It is not every day you discover your uncle is a war hero. Yet that is exactly what happened to Biloxi’s John Lindsley when he began researching his family history. He was already familiar with his mom’s brother, Lieutenant Bill Vincent. Both men served in the Air Force, and Mr. Lindsley grew up hearing stories about his uncle’s sacrifice in World War II. But as he dug into historical records, Mr. Lindsley uncovered the full legacy of his relative’s valor.
On August 13, 1944, Lieutenant Vincent flew his P-47 Thunderbolt on a mission to weaken an advancing German convoy. Near La Motte-Fouquet, France, he succeeded in halting the convoy’s heavy machinery, saving the village from almost certain destruction. Unfortunately, the Germans returned fire, downing the lieutenant’s plane. When he bailed out of the aircraft, his parachute caught on the tail and failed to open, resulting in injuries that would prove fatal. The La Motte-Fouquet residents cared for him till he died, then hid his body from the greatly disabled convoy when it passed through. Eventually, the U.S. military delivered Lieutenant Vincent’s remains to his family, and he was laid to rest. But for over six decades, the full impact of his sacrifice remained hidden.
Then, in 2009, debris from the P-47 was unearthed, and the machine gun numbers were used to identify Lieutenant Vincent as the pilot. The town of La Motte-Fouquet built a monument at the site of the crash and began regularly honoring him with memorial ceremonies. For nearly ten years, Mr. Lindsley had no idea any of this was happening. When his research led to stories about the town’s monument, he was stunned. He contacted officials in La Motte-Fouquet, who were overjoyed to learn about Lieutenant Vincent’s family. The community has invited them to a visit this August, when the citizens will grant their hero a special honor – naming a local road the Route du Lieutenant Billy Vincent.
A Grateful Nation
We set aside Memorial Day to remember men and women like Lieutenant Vincent. Ever since the battles of Lexington and Concord, Americans have given their lives to defend our freedoms. These patriots offered what Abraham Lincoln called the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. As a member of Congress, it has been my solemn honor to attend the funerals of Mississippians who paid that highest cost. Every ceremony fills me with a sense of gratitude.
Renewed Commitment to Veterans and Families
When we salute these heroes, we naturally look for ways to honor all our veterans and military families. This year, I plan to reintroduce a resolution designating August 1 as Gold Star Children Day. On that day, we recognize the burdens borne by the children of our fallen soldiers.
In my work as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am helping put together a budget that gives our troops the tools they need on the battlefield. I am also crafting legislation to help soldiers after they come home. In Mississippi, nearly 1 in 10 small businesses are owned by veterans. My bill would help the Department of Veterans Affairs foster a fair contract bidding process in which veteran-owned companies can compete against larger firms.
As a veteran and the father of an Air Force reservist, I will always prioritize the well-being of our troops. This Memorial Day, let’s redouble our efforts to care for everyone affected when a U.S. soldier answers the call of duty.