Grand Lake residents ride for lost soldier
May 26, 2014
On August 13 of 1944, Pfc. Lawrence Gordon was riding in an armored vehicle in France when he was killed in an attack by German soldiers.
Though others were recovered from the scene of the attack, Gordon's body never came home.
Now, almost 70 years later, his written story and photo are traveling to Washington, D.C., attached to the windshield of a Grand Lake resident's motorcycle.
Les and Connie Williams, who have lived in Grand Lake for seven years, are honoring Gordon and his story during the 26th annual Run For the Wall, an event organized by veterans to honor those who have been left behind.
“We had 1,600 Vietnam veterans that have not been recovered, that are still in Vietnam, and it’s just a pittance compared to what’s still missing in World War II.”
Run for the Wall participant
Around 325 motorcycles will be making the trip from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., to Washington, D.C., displaying Gordon's photo and story the entire way.
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There, they will meet with another lost-veterans advocacy group called Rolling Thunder and participate in a demonstration to call attention to shortfalls in the government's handling of the repatriation of service members.
"We feel that somebody has got to knock on Congress's door," Williams said.
Williams, a retired Marine Corps colonel and a Vietnam veteran, first read about Gordon in an online story from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
Gordon was born in Eastend, Saskatchewan, though he came to fight for the U.S. Army during World War II because it had better equipment.
Williams said the story struck a chord with him because of his own experience as a Vietnam veteran.
"We had 1,600 Vietnam veterans that have not been recovered, that are still in Vietnam, and it's just a pittance compared to what's still missing in World War II," Williams said.
Gordon's nephew of the same name didn't resign to the narrative that his uncle was indelibly lost and began looking for him a few years ago. After an exhaustive search, he found what he believed to be his uncle's remains in a grave for German soldiers.
However, the United States government was hesitant to assist in identifying and repatriating the remains. Williams said he believes it's because Gordon was Canadian.
"If this guy dies in a United States uniform, I don't care what nationality he is," Williams said.
Gordon's nephew eventually convinced the French Government to perform DNA testing on the remains. They concluded that there was more than a 99 percent chance that the remains were Gordon's.
"I don't know about you, but I'd go to Las Vegas for those odds any day of the week," Williams said.
Now, Williams will meet Gordon's nephew for the first time at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. The group will then travel with him to the National World War II Memorial, where they will have a plaque ceremony to honor Gordon and his nephew.
Gordon's remains will be repatriated in late June or July, Williams said.
"It's just a story that has grabbed a lot of hearts of these veterans, so it's really heartening to see Lawrence's picture on all of these motorcycles," Williams said.
Williams and a few other members of Run for the Wall will be attending Gordon's burial in Canada.
Though it's frustrating for Williams to know that the government refused to help identify Gordon, he said that he understands the difficulties faced by the Joint POW/MIA Account Command, and that this event isn't about castigating them.
Rather, it's about honoring a lost soldier and the nephew that brought him home.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.