gail Morgan, president ofthe Torrance High School Alumni Association, said she hopesto add Strobridge’s picture to the Torrance High “hero board,” which honors soldiers who graduated from the school.

It is tragic that Strobridge’s life was cut short, she said. “He could have been the father of a president, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner or somebody who discovered the cure for cancer . . . or he could have been that,” Morgan said.

Morgan plans to fly a POW/MIA flag at a memorial for another local war hero, Medal of Honor recipient Ted Tanouye.

Lieu, aformer Air Force captain who is still in the Reserves, saidthe POW/MIA flag is a reminder of the horrors of war and a symbol of the nation’s dedication to never forget those leftbehind, Lieu said. While several surrounding cities regularly fly the black-and- white banner, Torrance only recently posted one at its new Veteran’s Memorial, at Torrance Boulevard and Maple Avenue. Lieu said he would like to see more.

“It just struck me, this is the very leastyou can do,” he said.

City officials will determine whichcity locations are appro- priate for the POW/MIA flag; modify those flag poles; and then hoist the bannersto fly underneath the U.S. flag, said Jay Scharfman, of thecity manager’s office. Possible spots include the Police Department and the the Fire Department.

Former Lomita MayorDave Albert, who sparked a national debate that eventually changed federal laws to allow the POW/MIA flag at post offices, cheered Torrance’s efforts.

“It’s a great thing they’re doing,” Albert said.

He pointed out that Torrance is thehometown of Louis Zamperini, a World War II hero and one ofthe most well-known prisoners of war. However, people should remember the lesser-known soldiers, too.

“People forget the MIAs,” Albert added. “They just forget them, it’s not right.”

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2002

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