Thomas S. Jester of Carnegie had been stationed in Vietnam less than 100 days when he was killed by enemy fire in September 1968.
The 19-year-old's death devastated his parents, the late Thomas H. and Dorothy H. Jester, as well as his surviving siblings and friends.
Though the Army Special Forces member was awarded posthumously the Bronze Star, four Purple Hearts and other honors for his service, his sister, Susan J. Jester Mack, also of Carnegie, thinks her family's participation in the August J. Klinkner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 331's Honor-A-Deceased-Veteran program has the capacity to touch many more lives.
The program, which started last year and was reactivated this spring, involves flying a deceased veteran's casket flag for two weeks before it is solemnly lowered, folded and returned to family members.
Ms. Mack isn't sure exactly what prompted her to submit an application to the program, but she believes it was the right thing to do.
"My brother was a very selfless person," she said, recalling that a radio man who had served with him traveled from California to Carnegie to tell her parents that their son had saved his life.
Apparently, there were others he saved that day, too, as the young infantryman held his position so that other soldiers could fall back.
His flag was raised June 1 at a ceremony attended by about 20 family members. It will be lowered and returned to the family at 10 a.m. Saturday in a ceremony on the east side of the Carnegie Borough Building. There will be bagpipes and singing. Ms. Mack is publicizing the event with flyers that have been distributed throughout the borough.
She said her brother enlisted without his parents' knowledge because he had been unable to find a job. It was his hope to get training that would lead to a good job upon his return home, she added.
"[My brother] was just an ordinary guy who did something extraordinary for his country," Ms. Mack said.
However, he isn't alone.
"There are a lot of guys who should be honored," she said, adding she hopes the VFW's program becomes "a tradition for Carnegie and for veterans."neigh_west
Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.