William H. Miesner, Jr.
Major, United States Army
Friends and comrades in arms were on hand Thursday to dedicate a bronze replica of Major William “Hank” Miesner, Jr. at Nebraska’s 20th Century Veteran’s Memorial in North Platte.
The larger-than-life statue is the first of four that will be erected at the site: one each representing the Army, Navy and Coast Guard, plus one representing women veterans.
Miesner’s likeness represents the fighting men of the United State Army. He served 24 years with the Army, including extended tours in Vietnam.
Gary McCormick of Paxton was a Vietnam platoon sergeant under Miesner, and organized the statue, with the help of those who attended Miesner’s funeral in May 2003 at Arlington National Cemetery.
Miesner died of cancer at age 65.
Serving with Miesner was inspirational, McCormick said.
“I served a year under him,” McCormick said. “It was the best year of my life. There was a lot of camaraderie and we really worked to do some good. He made it rewarding.”
“In his military life, he always seemed to be at the tip of the spear,” said his brother James. “He was a warrior.”
After high school, where he was a football star, Miesner served a three-year tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps, then went home to Oklahoma and joined the Tulsa police department.
But the Vietnam War continued.
“Dadgummit, I need to be over there helping those guys,” Miesner said before he re-enlisted.
On his first tour, he served with Marine reconnaissance. When he returned, he was a paratrooper with the Army’s 101st. He applied for and went to Officers Candidate School and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. As an officer, he fought in the Army Special Forces, including 15 years with Delta Forces.
“We got into a real hornets nest one time,” McCormick said. “Thanks to his experience and knowledge, we were able to get out. He coordinated artillery, gun ships, fighter planes and built a fortress of fire around us.”
Paul Barrett, who played football with Miesner in high school, attended his funeral in Arlington.
“He played football with intensity, passion and emotion,” Barrett said. “I didn’t know what a stand up guy he was in later life until I went to Arlington.”
Barrett came home and put together a brochure about the military, Miesner and the planned statue at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial. He mailed it to everyone who was within two years of Miesner in high school, politely asking for donations. They raised $10,000.
Miesner received the Silver Star and five Bronze Stars for gallantry in action.
On his uniform is the First Infantry patch, a Special Forces patch and a set of paratrooper wings, given to those who jumped 30 times or more. Above one of his shirt pockets is a set of Vietnamese jump wings, which he earned when he commanded native Vietnamese tribesmen called Montagnards.
"He saw himself as a common man," James Miesner
said, "who was just doing what he was supposed to do. That's the strength
of our nation, when people stand up when the call comes. George Will has
said the United States is the most important entity in the history of the
world...the United States, not the British Empire, not the Roman Empire,
not the Chinese. Why? Because common people have picked up the flag of
democracy and freedom."