Honoring a fallen hero

Soldiers holding flags during ceremony at WSU Veterans Memorial.
The WSU Veterans Memorial bears the names of alumni who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Sometimes, the best way to prepare for the future is by honoring the past. This is how Matt Beer approaches his work serving military and veteran students as the military and veteran affairs manager in the Washington State University Carson College of Business.

“It always helps to know where a student comes from and what they have been through before finding ways to help them chart a path forward,” Beer said. “I truly believe the same is true of WSU as a whole. How we honor those in our past says a lot about how we will care for our student veterans in the future.”

With Memorial Day approaching, Beer set out to honor just one of the 250 heroes whose names are etched into WSU’s Veterans Memorial. “So many of these men and women died so far from here,” Beer said. “It was special to me to rediscover one whose story begins and ends so close to home.”

Beer is proud of the Carson College’s investment in student veterans and its current status as a “Best for Vets” according to U.S. News and World Report. “There’s always more to be done though,” he said. “Memorial Day is the perfect chance to take time to remember those who gave their last full measure doing our nation’s bidding…folks like Capt. Larry Trimble.”

Closeup of Captain Larry A. Trimble.
Captain Larry A Trimble

Captain Larry A. Trimble

Capt. Larry Trimble was born and raised on the Palouse. He grew up on his family’s farm just north of Farmington, Washington. After graduating from Oakesdale High School, Trimble enrolled at WSU in 1965, the same year American troop levels in Vietnam surged to 184,300. Trimble was a member of WSU’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and he appears in a photo of cadets in the 1968 edition of the Chinook, clean-cut, confident, and proudly wearing a set of cadet wings that mark his future as a pilot. Trimble graduated in the spring of 1969, with a degree in business administration and orders to attend pilot training in Laredo, Texas. Within 24 months he was an Air Force fighter pilot, married, a father, and on his way to war.

Trimble was assigned to fly the F-4E Phantom with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Da Nang Airbase in South Vietnam. With the American presence in Vietnam waning, the 421st “Black Widows” were among the last tactical fighters in country. They flew their F-4’s as bomber escorts and conducted dangerous attack missions against North Vietnamese ground units pushing south across the demilitarized zone. On April 15, 1972, Trimble and his back-seater, Maj. Gale Despiegler of Browns Valley, Minnesota, launched out of Da Nang on just such a mission. Their aircraft was hit by enemy fire about 20 miles northeast of Vinh Bihn, and both Trimble and Despiegler managed to eject.  Despiegler was quickly captured by the enemy and spent nearly a year in North Vietnam’s infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” Trimble was never heard from again.

Larry Trimble's gravestone.
Larry Trimble’s remains are buried at the Garfield City Cemetery, In Garfield, Wash.

For many veterans, the literal and figurative road home can be a long one. So it was for Trimble. Oakesdale High School eulogized Trimble at a homecoming football game in the fall of 1973, shortly after Maj. Despiegler was released. But it wasn’t until 1989, some 16 years later, that Trimble’s remains were recovered from Vietnam, repatriated to the U.S., and returned home to the Palouse.

Perhaps the most fitting sentiment are the words left on the Vietnam Virtual Wall by one of Trimble’s WSU classmates, Lt. Col. Tom Brattebo, of Spokane, Washington.

We shared four years at Washington State.
We shared a drink in DaNang.
I left your bracelet on your coffin.
You have a place in my memory always.

Thank you to all whom have given, and to all whom continue to give, in order to ensure our freedom.

About WSU Veteran Affairs

WSU is committed to serving its student veterans across the state. The university received a 2019 Military Friendly School Award and was named among the 2019 Best Universities for Vets by the Military Times. Visit the links below for more information and resources.

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