In the common area of VFW Graham Memorial Post 8567, a “welcome home” table has been carefully laid: white plate, red napkin, and red flower in a black vase circled by a thin yellow ribbon.
The table will stay forever set in honor of Danny Lee Widner, who left for Vietnam at age 25 and has yet to return.
Staff Sgt. Widner, U.S. Army, was a 1961 graduate of Graham High School and is the only soldier from Graham who is still listed as missing in action.
May 10-12, 1968
Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. forces during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968, was at Kham Duc, South Vietnam, on May 10, 1968, when he made the decision to hold the location. Westmoreland ordered the 106th Light Infantry Brigade, the 1st Infantry Regiment, and the 46th Infantry Regiment to report to Kham Duc as reinforcements. Staff Sgt. Danny Widner was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, “Recon Team Snoopy.”
The reinforcements arrived on May 11, and Danny Widner’s platoon, which included 34 soldiers, was stationed on a hill. During the bombing of that hill, Danny went missing.
In 2006, an excavation was performed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Command, according to The Graham Leader. Danny’s sister, Vicki Gannon, met personally with Dr. Bradley Sturm of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, who was part of a group that searched for soldiers’ remains, including Danny’s, for about three months. A bunker was uncovered at Kham Duc as were three soldiers including their dog tags, billfolds and boots. However, the searchers were unable to locate anything from Danny.
Two years ago, Vicki and her brother, Don Widner, organized a service and graveside ceremony to give their brother a resting place at home. Don and Vicki arranged for Danny to have a plot at the foot of their parents in Young County’s Pioneer Cemetery. Don, a veteran of the Korean War, worked with the Graham VFW to obtain a bronze military tombstone memorial from Washington, D.C.
Etched in Memory
The name of Danny Lee Widner is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on the Veterans Memorial in Graham.
On July 4, 2018, Young County unveiled an addition to the memorial, the New Century Veterans Memorial, which includes the names of veterans who served since Jan. 1, 2001, as well as names that had been left off of the original memorial. The addition also houses empty panels for those who will serve in the future.
Young County provided locations for the New Century Veterans Memorial and the original memorial, which was completed in 2000 and includes more than 5,000 names of those from the area who have served.
“Young County gratefully appreciates, respects, and thanks all of our military veterans, and our Commissioners Court, with much gratitude, joyfully provided the locations for these Memorial Walls,” shared Young County Judge John Bullock. HH – The Graham Leader contributed information to this article.