The family of the late First Lieutenant Guy Hester, Jr. never expected so many people to attend a memorial service for the fallen solder at Oakwood Cemetery in Winona last month, but many of those who knew Hester, his wife, Elsie Lynn, and their families turned out to show their respect.
A ceremony was held on July 28 at 10 a.m. The heat was unforgiving, but it didn’t keep those who loved Hester and Elsie Lynn from showing their support.
The ceremony was a part of the United States Military Academy’s class of 1969’s 50th class reunion. As a way to honor those who have passed on, Retired Chaplain Ray Dupere of Connecticut, Hester’s classmate, has traveled to nearly a dozen states to perform memorial services for soldiers not buried at the campus in New York.
The ceremony honored Hester, a Winona native who was killed in action on October 1, 1970, while fighting on Vietnam.
Hester was remembered as a charismatic, outgoing guy who loved Jesus, life and most of all, Elsie Lynn.
After Hester graduated from Winona High School, he received a track scholarship to Mississippi College, but only stayed a semester before returning back to Winona.
Following the service, Elsie Lynn described how she would hide Hester when he came home from college so his parents wouldn’t find out.
“He rode the bus home from Mississippi College, and he commuted with people from Holmes,” Elsie Lynn said. “I’d have to sneak him in town so his parents wouldn’t have a fit.”
His friend Bob Harper explained, “After a brief stint at Mississippi College, he returned to Winona. He couldn’t stay away from Winona, and he certainly couldn’t leave Elsie Lynn.”
Hester then attended Holmes Community College, but didn’t stay there long either. He eventually returned to Winona and married Elsie Lynn.
After living in Mississippi for a year, Hester, along with his friend Bob Harper, was chosen to attend the United States Military Academy, more familiarly known as West Point. He graduated in 1969, deploying for Vietnam the next year. He was killed just weeks after deploying.
Many in attendance at July’s ceremony shared their fondest memories of Hester. Elsie’s cousin, John Thompson, said one of his favorite memories of Hester was when he let him drive his Corvette as a teenager.
“One of the best days of my life is when he let a little ole teenager drive his Corvette,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he used to wash, shine and toot the horn of Hester’s Corvette, but he always wanted to drive it and Guy finally gave him the chance.
“We were on Highway 51 on the way to Vaiden when he looked at me and said, ‘I think it’s time for you to drive the Corvette.’ Boy that was one of the best days of my life.”
Stories just like these from neighbors, Hester’s best friends, and his classmates from West Point were shared throughout the service.
“If you don’t feel something from this, something is wrong with you,” Elsie Lynn told the crowd.
Elsie Lynn said when the town learned of Hester’s death, everyone came together in their grief. She said she had three weeks to mourn his death before his body was returned to Winona for the funeral.
“There were so many people -- the whole town came out to his funeral,” Elsie Lynn said. “They had opened so many doors, they didn’t have any more doors to open. Someone would repeat to the back of the crowd what was going on.”
Hester had a servant’s heart and gave his life to help others.
“Guy volunteered to go to Vietnam, most people were drafted, he volunteered,” Elsie Lynn said. “He said he felt like he had to do it for his country.”
Dupere said he felt like God laid it on his heart to honor his West Point classmates who had given their lives for this country. He said in every memorial service he’s held since volunteering his time to do so, he’s felt a special connection at each of them.
Elsie Lynn said she’s optimistic that she will be reunited with Hester again one day.
“I know he’s asleep, and when God comes and takes us home, he’ll wake up and I’ll be right here with him,” she said.