ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- As Veterans Day nears, local lawmaker, Representative Brooks Landgraf, is celebrating two men with very special ties to West Texas.
“Wilson and Young were both young men who came of age in Odessa, went to high school at Odessa High and Permian High School, respectively,” Landgraf said of two Odessa men who gave their lives fighting for our country.
You may have heard the names before, they adorn an Odessa middle school, a local Veteran’s Affairs clinic, and soon, will be etched on road signs on a stretch of road along Business Interstate 20. But many may not know much about either hero.
Private First Class Mac Wilson, a graduate of Permian High School, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic leadership on the battlefield and for unhesitatingly jumping on an enemy grenade, absorbing the force of the explosion with his body to protect his fellow Marines.
Staff Sergeant Rex Young, a graduate of Odessa High School, was 21 years old when several members of his platoon were killed after intense enemy fire. Young then assumed command and directed his platoon to withdraw to get to a better defensive position all while exposing himself to enemy fire. Young bravely fired at the overwhelming enemy force, protecting the soldiers in his platoon until his position was engulfed by the enemy.
While they are often honored together as one, Landgraf said they probably didn’t know each other.
“By all accounts they didn’t know each other when they were growing up, and as I mentioned went to different schools and they certainly didn’t serve in the same unit or even in the same branch of the military when they were both fighting in Vietnam. What they do share in common, in addition of both being from Odessa, is they made the supreme sacrifice for our country, and both did so very gallantly and heroically and saved some of their fellow soldiers and marines in the process,” Landgraf said. “They not only gave their lives for their country but for their fellow service members in combat and then in another twist they just happen to be buried a few feet away from each other at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Odessa.”
Landgraf said the two men didn’t get the recognition they deserved when they died.
“For the longest time, as was typical for so many Vietnam-era service members, they didn’t get the acclaim that they deserved. They weren’t recognized for their sacrifice the way that I think they should be and the way that service members in subsequent American wars have been and so I think it’s been important to a lot of their friends, to a lot of their family members, to a lot of their fellow veterans that this tremendous sacrifice be recognized,” Landgraf said.
Both men were eventually honored for their sacrifice by President Richard Nixon.
“They were both awarded the Medal of Honor by President Nixon…that was done posthumously, after they gave their lives,” Landgraf said. “To have two Medal of Honor recipients from a small city like Odessa…is very rare, but I also think it shows what a community like Odessa, and so many other communities throughout West Texas, do when our country asks men and women to step up to serve. West Texans are very patriotic people and that call to duty is answered.”