The McKinney Armed Services Memorial Board voted unanimously on Wed. (5/09/12) to add two names to the Wall of Honor at the Veterans Memorial Park in McKinney: Ernest Ashley Highsaw, US Navy, and Gary Joe Lester, US Marine Corps. According to researchers at Collin County Freedom Fighters, who submitted the names to the Board, the two men did indeed meet the requirements for inclusion: The person must be a member of the US Armed Forces; live, or have lived, in Collin County, Texas, and died in the service of our country.
Seaman Ernest A. Highsaw, US Navy, from Culleoka, had surgery for appendicitis, while serving aboard the USS Raleigh in the Bearing Sea. Suffering from post-surgery complications, he was taken to a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, where he died on 26 July, 1929. Seaman Highsaw, 21, is buried at Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, Texas.
Staff/Sergeant Gary J. Lester, USMC, from Plano, was killed in a helicopter crash, along with four others, while participating in a NATO exercise in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark on 14 September, 1982. Rescue attempts from the carrier, USS Guadalcanal, proved futile and unable to recover any of the bodies. A memorial stands at Arlington National Cemetery in our nation's capital in his honor. S/Sgt. Lester, 25, left behind a wife and two young children. One of those children, Amber Lester Rainey, was in attendance at the Board meeting to see her father honored.
The Veterans Memorial Park in McKinney, which was dedicated on Veterans Day, 11/11/11, will now have a total of 347 names of Collin County heroes, etched into the black granite, who have given their lives for our country. According to Ralph French, Chairman of the McKinney Armed Forces Memorial Board, the names will be added to the Wall of Honor by Veterans Day, 2012.
For pictures and more information go to http://www.ccfreedomfighters.com/index.html.
Veterans Memorial Park in McKinney is located on a half-acre site in Van Tuyl Plaza at Craig Ranch. It features a Wall of Honor with the inscribed names of Collin County servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, while it honors all veterans. A lighted American flag flies 24 hours a day over the wall. A fountain at the base of the flagpole symbolically waters Shumard Red Oak trees (water restrictions allowing) representing each branch of the Armed Services. A ribbon-like walkway extends from one end to the other.