SANDOWN – Every Memorial Day, area residents come to Sandown to pay tribute to the nation’s war dead in a solemn and moving way. They come to listen to Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Kevin Major tell the tale of one individual who sacrificed his or her life for their country and in so doing, they recognize all of those who made that sacrifice.
This year Major told of Albert Linwood Page Jr., who lost his life in the skies over Vietnam and left behind a wife, two children, his parents and a sister. While Page’s body was never recovered and for a time he was listed as Missing in Action (MIA), eventually the U.S. government announced his date of death as Aug. 6, 1967.
Major used the story to thank those who continued to try and find the country’s MIA, even years or decades later, and encouraged everyone never to forget them. Page spent his high school years on South Avenue in Derry, attending Pinkerton Academy. According to Major he was well liked, good in sports, active in theater and Glee Club and the Pinkerton newspaper. He was a people person and a prankster, said Major.
Page’s slogan in the yearbook read, “The longest way around is the shortest way home.”
A tall man, he had ambitions when he was younger to play for the Boston Celtics. After high school he entered the Air National Guard, flying planes out of Grenier Air Force Base, now the Manchester Boston Regional Airport.
Through the GI Bill, Page attended the University of New Hampshire. He played on the football team there, but now and again his National Guard trainings took him away from important games. One time, frustrated over his lot, he buzzed the stadium in his jet during a game he was forced to miss.
Page married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Ann O’Brien. He went to work as an airline pilot but was called into active duty during the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Then he was called to duty for a six-month tour in Vietnam in 1966. He volunteered for a second tour. This was before the U.S. was officially at war, explained Major, and that second tour is when things started to ramp up.
It was on a strike mission as the lead plane in a two-plane team that Page was shot down.
After releasing their bombs on target, Page and his navigator began to head back, but they were fired upon and hit.
Though Page radioed that he and his navigator would be ejecting near the target area, that second plane saw no sign of parachutes, and no emergency radio signal was heard before the plane crashed into the Gulf of Tonkin.
A search was mounted but no signs of the 32-year-old Page were ever found. It is not known even today what became of him, explained Major, but if he survived the crash it is likely he was captured.
His parents and sister were eating dinner when a government car pulled up outside of their Derry home. The family had to grieve in silence, as they weren’t allowed to tell anyone but immediate family of their son’s disappearance, in case he was still in hiding or was a prisoner of war.
Major related that even though Page was later announced deceased, his mother never gave up hope and until her last day, was expecting her son to walk through the door.
His wife went back to college and raised their two children, but continued to learn about the Vietnam region and POWs, said Major. Until the end of the war she regularly sent letters and gift boxes to her missing husband.
With his son Ethan Major currently serving in Afghanistan, Major had difficulty telling portions of his story Monday. His son helped him edit the story, from all the way across the world.
“We still have soldiers unaccounted for and families waiting for their loved ones,” said Major. “Albert Page, Sandown remembers you. The longest way around is the shortest way home.”
Prior to the story a parade traveled down Main Street. Led by the Timberlane Regional High School Band, the parade included scouts and the Fire Department, and the Fire Explorers Post served as Honor Guard. When the parade stopped at the war monument at Town Hall, children presented flags and other tokens.
Selectmen Jim Devine and Terry Treanor were present at Center Cemetery where the annual ceremony is held. State Senator Russell Prescott also spoke. Pastor Steven Murray opened the service and gave the benediction.
Members of all branches of the armed services were asked to come before the crowd at Center Cemetery and tell of their service, a tradition at Major’s ceremonies. Major also read the names of the three New Hampshire servicemen who had died since last Memorial Day.