Remembrance ceremony honors local family’s sacrifice
By Diane Smith
When Suzanne Swenson of McDonough was a little girl, she used to gaze at a photo of a soldier at her grandmother’s house and wonder about the man in the jungle helmet. One day she asked who he was and learned the soldier was her great-uncle, Jim – her father’s brother. He had been lost in the Pacific during World War II.
L. to r.: VFW Post #6330 Commander Barry Weare, Suzanne Swenson, Christopher Lindquist, VFW State Commander Al Lipphardt, and VFW District Commander Charles (Tony) Dobbins. Special photo
Throughout the years, Swenson’s dad and her aunt, Joan Williams of North Carolina, told her little bits here and there about Jim. Sgt. James J. Lindquist, USAAC, served as a mechanic’s mate on a B-24 Liberator bomber. He was a member of a 9-man crew on a plane that was one of the war’s most famous bombers.
Sgt. Lindquist was called upon to be part of the crew that supported General Douglas MacArthur when he made his famous return to the Philippines in 1944. Jim contacted his mother and told her that he was going on a mission and would be in touch when he returned. That was the last she heard from her son. As the plane neared the island of Luzon, it was met with heavy Japanese fire. The B-24 was hit and exploded, leaving no survivors.
Sgt. Jim Lindquist was shot down near the island of Luzon in the Phillipines in 1944. Special photo
At that time, Army regulations dictated that the crew members be listed as “missing in action” for two years. On January 16, 1946, Gen. H. H. Arnold, the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, signed a certificate declaring the sergeant’s death. Lindquist was honored posthumously with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. President Harry S. Truman sent a certificate to the family, recognizing Sgt. Lindquist for his heroism and his final act of sacrifice.
The military tradition runs deep in the Lindquist family. Swenson’s father, John (now 95), served stateside in World War II, training men to repair and fly the B-24 bombers. The Lindquists’ younger brother, George, was a pharmacist mate first class in the Navy. The bloodline continued into the next generation, with Swenson’s son, Christopher, giving 18 years of his life to Army service.
Today, Swenson has the original documents from Gen. Arnold and President Truman, as well as the medals earned by all three of the Lindquist brothers, framed and on display in her home. She also has a 48-star flag which would have been draped on James’ casket, had his remains been found. This dedicated daughter and niece has already made arrangements for these priceless historical treasures to be archived in Washington, D.C. when she passes on the torch of remembrance.
As the years have passed, Swenson has quietly adopted her own mission – one to ensure that Sgt. James Lindquist and others who served and were lost are not forgotten. While exploring online, she discovered an Honor and Remember flag. This beautiful, distinctive tribute was designed to give honor to the American servicemen and women who never made it back home. She wrote a letter to the Honor and Remember organization (www.honorandremember.org) telling her Uncle Jim’s story. She recalls waiting about three months with no response, and she thought he must not be eligible.
Then a reply came from Don Weaver, one of the organization’s representatives. He said they wanted to send Swenson a flag in memory of Sgt. Lindquist. Stipulations required that the flag be officially presented on his behalf. After many phone calls and assistance from Weaver, Swenson finally found what she needed. VFW Post 5080 in Lake City, Georgia was planning to hold a Loyalty Day observation on May 2, 2015. The veterans wanted to present the Honor and Remember flag to Swenson on behalf of Lindquist as part of the day’s ceremonies.
The morning dawned bright and sunny – a perfect May day. Flags stirred in a gentle breeze. Red, white, and blue were the predominate colors of the day. A crowd of about 100, most of them veterans, gathered to remember those who had fought and died for our country. Commander-in-Chief of the VFW of the United States (2000-2001) John F. Gwizdak presented the keynote address, reminding all present that freedom comes at a high cost. District Commander Tony Dobbins read a proclamation released in March by Governor Nathan Deal honoring and acknowledging the service and sacrifice of Georgia’s Viet Nam Veterans.
Then, the moment that Suzanne Swenson had long awaited finally came. Commander Barry Weare of VFW Post 6330 in Jonesboro stepped to the podium, carrying a carefully folded flag. Swenson and son Christopher, resplendent in his fatigues and Calvary unit Stetson and spurs, joined him. Swenson shares that as the text outlining the significance of the flag was read, she fought back tears. Seventy-one years after his death, her Uncle Jim had at last been publically recognized for his final mission. While this young serviceman – along with countless other men and women before and after him – never returned home, his memory lives on in the country for which he so bravely fought.