Memorial Day is one of the most solemn traditions of the United States of America. On this day we remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This year, because of restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 emergencies, municipalities will not be holding their customary ceremonies, but we as citizens still should have our own moment of quiet reflection.
We may do that by remembering Larry Maysey, whose bravery and sacrifice is symbolized by the Larry Maysey Memorial, located on Main Street in Chester. The dedication of this memorial took place on May 30th, 2005 – Memorial Day – and brought to us the story of the man that inspired its creation. Larry Maysey, a Chester Township native, enlisted in the United States Air Force after graduating from high school in 1965, and worked hard to become a member of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, an elite rescue unit. In 1967, he and his unit were shipped to Vietnam.
Maysey had only been deployed for about three weeks, when he and a helicopter crew flew to Laos on a mission to rescue five members of a Special Forces road-watch reconnaissance team along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During that mission, Maysey’s “Jolly Green Giant” Combat Rescue Helicopter, known as Jolly Green 26, came under heavy enemy ground fire.
A first helicopter had already attempted what was a very risky rescue, and had to leave a few men behind because of the enemy ground fire. Maysey’s chopper went in for a second try at picking up the still remaining soldiers. Maysey jumped out of his chopper, exposing himself to a hail of fire, and stabilized two of the wounded survivors. He then helped them get on board Jolly Green Giant 26– but the chopper was struck by enemy gunfire, crashed, and went up in flames. Maysey and four other rescue team members were killed. Later that day the bodies from the crash site of Jolly Green Giant 26 were identified and prepared for evacuation, but bad weather and enemy action prevented their recovery. After two days of attempts, the strike force reluctantly had to abandon the crash site. The remains were left behind and were never able to be found again. Maysey was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Air force Cross, National Defense, and Republic of Vietnam Service. He was only 21 years old when he was killed.
When Larry Maysey never returned home, his friends and family were determined that his heroism should never be forgotten. His high school classmates formed a committee to spearhead the building of a memorial to Maysey and all of Chester’s veterans. With an outpouring of support from the entire community, sufficient funding was put in place to make this dream a reality. On Memorial Day, May 30, 2005, the Chester community gathered to remember and honor one of their own who was a national hero.
It is our great tradition of paying homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for America that keeps us ever aware of the great cost of freedom and the people who have borne it. Please continue it in your own remembrances this Memorial Day.