TORONTO - The Little League teams, coaches and parents stopped their opening day ceremonies on Saturday for several minutes.
Ron Manning was coming home.
The remains of the Toronto native who had played Little League baseball on the same field years before were returned Saturday for a final memorial service.
REMEMBERING HIS BROTHER — James “Bo” Manning Jr. stood next to a photograph of his brother, Ron Manning, Sunday afternoon at the J.E. Foster Funeral Home in Toronto. Ron Manning was killed in action in Cambodia in 1975 during the Vietnam War. His remains were identified by military experts and a memorial service was held Sunday.
Manning was 19 years old when he enlisted in the Navy.
He was killed two years later during a military operation near Cambodia in 1975.
"This has been very tough on my parents. First we had a service when his remains were identified and returned in 2000. "But I always though there would be more remains found," James "Bo" Manning said as he waited to greet family and friends Sunday at the J.E. Foster Funeral Home.
"Ron was my big brother. And he was like all big brothers, looking after me and not letting me pick on my older sister. He was a great brother," James said quietly.
"I remember the first time the Navy recruiter came to our house and mom chased him out of the yard. She didn't want Ron enlisting. He was taking classes at that time at Jefferson Community College but didn't feel it was for him," remembered James.
"Ron wanted to be a doctor some day. That's why he was interested in the Navy corpsman position. Ironically, after he was killed, his California paramedic license he had been working on came through. His dream was to be a family doctor," said James.
"The Navy came on a Thursday evening and told my mom Ron was missing in action. I was a high school senior then and was helping at the sixth-grade camp the school used to have. My aunt came and got me and as soon as I came home I saw all the cars and I knew something was wrong," James recalled.
Ron Manning was one of nine children.
He was serving with a Marine unit on May 15, 1975, that had been assigned to a rescue mission on a small Cambodian island.
An unarmed crew of the Mayaguez ship had been captured days earlier by the Cambodians and was believed to be held captive on the Koh Tang island. But instead of finding the American captives, the Marines ran into a regiment-sized unit of Khmer Rouge troops and intense rocket fire.
The Sikorsky Super Jolly Green Giant carrying a Marine unit along with Ron Manning was hit near the shore of the island.
"The first time we waited for 25 years to be officially told Ron's remains had been identified. He had been listed as missing in action, and so we always held out hope. This time we waited another 12 years for the rest of his remains to be brought home. I'm just thankful mom and dad are still here. This will bring some final closure for us," noted James.
Among the mourners Sunday was Jefferson County Sheriff, Fred Abdalla who remembered Ron "as a nice kid in Toronto."
"I was in Vietnam and I heard he was going over. He was a super nice boy. And he is one of the true American heroes. He gave his life trying to help rescue other Americans. I'm glad the parents may finally find some peace. The war may have ended years ago but not for them. Now their son is finally home," said Abdalla.
"People like Ron Manning made sure we still have our freedom," said Abdalla.
Marine veteran Allen Bailey and his wife Tina traveled seven hours from their Maryland home to be at the memorial service.
"Ron Manning is one of my brothers. I was on the other side of the island that day. And since Ron was assigned to a Marine unit, he was a Marine. After going through what we went through that day I will never forget any of my brothers," Allen Bailey remarked.
"Ron was our doctor. I received word about this service and I knew I had to be here. All my brothers deserve respect. To come to Toronto and to see how beautiful this community is and to know Ron came from here is comforting. The people in Toronto have been so respectful," Bailey said.
"We called that mission a 14-hour war. It was something I couldn't talk about for 30 years. But I will always try to be at any service for any of my brothers until I am gone. My commander, Randy Austin, sent his deepest regrets and condolences to the family," added Bailey.
"Ron was a senior when I was a freshman at Toronto High School. I couldn't get away with anything because he kept an eye on me. But he was a great older brother. And I miss him every day," stated James.