Mary T. Klinker – Lafayette Native, Vietnam War Veteran

Happy 65th Birthday, Captain Mary T. Klinker

On October 3, 2012, Capt. Mary T. Klinker would have been 65 years old.

Mary T. Klinker was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Klinker from Lafayette. Capt. Klinker lived in Lafayette most of her life and was a member of St. Lawrence Church. She graduated from Central Catholic High School and the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing. Mary Klinker served in the Air Force as a flight nurse, instructor and flight examiner from 1969 until her death in 1975.

In 1974, the Vietnam War was ending and in an act of pure humanity, President Gerald Ford announced a mission that would be known as “Operation Babylift.” This mission’s purpose was to evacuated more than 2000 orphaned children from Saigon. Capt. Mary T. Klinker was enlisted as a flight nurse responsible for caring for the children during their transport to the Philippines.

Unfortunately, on April 4, 1975, the inaugural Operation Babylift flight ended in tragedy crashing within minutes of takeoff killing 138 of the 314 on board. One hundred and thirty-eight infants, flight crew and caregivers died in the Operation Babylift plane crash including Capt. Mary T. Klinker.

Capt. Klinker was 27-years-old when she died and was the last nurse and the only member of the US Air Force Nurse Corps to be killed in Vietnam. Capt. Mary T. Klinker was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal and is listed on Panel: O1W, Row 122 of The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC.

Pencil Rubbing - Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Pencil Rubbing – Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center, which is a chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, is located at LUM (420 N. 4th Street, Lafayette). The Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center, led by President Jim Logsdon (a wounded combat veteran) and Vice-President Tom Bratcher (a disabled veteran), offers free services to homeless and at-risk veterans and their families including providing resources, peer to peer counseling and financial assistance.

DAV Service Officers offer counseling on VA compensation, health care, pension, employment rights, education and more. Founded in 1920, the DAV is totally funded by dues and contributions, receiving no federal funding. Jim Logsdon also serves as the National Homeless Veteran Coordinator.

The Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center is located in the LUM offices. The Lafayette Urban Ministry is pleased to provide free office space to the Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center and to work in close partnership with the organization to find more permanent housing solutions for veterans who are guests in the LUM Emergency Shelter for the Homeless. For more information or to make an appointment, please call or email Jim Logsdon, president of the Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center – (765) 423-2691; redbird560@wildblue.net.

Follow the Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center on Facebook.

Discovering who Mary T. Klinker was besides just a name on a Veterans Center door should be a reminder for everyone to stop and appreciate the rich heritage all around you. So, next time you see a “name” on a plaque, department sign, company letterhead, or award — take the time to learn more about the person they are honoring. You will be impressed and possibly blown away like many are who learn about Mary T. Klinker.

{Next up — Ray Ewry, US Olympic Hero}


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