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Honoring Heroes

February 24, 2017

During assembly on Friday, February 24, Matt Williams '18 and Rich Ledbetter, chairman of the board of Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, introduced two Marine Corps veterans who spoke about their service and their gratitude to Honor Flight which made it possible for them  to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C. Last summer, Matt served as a guardian for a Korean War veteran on one of these trips.

Before each of the veterans took the podium, Ledbetter shared some of their credentials.

First up was Staff Sergeant Dwight Johnson.

  • Korean War – US Marine Corps, 1950 – 1954
  • Johnson was a part of the “Floating Fighting Force” traveling the Mediterranean to Gibraltar, Naples, Crete, and North Africa just to name a few. The Floating Fighting Force would “land and hold” until reinforcements arrived, sometimes as long as 30 days. He then traveled to Japan and Korea attached to the 11th Marine Division.
  • Among the Battle Stars he earned: a Good Conduct Medal, a United Nations Ribbon and a Marksmanship Ribbon
  • Johnson was a mechanic for factories in the bottle manufacturing business. He and his wife have been married for 62 years and have six children.

Staff Sergeant Johnson said the Marine Corps was good for him – after he survived boot camp! In Korea, he was attached to the artillery batallion ("the big guns"). Johnson shared a couple of personal stories including how he met his wife on her 16th birthday and married her one year later, and how generous and respectful everyday strangers are to him when he wears his uniform (which still fits). He said he enjoyed traveling as part of his service but is especially grateful for the Honor Flight trip to D.C.

Next up, Sergeant Ken Luttrell.

  • WWII – US Marine Corps, 1942 – 1945
  • Luttrell went to radio school in South Dakota, then to Camp Pendleton for Scout Sergeant Training (sniper training). He was part of the 4th Marine Division and was involved with the 1st Joint Assault Signal Company (JASCO), and was attached to the Headquarters of the 4th Marine Division.
  • In December 1943, Luttrell was combat loaded on a transport from San Diego to the first combat Landings on the Marshal Islands, and later Kwajalen – Roi/Namur.
  • After being a part of the effort to secure the Marshall Islands, he went back to Maui for additional training, and then combat loaded again, first to land at Saipan, which was secured in 38 days, moving onto Titian, which was secured in two weeks.
  • Luttrell returned to Maui for more training and then was combat loaded to land on Iwo Jima, where he was shot. He was evacuated and hospitalized for ten months, until his discharge.
  • Among the awards he earned: the Good Conduct Medal, a Purple Heart, two Presidential Unit Citations (each with a Bronze Star), a Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, a Meritorious Unit Ribbon, an Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal (with 4 Bronze Stars), and 4 Battle Stars: a WWII Victory Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a SW Asia Service Medal (with 3 Bronze Stars) and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
  • Before retirement, Luttrell owned a garden center from 1968 – 1998. He has one daughter. 

Sergeant Luttrell explained that he was part of the Marine Corps landing on Iwo Jima, which began just about 72 years ago, and was moved, during his Honor Flight trip to D.C., by the statue in Arlington, Virginia that duplicates the famous  AP photograph of Marines raising the American flag on the Japanese island. Luttrell talked about his experience, securing multiple islands in the Pacific.

At the end of their remarks, Johnson and Luttrell were given an extended standing ovation and invited to attend several classes.

This assembly presentation was sponsored by the American Patriot Club.