Rickey Swaney - Private First Class
- Bronze Star with V (for valor)
Spoken by Phyllis Lepke, former classmate of Rickey’s
On the day that we set aside to formally recognize the courage and sacrifice of the many women and men who have contributed to our freedom and liberty, we also simply gather for a moment as family members, friends, classmates and fellow soldiers to relive some of the events of Rick Swaney’s life.
It is difficult to capture the essence of an individual’s life. Our personal relationships create unique perspectives of each other—causing all of us to have varied recollections and memories. Of course, the most personal and special memories belong to Rick’s family. Two of his brothers, Terry and Jerry, have traveled far to be here with us and we thank them and the other members of Rick’s family. Terry has selected one classmate’s letter to particular that comes very close to showing us aspects of Rick’s personality and accomplishments that will resonate with us all. This is a letter from Jim Carey, a schoolmate, college friend and fellow soldier.
First to set the stage, you must know that Rick, Jim and all of us attended a consolidated high school about 45 minutes west of here—East Greene Community School, made up of Grand Junction (which in our limited experience we considered a big town), Rippey (a small town), Dana (with 90 people living there, even smaller) and a few kids from the towns of Beaver and Berkeley (smaller yet). With all or part of these five communities coming together, there were 48 in our graduating class.
So, on behalf of all his classmates, Jim Carey writes:
Rick Swaney and I were friends in high school at East Greene as well as during our shared time at Iowa State. Although we never served side-by-side, he was also my fellow soldier at the height of the Viet Nam War.
Rick personified everything good in a young man from a small Iowa town—radiating decency, friendship, truth, and respect. He expressed quiet but intense pride in his parents and his three older brothers. He was instinctively generous, could burst into warm laughter easily, and had an unmistakable look of intelligence, strong character, and uncommon maturity. He liked both Roger Miller’s music and his carefree image. Rick carried himself with confidence as he took long, bold strides in his hush puppies. He had a firm handshake. He whistled. He sang in our school choruses, acted in our school plays, cheered for our sports teams, wrote for our school newspaper, edited our school annual, and led us as a member of the student council.
The group of erstwhile students who hung out at the Phillips gas station in Grand Junction all respected Rick because he knew more about cars and engine repair than they did. But the kids like me, notes Jim Carey, who were from the rank-and-file student body were the ones who most admired Rick because we all knew him as a stellar student, a thoughtful citizen, a class leader and a good guy.
Rick was not above pulling pranks. After we graduated from high school he enjoyed kidding me about the time when as driver, he and two other classmates from Grand Junction held the red flashing end of a 6-volt flashlight in the front of his car windshield, came up fast behind my car, and ‘pulled me over’ while I was driving home one night. Rick and his ‘city-friends’ accomplished what they had set out to do—having a big laugh at my expense by scaring the daylights out of this Dana farm kid. Rick also enjoyed shocking Iowa State coeds with his ability to freakishly bend his arm backwards at the elbow while leaning against a wall. Although he often joked that he would never marry because his standards exceeded his qualifications, he did not live to realize how wrong I suspect he would have been on that count.
Jim Carey continues: Over the years I have remembered Rick fondly and missed him greatly. I have little doubt that had he lived, Rick would have returned to ISU to finish his degree and continue his education in graduate or professional school. His life would have been an extension of the one that was emerging as he was coming of age as a young man in his early 20s—a life of honor, intelligence, and achievement.
(This letter is signed by Dr. James Carey, professor of entomology, University of California, Davis.)
Rick’s brother Terry shared the following: “Although Rickey’s career at Iowa State was colored with the doubts of his generation, his allegiance to our country was never in doubt. Some of his last words before leaving for Viet Nam were, “I don’t believe in anything about this war, but if I don’t go, then no one has to go and we don’t have a country.”
So, those of us who knew Rick now know that he died as he lived—quietly, not seeking attention, eloquent in words and deeds, loyal to his military commitment. A man of character and great distinction, who richly deserves to be honored.