VFW celebrates Memorial Day, honors Post 1991 namesake
JONESBORO, Ark- Veterans across town gathered on this Memorial Day to honor the life of an Arkansas National Guardsman from Jonesboro, who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save others during World War II.
“To honor and remember the actions and the ultimate sacrifice made by P.V. James Roy Wiles and Battery C 206 Coastal Artillery Regiment of the Arkansas Army National Guard,”
The VFW Post 1991 honored Private First-Class James Roy Wiles this morning. The Jonesboro native and member of the 206 Coast Artillery Regiment died during the Battle of Dutch Harbor at Unalaska in 1942.
“I just hope we did Roy proud, to highlight his accomplishments,” said Post 1991 Commander Robert Murphy.
Wiles joined the 206 artilleries on January 6, 1941. The day it was activated for service.
Keynote speaker for the day filled with events, retired Colonel Damon Cluck, says the attack on Dutch Harbor is one that slips most minds, but it holds a strong Arkansas connection.
“A lot of Americans don’t realize there was a battle in Alaska during War World II,” Col. Cluck says. “But in Arkansas, the National Guard unit the two-hundred and sixth Coast Artillery defended Dutch Harbor during that battle.”
The VFW and Craighead County Veterans Memorial Foundation [CCVFM] honor a veteran or group of veterans each year. But recognizing PFC Wiles holds a special place in the hearts of post 1991.
“The Post was named after him in September 16 1945,” Commander Murphy said.
The Roy Wiles Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 1991 bears the name of the fallen hero.
Commander Murphy says they wanted to bring awareness to Wiles’ bravery.
“People don’t understand and realize why the Post was named and dedicated to him. And that was our mission today. Let’s highlight that and get the word out.”
The 206 Coast Artillery colors were recognized during the tribute to Wiles. Attendees also did a toast “to the nickel” in memory of the coin flip decision that resulted in the artillery being deployed to Dutch Harbor.
The 206 Coast Artillery is still around today.
Col. Cluck says it’s important to keep the history of the unit alive.
“[The 206 is] told about the service of the regiment of Dutch Harbor. As a country it’s important we honor them.”
PFC Wiles lost his life on June 3, 1942. While stationed at Dutch Harbor, he saw Japanese plans approaching. Instead of taking cover, Wiles went to alert his fellow soldiers; and then drove them to retrieve their weapons as bombs were flying out of the sky, with the 206 below.
“He was, in fact, a true hero, not a put the uniform on hero,” the commander said.
The Jonesboro High School graduate was feet away from a shelter when a bomb landed near him, killing Wiles instantly. The truck he was driving protected the group of soldiers he was with, saving them.
“The 25-year-old probably never thought he would get into anything crazy, and here he saved hundreds of men’s lives- his friends. His friends lives.”
Jonesboro City Councilman John Street presented the Roy Wiles VFW Post 1991 with a proclamation during the Memorial Day events.