Category Archives: 101st Airborne Division

Ron Egan Our Shining Silver Star

Three Stories about Ron Egan…

 Story #1 Silver Star Veteran Ron Egan

The Silver Star is the third highest award presented to our heroes in  combat. The Congressional Medal of Honor is number one and the Distinguished Service Cross, is number two. I first learned of how Ron Egan received his Silver Star for Valor and other decorations after I arrived home from the Army.  In fact it was around February or March of 1969 while I was living in Golfview Apartments in Carpentersville, along with  Jack Reese and Greg Pederson, that Ron Egan re-entered my life in Illinois. I originally met him in high school in my Junior Year.

I was over at John Olsen’s home in Dundee, where he lived with his wife Linda and his son, Todd. They were such a beautiful family and included me in all of their activities. We were standing in his living room when John told me the story. He and Ron Egan were very good friends growing up, and played basketball and softball quite a bit while in school. The following story is the only version I know. Perhaps his friends, Tom Hagen and Jim Hawkins have better versions, but this is one I have carried around for over forty six years. ( Tom Hagen occupied the same living room I was standing in with John Olsen, a few years later when John and his family moved to Kentucky and Tom bought the former Olsen home.

John, said, “Ron Egan just received a Silver Star for saving the lives of his platoon over in Viet Nam.” The first thing I said to John forty six years ago was, “Do you mean Ron Edin or Ron Egan?”  Ron would be laughing right now if he could read this because that was a running point of confusion in high school where Ron Edin and Ron Egan where in the same class of 1965.

 John Olsen Continues…

“Ron was a point man on a recon mission in Viet Nam. I believe it was on the Cambodian border. Ron was walking far out in front of his platoon when he heard a noise behind him, back toward where his platoon was walking.  Quietly walking back to the point where he heard the noise Ron witnessed the enemy setting up an ambush toward Ron’s approaching platoon.”

“Without forethought or any regard for his own life, Ron began, yelling and firing at the enemy from behind. As the enemy soldiers turned, they fired and struck Ron at least four times. Ron’s platoon was now on alert and they turned the tide on the ambush, recovering Ron and getting him to a field hospital. If Ron hadn’t acted as he did, many if not all of his platoon would have been killed.”

Ron received a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and four Purple Hearts for his bravery and sacrifice in that battle.

When my Dad, Fran Perkins was only seventeen, his potential Mother in Law, Mae Birmingham told Fran about American heroism in World War I. Now it was December 7, 1941 and the very beginning of World War II for America.  Mae explained that Americans would act exactly the way Ron Egan proved to act, many, many,  years later.  She told young Fran, “Heroes act without any forethought. They give their lives and pay their lives forward in order to save their friends and their brothers in arms.” The same heroism that was so prevalent by the “Greatest Generation,” was also exhibited by Ron Egan, and so many others during the Korean War, Vietnam and so many other conflicts, years later.

Ron’s life was the result of a gift from the “Greatest Generation” presented to the “Baby Boomer Generation.” The Greatest Generation paid their lives forward to create the lives of Ron Egan and all of the other Baby Boomers who live now and who have past. The words of Mae Birmingham back on December 7, 1941 were heard and acted upon, on Egan’s  infamous day decades later when Ron Egan earned his Silver Star.

Ron is and will always be our “Silver Star.”

 Story #2. Ron Does a “Bob Hayes”

This tale comes from a story, Ron told me in his apartment in Carpentersville, in the early Seventies.  Just as most veterans will only tell stories of some of the funny things that happened when  death did not take place, Ron was no exception. He never told me about his “Silver Star,” adventure. He did tell me however, about another patrol that could have been his last.

 “The World’s Fastest Human,”

A few weeks,  prior to the ambush, Ron was on a reconnaissance patrol with the 101st Airborne Division,  again either inside or outside of the Cambodian border with Viet Nam, when he found himself up front and alone. Ron stumbled across a land line cable buried just about an inch under the topsoil. He bent down to pick up the telephone cable, and as he lifted it up, more topsoil and land line was uncovered, so he decided to keep pulling up the cable, exposing it, and then following it to see where it would take him.

As he was pulling up the cable Ron came up to an opening in the jungle.  As he was one tree away from entering the clearing Ron could see he was entering a large camp of North Vietnamese  soldiers. Ron, then stop talking for a few long seconds. I asked , “What did you do then?”

Ron said, “ I dropped the cable in my hand and my weapon and did a Bob Hayes all the way back to my unit.”  ( “Bullet “ Bob Hayes, refers to a track star who played Wide Receiver for the Dallas Cowboys  NFL football team. Bob was labeled, “The World’s Fastest Human, back then)

We both laughed together at that moment but I always wondered how I would feel when the flight or fight reaction takes place under those conditions That day, Ron let his “flight” response take charge.

A few weeks later, Ron Egan  chose a different reaction that saved lives and paid life forward for the members of his platoon and their descendants….

