RHS alumni sought for Veterans Memorial Wall of Honor

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 11/7/18

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Robertsdale High School Class of 1961 is seeking the names of those who attended Robertsdale High School who died while serving their country in the military.

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RHS alumni sought for Veterans Memorial Wall of Honor

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ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Robertsdale High School Class of 1961 is seeking the names of those who attended Robertsdale High School who died while serving their country in the military.

“What we are mainly looking for are those who died, not necessarily in combat,” said Class of 61 alumna Delores Sturma, who is helping organize a Memorial Wall of Honor. “We are looking for those who served, and died while serving, who might not necessarily have already been honored for their service.”

The RHS Veterans Memorial Wall of Honor will be dedicated at the school on Friday, May 24 as part of this coming year’s Memorial Day remembrance.

In addition to the Memorial Wall of Honor, which will include the names of those who attended Robertsdale High School who died while serving their country, the Class of 1961 will honor one of their own, Robert Sykora, who served in Vietnam and died while on a spy mission over the Sea of Japan in 1969.

His plane was shot down by the North Koreans, killing all those aboard, said Sturma, and fellow Class of 61 alumna Beryl Camp Adkisson, who is also helping organize the memorial.

There were 31 people on the plane when it was shot down. Only two bodies were recovered, found floating near the wreckage. Sykora and 28 others were never found, but it is believed that there were no survivors.

Because Sykora and the others were considered by the military to be too far from the fighting in Vietnam when they died, they were not considered casualties of the war, Adkisson said, and are not included among the names on the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., although he is included on the replica memorial which was placed at USS Alabama Memorial Park in Mobile.

For Adkisson, memorializing her classmate has been a personal mission for years.

“In the mid-90s, I went with my daughter (at the time, a student at E.R. Dixon in Mobile) on a fieldtrip to Washington,” she said. “We visited the Vietnam memorial and I looked for his name on the Wall. Of course, it was not there. I just feel like something needs to be done to honor him and others who may not have otherwise been memorialized.”

Details of Sykora’s mission and how he and the others died were deemed classified information by the military and have only recently been declassified, said Sturma and Adkisson.

Sykora left behind a wife and a young child. His mother, who is now 98, along with three siblings, also survive, including a brother who lives in Fairhope.

During the ceremony, the class plans to present a flag to Sykora’s family. A duplicate flag, along with a memorial plaque, will remain at the school, along with a plaque that will include the names of others from Robertsdale High School who died while serving their country.

“Right now we have seven names, including Robert,” Sturma said, “and we would like to include as many as we can find.”

Submitted names will be researched before being added to the plaque, Sturma and Adkisson said.

“They do not have to be graduates,” Sturma said. “There were a lot of young men, particularly during World War II, who left before their senior year of high school to join the military.”

If you would like more information about getting your loved one or classmate added to the list, contact Sturma at 251-751-1168 or Adkisson at 251-533-8124.