Most families have a service member in their past who died in an American war. Gil and I realized that we each had an uncle, one a brother to my mother, one a brother to his mother, who had earned a reputation among his descendants for valor. These, in a highly abbreviated form, are their stories.
Jere Brown Coats
As a rebellious young man in tiny, rural Greenfield, Tennessee, Jere always threatened to run off and join the Navy. He was smart, handsome and charismatic, the only son alongside three daughters, and his parents had other ideas for him. So he left Georgia Tech without notifying the folks, bound for Pensacola Naval Air Station, where he trained to fly off aircraft carriers. He dreamed of one day joining the Blue Angels.
In his last letter to his sister Betty, my mother, he apologized for not keeping in touch. He wrote that he was with “the first all missile squadron carrying Sparrow ‘3’s” and Sidewinders, flying the supersonic F3H ‘Demon.’” Stationed at NAS Oceana at Virginia Beach, he died in a flameout on takeoff in May 1957, with not enough altitude for a safe ejection. He was 23 years old.
Gilbert Calef “Sonny” Procter, Jr.
The eldest of three siblings, Sonny had the reputation in the family of being somewhat stern, with a mean golf swing. He introduced his younger brother to a lifelong passion for golf. We don’t know much more than that he died on the operating table in an Army hospital in Italy during the Second World War. The procedure was supposed to be routine, the death was unexpected and it serves to highlight the fact that not all war casualties come in combat.