Nonprofit veterans group denied request for permanent POW/MIA chair at 2 local stadiums

Posted at 9:27 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 00:47:26-04

DENVER -- In 1968, the sound of a helicopter hovering over the wounded was a sign of hope for soldiers in south Vietnam.

“Dust Off was a call sign of a helicopter medical evaluation in Vietnam,” said Army Veteran Neal Stanley.

Back then 19-year-old Stanley was a proud army combat medic, but his scars of war never healed.

“They never found these four men,” said Stanley.

Jerry Roe, Allan Gunn, Harry Brown and Neal's best friend, Wade Groth, disappeared on a medical call at night. Their faces forever etched in Neal’s memory.

“Those guys are like my brothers. I flew with every one of those guys multiple times,” said Stanley.

Mike Messenger is Denver’s Rolling Thunder president. The nonprofit is tasked with raising awareness on prisoners of wars (POWs) and those still missing in action (MIA). Messenger said Stanley’s tale of his lost brothers is among the few.

“There is over 80,000 missing in action from all wars,” said Messenger.

And with many that have yet to come home, Messenger along with Rolling Thunder members are on a constant mission to bring their lost brothers home.

“I'm a veteran, I want all my brothers to come home to their families, to be repatriated, to be buried with full military honors,” said Messenger.

Messenger and his fellow members ride motorcycles to Washington, D.C., to honor those that have yet to come home.

“We've got 373 still missing from Colorado. That's enough to honor everyone every day,” said Messenger.

And to help Colorado remember, they installed a “Chair of Honor” at the Sky Sox stadium in Colorado Springs.

“Nobody will ever sit in that chair, that chair will be represented at every game,” said Messenger.

The group wanted to bring the same chair to Coors Field and Mile High stadium, but were met with some unexpected push back.

"They really missed the boat, they didn't understand what we were trying to do"

In an email, a Coors Field representative said they appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the organization but will not be placing for permanent chair in the ball park. A Mile High representative said they will look into all opportunities to honor the military and will do the same with the group's request.

“We were disappointed," said Messenger. "There is [sic] a lot of events and venues including the England Patriots, the Atlanta Braves [that have placed the Chair of Honor to remember those POW/MIA service members]."

Denver7 reached out to Coors Field and the organization didn't have anyone available to go on camera but mentioned that they do fly a POW/MIA flag at the ballpark.

Mile High stadium representatives would also not go on camera but issued the following statement:

"We've held a seat for the past several years in honor of POWs/MIAs at our annual salute to service game, and we are looking into expanding this recognition while working directly with branches of the military."

“I'm hoping that we have an opportunity to sit down one-on-one and show them our program and what it truly means. We are not asking them to buy a chair or to give up a seat in their stadium,” said Messenger.

But even after 49 years, the battle of grief over his missing brothers is just as strong for Stanley, even as he tried to bring closure to his best friend's mother.

“About a year before she passed on, I gave her a patch of my uniform. [The] same patch Wade would have worn and gave that to her,” said Stanley.

Rolling Thunder plans to place the chair Saturday, July 29, at their 2461 VFW post off Broadway.

To hear more about what Neal Stanley’s Job was like in Vietnam watch videos above.