 Story #3  The Phone Call, the U-Haul Van and Other Things…

 The Phone Call…

It was about two o’clock in the Morning on a Tuesday when my phone began ringing in my Apartment in Carpentersville back in 1970. A familiar voice from the past. began with, “Hey Wayne, my car broke down and I am at Red’s Gas Station in Algonquin. Can you give me a lift.”  I lived far from Algonquin now, but I was half dressed, when the voice in my ear and another voice that sounded like Ron Egan, began to laugh.

My friend from high school, Paul Shepanek who was a Green Beret at the time and Ron Egan who was with the 101st Airborne were not in Algonquin, Illinois. They were laughing from an Army barracks at Fort Lewis, Washington, enjoying a few beers and calling to share friendship.

I laughed and told, “Wahoo,” AKA Paul Shepanek, and Ron, they are welcome when they get a pass, over to my new apartment in Carpentersville. This began a new barrage of phone calls in the middle of the night, while waking me out of a deep sleep. The calls were always welcome and helped me get off to a good start in the morning.

I love the smell of friendship in the morning…

One Saturday, around noon,  the doorbell rang, along with frantic pounding on the door. My apartment was a one story four-plex, right on Golfview Drive in Carpentersville. I looked through my peep hole only to find an older looking man at the door, wearing an old man”s fedora hat,  with a pale face as though he was in shock, and blood spurting out of his head where I saw a huge gash. He must have been in an  accident, maybe out by the highway about a block away.

I quickly opened the door, and heard laughing beneath, what I figured out now was a mask. It was none other than my Green Beret, buddy and good friend since 8th grade, Wahoo, AKA “Paul Shepanek.”  Wahoo, was a Medic with the Green Berets, and had access to some wound simulations. He wore an old man fedora hat to hide the elastic straps attaching the wound to his face.

I was horrified and happy at the same time. Wahoo told me that Ron Egan was coming home from Fort Lewis, very shortly, and wanted to make sure I gave him a welcome. Later that evening Wahoo came over to the apartment, along with Russ Jenkins, another friend from  8th grade friend, who served in the Marines, in Vietnam but was also on leave as well.

We had such a fun time after that grand entrance by Wahoo. Russ Jenkins and Paul Shepanek got me my first job as a caddy, at Barrington Hills Country Club, in Barrington, Illinois back in 8th grade and we picked up on our relationship where it left back in high school.

One of my roommates, Jack Reese,  and the roommate who is my neighbor, Scott Kufeldt also worked at the Country Club back then and met with Wahoo and Jenkins, as well. During this time frame Jim Hawkins and Tom Hagen were out of the Army and living a few doors down in the same apartment complex. Both Hawkins and Hagen were combat veterans and eager to see their old buddies, and Airborne Brothers, Wahoo and Egan.

 The U-haul Van

A few weeks after that wonderful reunion, Ron Egan, finally arrived, unannounced. He said, “Wahoo and Jenkins said that you are an okay guy, so here I am.” We talked for hours in my apartment, and soon my other roommate, Greg Pedersen, came home from his job at U-haul, and we continued the conversation.  Although Greg was never in the military, he was impressed with Ron and wanted to help him out.

It was time to go and I asked Ron if he could use a ride home in my trusty white 64 Mustang, I called “Kemosabe.” Ron said “yes,” and as soon as he did, Greg threw him the keys to the U-haul, Econoline Van, he used for driving to and from work.”

Greg said to a startled Egan, “Use it for as long as you need it.” Greg reached into his wallet and also handed Ron a gas credit card, that Egan could use until he began his old job back at Revcor, in Carpentersville.

Ron turned to me and the look on his face was priceless. “Is he sh#tn me, Perkins?” 

“I don’t think so,” I replied. Egan was shaking his head in disbelief and shook Greg’s hand in appreciation.

“I will take good care of the truck while I use it.”

Ron Egan was very appreciative of Greg’s gift to a local War Hero That, day, I think Greg felt he was an honorary brother of this amazing band of brothers, and my friends.

Other Things…

So as I mourn the loss the of Ron Egan and those special moments. Now I feel like remembering the moment presented by the movie characters,  in the old Star Trek Movie, “The Wrath of Khan,” where they stuff Spock in that big black sunglasses case, push him out into space, and the character, McCoy, says…

“He is not really dead, as long as we remember him.”

I remember Egan  driving around  Carpentersville, in a Ford Econoline Van, “smoking cigarettes and watchin Captain Kangaroo.”

Ron Egan, from the Dundee High School Class of 1965, member of the famous 101st Airborne Division, U haul Econoline Van Driver, hero, and friend, I salute you…

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Author: Specialist 4th Class Wayne Francis Perkins: US54805848 Company B, 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, 7th Infantry Division and “Imjin Scout” from the Korean Demilitarized Zone, 1966-1967.

 Note: This post may show up on Facebook but the link you follow will take you to the Last Flight of the Daisy Mae Special Features, Website, where you can post pictures, or comments about Ron Egan. They will not appear right away as I monitor each posting on my lazy schedule, but I will attend to them as they come in. Ron Egan is going to have a permanent home on my site, along with many heroes from World War II….Wayne F. Perkins

If you want to know more about the history Ron Egan helped create,  view  Part 2 of the story of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. These are the band of brothers, so dear to the hearts of Ron Egan, and all of the men and women serving in the Armed Forces, then and now…