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In memoriam: Marine Col. H. Speed Wilson served in three wars, flew 180 missions

By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

He flew 90 missions each in World War II and Korea, then was chief of staff of a force of 20,000 Marines in Vietnam.

“You seldom ever knew what happened” to those who did not return, retired Marine Col. H. Speed Wilson, of Green, said in a 2011 Beacon Journal interview. “They just didn’t make it back.”

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. today for Mr. Wilson, who died Sunday at age 93, at the Bacher Funeral Home, 3326 Manchester Road, Coventry Township. Burial will be 1 p.m. at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman.

Mr. Wilson, who was shot down four times, served 31 years in the Marine Corps and was chief of staff of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, an air and ground force of 20,000, in Vietnam.

He was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals as a fighter pilot.

A Texas native, Mr. Wilson spoke of how hard it is for people who were not in combat to fully understand that experience.

“You sort of had to be there,” he said.

Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife of 68 years, Ruth Heller Wilson, whom he met on a blind date when she was in the Women Marines and was working as an air traffic controller at the Marine Air Station at Cherry Point, N.C., and son Scott S. Wilson, a Marine veteran, and daughter Stephanie Burtner.

The family asks that donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675-8517.

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or


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