Let’s Talk Clovis: Honoring Clovis Veterans and Gold Star Heroes

USAF 2nd Lt, Philmore Bratton, 1923-1943. 1941 Clovis High Graduate. Killed in action WWII, North Africa.

We are sharing the lives of a few of the 59 Clovis Gold Star Heroes and the brave veterans that returned to Clovis after the wars.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Philmore Bratton (1923-1943) graduated from Clovis High in 1941. He died while fighting in North Africa during WW II. A friend of his recently left a rose near his picture (at the Museum) to honor his memory.

Peggy and Jeff Hubbard lost two of their sons.  US Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard (age 22 years) was killed in November of 2004 by a road side bomb in Iraq.  US Army Corporal Nathan Hubbard (age 21 years) was killed in a helicopter crash in northern Iraq in August of 2007.  Both men were graduates of Buchannan High School.

USAF Colonel Jack Weyant was born and raised on a family ranch in the Temperance Colony area. He graduated from Clovis High in 1939. He flew 30 missions (23 as formation leader) in his B-24 “Liberator” over Nazi forces. He flew 144 combat sorties (attack by one plane) over Vietnam.  He retired in 1972 (30 years 8 month career) and lives in Clovis with wife Marilyn. He was awarded the Legion of Merit on three separate occasions.

Sergeant Ray Richey (family arrived in Clovis 1927) joined the Army in 1943. He fought at Omaha Beach, Normandy, the Black Forrest and the battle of the Bulge. He left the service in 1946 and began building residential homes in 1948. He would build 100 homes in Clovis prior to his 1995 retirement.

Ike Herrera (his family arrived in Clovis in 1919) joined the US Navy at age seventeen in 1943. He survived nine major battles while on the destroyer USS Dewy. He returned to Clovis and established a successful plumbing company and purchased/built rental homes and apartments.

US Army Sergeant Melvin Kirk (1964 Clovis High graduate) was killed (May 3, 1968) in action during his second tour of Vietnam. He was wounded twice prior to his death and was awarded two Purple Hearts in addition to the Silver Star.

B/General George Middleton USAF/ANG (ret) (1923-2008) flew Hump missions (supplies and personnel) across the Himalayas. The Burma Road had been closed in 1942 by the Japanese Army. The flights were dangerous (weather and enemy fire). One thousand men and 600 planes were lost until the road was re-opened in 1945. George began teaching at Clovis High in 1949 (returned to Air Force 1951-1957) and retired in 1983.

USMC Cpl. Andrew Ruiz graduated from Clovis High School in 1967. He was fourth generation of Clovis. He had been wounded twice (awarded Purple Heart with Cluster) and was a month away from coming home when a sniper bullet ended his life in South Vietnam.

USMC Major Earl Smittcamp fought in four major invasions in the South Pacific. He was wounded during the landing at the Palau Islands. He returned to Clovis in 1945 and with his wife Muriel (1917-2009) purchased historic (originally homesteaded 1867) 200 acres (Minnewawa between Nees and Shepherd) they began their successful agri-business venture. The couple made generous land donations to Saint Agnes Hospital and CSU, Fresno (Smittcamp Alumni House). Earl and his family remain generous contributors to Clovis.

US Marine Corps Reserve Cpl.  Richard Caster graduated from Clovis High in 1950. He was the adopted son of George (Clovis High Instructor) and Grayce Castor. He was mortally wounded on June 6, 1951 in Korea and is buried in the United Nations Cemetery, Korea. Richard was a gifted pianist.

Tony Piombino was killed in action while serving on a sub-chaser during the 1944 battle of Normandy. His family owned a lumber trucking business near Blackstone and Gettysburg. His four brothers also served in the War:  2 Navy, 1 Army and 1 Merchant Marine.

USMC Colonel Emil J. Radic (1923-1982) was awarded the Silver Star in 1967 while serving in Vietnam. He was president of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce from 1976-1982.

We cannot add to their noble service and sacrifice but we can recognize the rich heritage they provided us. We must remain vigilant and protective of the freedom they preserved.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.