On a breezy, overcast Saturday morning at Mount Union Cemetery, remembrances of a life lost 54 years ago in the Vietnam War were laid out on a folding table. Nearby, a banner with his image stood with facts related to his service and sacrifice. The pilot’s brother was in attendance.
A collection of photos from the Flag-Placement Event and Armed Forces-Peace Officers Ceremony on Saturday, May 14 at Mount Union Cemetery.
Air Force Lt. James L. Badley was killed in action on March 27, 1968, when his F-4C Phantom went down in North Vietnam. Co-pilot Capt. Richard L. Whittaker was also lost.
“I’ve been working with the Air Force ROTC to help this year and I came across Lt. Badley and I was intrigued by his story,” Niemann said. “Little did I realize that he was a very significant member of the Air Force ROTC community. So I thought let’s incorporate him.”
The May ceremony has evolved since its inception in 2015 when it primarily featured local Cub Scouts and Oregon State ROTC cadets. Last year, the event expanded to include National Armed Forces Day and Peace Officers Memorial Day in addition to placing flags on the graves of veterans ahead of Memorial Day.
“I had done research on some of our fallen law enforcement officers, particularly in Benton County — Officer (James) Dunn, Officer (Jimmy) Appelgate, who was a member of the mounted posse,” Niemann said. “When I involved the mounted posse, it just became a natural thing and last year, it (the ceremony) fell right on Armed Forces Day. All three of those are in May and we just pick a day and celebrate.”
Appelgate was shot and killed in Corvallis in 1955. The mounted posse participated in Saturday’s event and included a riderless horse with boots reversed in the stirrups, which is symbolic of Appelgate as a fallen officer. Dunn was a deputy killed in 1904 while making an arrest.
Several others participated in the event, including a cemetery history talk by Erin Haynes and comments by Niemann and Rep. David Gomberg and prayer by Allan Stensvad, retired pastor of First Baptist Church. A wreath was placed at the grave site of Reuben Shipley, the former slave who donated land that helped establish the cemetery in 1861.
“It’s grown and grown and I’m pleased that so many people came and the organizations that helped,” Niemann said.
Oregon State University’s Arnold Air Society years ago named its squadron in memory of Badley. He earned a degree from OSU in 1965 and after receiving his wings and training on the F-4, he reported to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron in September 1967.
Badley, 25, had earlier survived an incident when he was shot down on Nov. 20, 1967. On that occasion, Badley was able to parachute to safety and although he came down behind enemy lines, was able to evade hostile forces until he could be rescued.
Badley graduated from high school in 1960 in Mountain Home, Idaho, and his parents lived in Hood River when he was killed. In 1968, five decorations were posthumously presented to Badley’s family by Col. Wayne E. Rhynard, commander of the 26th Air Division at Adair. Those included the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Airman’s Medal with nine oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and Purple Heart.
Badley’s story is told in Lynda Twyman Paffrath’s book, “Angels Unknown: A Story of Healing After Vietnam.”