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Honoring Our Heroes – Clifton, TX

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June 13, 2024
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As we decorated the lobby with balloons and set up the memorial tables, the students were all on stage at the Clifton ISD Performing Arts Center, rehearsing the next day’s Honoring Our Heroes program that would be followed by a screening of To What Remains. All the while, heavy thunderstorms cracked and boomed above us as sheets of rain came down. I hadn’t seen a storm like this in years. It was just another rainy night for my local Clifton friends.

We woke up the next morning to find that record flooding had closed all roads leading in and out of Clifton. No one could come or leave, and they weren’t sure when the water would begin to subside.

Oh no. We had a lot of people driving in for the event today.

Gaye Lynn had been on the phone all morning. After talking with the Sheriff, she decided to postpone the 2pm event to 6pm. Even though we knew the delay and the continued flooding (many roads leading to Clifton remained closed through the next day) would greatly impact attendance, the show had to go on for those who could make it.

“So many people worked so hard all semester for this event. People flew in and drove long distances to be here, so we have to have the event today. It’s too important to cancel.” – Gaye Lynn Seawright

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Gaye Lynn and her students dedicated themselves to planning this event, and their hard work was evident in the final program. Despite the many roadblocks (including the literal roadblocks) caused by the flooding, I witnessed a community’s resilience. Those who could physically make it from near and far came together through it all to support this important event. Among the guests, our hosts gathered their supportive families, Clifton High School staff, Gold Star MIA family members, the local VFW, American Legion, Daughters of the American Revolution, WWII veteran David Conrad, U.S. Congressman John Carter’s representative Mike McCloskey, Texas Senator Brian Birdwell, and even a special video message from Texas Governor, Greg Abbott.

Simone Wichers-Voss of Chisholm Country both photographed and wrote an excellent article covering the event. You can read it here. You can also watch the entire memorial on YouTube, here.

Clifton High School freshmen line the stage after the memorial and To What Remains screening. Photo by ChisolmCountry.com/Simone Wichers-Voss

An Event is Born

Gaye Lynn Seawright is a relative of Robert H. Walsleben, a 21yr old Navy gunner from Valley Mills, TX. Walsleben, along with the rest of his 10-man PB4Y-1 Liberator crew, has been missing-in-action (MIA) since February 5th, 1945.

Gaye Lynn also teaches Honors English at Clifton High School, and felt compelled to do something to support the Project Recover mission after learning about our work on an episode of Expedition Unknown.

She had an idea to host a To What Remains screening fundraiser in conjunction with a memorial for three WWII service members from Bosque County who are still MIA. She knew that her own relative, Robert, did not yet have a memorial – until she passed, his mother was still waiting for him to come home. Gaye Lynn also wanted to recognize the families of each service member. While she realized that this support might not bring her loved one home, she knew that it would help to bring someone’s loved one home. “It’s like we’re [Gold Star MIA families] all connected somehow,” she said.

Robert H. Walsleben, MIA since
February 6th, 1946.

Gaye Lynn saw an opportunity to make this a semester-long school project for her freshman English Honors classes. She was excited to have her students learn important local, national, and world history, while also learning about the various aspects of organization and executing an event, and working on their public speaking skills.

Her students had some interesting experiences while planning the event. One student connected with the niece of another MIA crew member on Robert Walsleben’s plane who sent an enlarged, color-enhanced, framed photo of the PB4Y-1 Liberator crew to the class.

Students holding a retouched photo of Robert Walsleben with his
PB4Y-1 Liberator crew. Photo by Gaye Lynn Seawright.

Another student found out that she was living in the family house of one of the other MIAs, John Coston.

Gaye Lynn led this entire initiative through the values that Project Recover holds most dear – Respect, Responsibility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Education, and Collaboration. We are honored to have her as an official Project Recover Ambassador.

Me and Gaye Lynn Seawright, post-event. Photo by Madison Otter.

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