Contributed by Wreaths Across America
Very little is known about what happened to Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, a military mission plane that went missing on March 16, 1962, with 93 US Army Soldiers on board and 11 crew members (including Alabama native PVT James Allen Edwards of Hanceville).
Due to the complexities surrounding the mission, the names of all those who have been lost have not yet been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. However, on May 15, the families of those lost will gather in Columbia Falls, Maine, to meet each other for the first time and share in the moment that a monument to these brave men and women is unveiled.
The land where this monument has been erected was donated by Wreaths Across America Founder Morrill Worcester and is located on the balsam tip-land where brush is harvested each year to make veterans’ remembrance wreaths to be placed on the headstones of our nation’s heroes. Last summer (during the pandemic), WAA held a quiet groundbreaking ceremony for the new monument.
“My father, SFC John Wendell (from San Antonio, Texas,) was on this plane,” said Jane Wendell East. “The day my Dad volunteered to go he went to my Mom and said, ‘Mommy, I think I signed my death warrant.’ I don’t know what the military said in the briefing of this mission, but I have learned that several others said the same thing.
“My dad died the day before my parents 10th wedding anniversary and my sister’s birthday. I was only 6 years old and my Dad was only 32. It took me 27 years to accept his death. As a child, my mother told me that my Dad was a good swimmer and being a Ranger I knew he had a parachute. I just knew he got out safely. My Mom purchased a new house with his life insurance, so we would have the security of having a place to live. Shortly after moving in, it was my bedtime. My Dad came to me. I wasn’t dreaming, as I hadn’t fallen asleep. I could hear his voice in my head but I talked out loud. He came to tell me good-bye. He said he wouldn’t be coming home and that God needed him. He told me to be a good girl and to help my Mom. I replied, ‘No, daddy, I promise to be a good girl. Please don’t leave me.’ Then he was gone. I was crying and screaming for him to come back.”
Jane said it took her years to find peace about the situation.
In addition to the monument unveiling, All Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 families will be invited to take part in the Wreaths Across America Remembrance tree program.
As part of this program, a replica dog tag will be hung on individual trees that are used to make remembrance wreaths for Wreaths Across America Day.
This simple gesture becomes a living tribute “from the fallen to the fallen” in remembrance of their service and sacrifice: as every three years, the trees where the tags are hung, will be tipped to make veterans’ wreaths to be placed on headstones by volunteers on Wreaths Across America Day, (Dec. 18, 2021 this year.) Leading up to the monument unveiling you’ll be able to hear interviews with family members on Wreaths Across America Internet Radio.
Wreaths Across America is the non-profit organization best known for placing wreaths on veteran’s headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. However, in 2020, the organization placed more than 1.7 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 2,557 participating locations nationwide.
You can sponsor a veteran’s wreath anytime for $15 at www.wreathacrossamerica.org. Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest at noon on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, as part of National Wreaths across America Day.
To find a local participating cemetery near you to support go to and type in your town and/or state online at wreathsac rossamerica.org.
The event is not open to the public.
The event will be broadcast online at: www.facebook.com/events/ 365214864851670.
About Wreaths Across America
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information watch this video www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dy 6PE37g2k or to sponsor a wreath please visit www.wreathsacross america.org.