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Historical marker honors Colonel Dyess

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A historical marker was posted and a monument dedicated in nearby Albany, Texas, Feb. 24 in honor of Dyess’ namesake, Lt. Col. Edwin Dyess.

Members of Colonel Dyess’ family, prominent figures of the Albany community, and 5th Army commander Lt. Gen. Robert Clark, among others, joined Col. Garrett Harencak, 7th Bomb Wing commander, at the Albany courthouse.

“It was a wonderful ceremony,” Colonel Harencak said. “That monument will be a lasting tribute to Albany’s heroes.”

Colonel Dyess’ sister, Mrs. Elizabeth “Nell” Dyess Denman, spoke about and put a personality behind the biography of her brother. She told stories of stealing his toys and taunting him until he threw a baseball in her direction, which hit a window instead. A hailstorm two days later concealed the crime.

Denman also recounted the story she heard of her brother’s last day.

“He was thoughtful to the end,” she said and described the way Colonel Dyess stayed with his failing P-38 to avoid any populated areas when he crashed just after takeoff in Burbank, Calif., in 1943.

A few friends and family lingered after the ceremony, sharing memories of the Dyess family.

Longtime Albany resident and World War II B-17 tail gunner R.P. Mitchell reminisced about playing ball with Colonel Dyess as a boy and pointed to where the Dyess family used to live.

“I remember when he buzzed this courthouse,” he said, recalling one of Colonel Dyess’ training flights from Randolph Army Air Field.

Mr. Bob Green spoke about why he felt the day was important.

“(Children) are the recipients of the efforts of those who were here before them,”Mr. Green said. “The only reason we are able to live in freedom is that men like these fought and even died for our freedom.”

“They fought for our country, and I think they are special,” said Briana Martinez, 11, of Albany’s Nancy Smith Elementary. “I’m happy I’m still here. I have a brother fighting in the Marines. He’s driving a big truck for supplies.”

After the speeches inside the courthouse, the monument’s sculptor, Mr. Duke Sundt, helped perform the unveiling in the rain.

“I’m an Army brat myself,” Mr. Sundt said. “I have a strong love for the military and an appreciation for those who serve.”

Mr. Sundt said each of the six carvings on the monument took an entire week to complete. He was asked to create the monument based on his work at the campus of the New Mexico Military Institute, where Mr. Green is an alumnus.

Mr. Don Koch, former 39th Airlift Squadron commander and current member of the Shackelford County Historical Commission, helped prepare documentation for the historical marker, which stands next to the bronze monuments.

“That’s kind of typical to Albany’s approach to commemorating the history and sacrifice of people in the state and the nation,” he said of the tribute to Colonel Dyess.

The donation for the monument was inspired by “Okinawa Odyssey,” the World War II memoir of Albany resident Mr. Green.

W. A. “Tex” Moncrief, an oil and gas producer based in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as a hunting partner of the Green family, furnished the money for the monument after reading “Okinawa Odyssey.”

The monument also honors Rear Adm. Emory Grantham and Army Lt. Gen. Robert Williams, who were both Albany natives.

During World War II, General Williams, a B-17 pilot and 1st Division commander, personally led a famous strategic aerial raid against a ball bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany, in 1943.

The monument will stand on the grounds of the Albany courthouse as a tribute to the sacrifices of those three veterans who served the United States in World War II.