Sunday, May 8, 2011
An Update And A Tribute To Master Sgt. Coons
I had always loved this intriguing photo. It’s the sort that carries just enough information that you can come up with a background story in your head, but it still lies just outside the boundaries of what you’d like to know. I first wrote about this photo here last year and wanted to know who this huge man was and what he did at Fort Riley in particular with those prototype Willys MAs he stood next to.
Well, as of earlier this week I found out a bit more. Out of the blue I received this email:
“ Hello sir,
The "brute" you see in the picture standing in front of the jeep is my father, Verl Glen Coons. He went on to win golden gloves championships, was the reigning heavyweight champ of Ft. Riley, and was a great man. Here is a video of my father's life through three wars and three purple hearts.
I loved the picture thank you so much for it and please change my dad's last name to Coons when you can.
I was flabbergasted and wrote back the same day:
“Jerry, hello there! I cannot tell you how glad that I am that you wrote me! Incredible! This is what I always hope for when I post a photo of a GI with their jeep. I love to be able to put these stories together with what was previously an anonymous photo...
I'd like to post an update regarding this email and your dad. Is there anything else that you would like to add? And how did you happen to find my website and the photo? I'm just curious. When was your dad at Ft. Riley for that photo?...
Last but not least, can you give me your address because I'd like to mail you a copy of the photo. I think that its the least I can do. Thank you again for contacting me. As I said this is the reason why I started this website in the first place! Thanks for the nice surprise!
Brendan T. Burke”
In my excitement I had forgotten to ask Jerry if he knew if his dad had anything to do with the early testing of the prototypes and I emailed him again. The next day he emailed me again and had this to add:
My sister had that video professionally made of all of our family mementos. My dad was a combat engineer, He was a excellent mechanic but I don’t think he had anything to do with testing the jeeps that I know of. He did manage to get one after the war though and that is what I learned to drive on :) I loved it can still remember jumping it in the pasture and one time forgetting to latch the windshield and having it bounce up and shatter in my face, lol. I used to take it through the pond as deep as I could go and when I went too deep pull it out with the tractor, lol. It was bulletproof and I would love to own one now.
I am not sure how many years my dad was at Fort Riley so I can’t help you with the date of that picture. He was the Heavyweight champion of Ft. Riley in 1939, I have a picture of him from that and it is in the video you watched. He was also a golden gloves boxer in several states. He won tons of medals including 3 purple hearts and won several commendations for engineering feats, and was commendated several times for mechanic innovations on vehicles including jeeps.
My dad was in the 53RD ARMORED ENGINEER BATTALION in WWII. He received the key to Osaka, Japan for a engineering feat on a bridge there. Here is a link to his unit : http://www.8th-armored.org/aar/53h_jul.htm.
I could feel your excitement in your email and I want to thank you for the quick response : ) I am a computer expert and have a high resolution printer with which I printed out the picture so I don’t need one sent but thank you very much for the offer. My sister has many other pictures of my dad in different scenarios overseas posing by jeeps and deuce and a halfs, I will contact her and send them to you if you would like.
I want to thank you again for your website, and you asked me how I found your site, I was just searching for info on my dad and it came up in a google search. Have a great day and would love to talk to you again if you like,
So we have this great story to go along with the man in the photo at Fort Riley. This really is why I started this website, to archive and store the personal stories behind the jeep for anyone to access. I have to thank Jerry again for sharing his dad’s story with me and just as importantly we owe men like Master Sergeant Verl Glen Coons a huge thank you for their dedication, their sacrifices and their work towards what we have today. Its too often that we take the fruits of their labors for granted. And so I’d like to offer and huge thank you again! Be sure to check out Jerry’s video of his dad. It’s really very touching. When we get more photos of Sergeant Coons I plan on starting an album dedicated to his photos. You can always click here to view the album of other prototype photos.
Tune in next week for more great jeep history. There is alot more where this came from. Remember, please contact me @firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further info about any of the men and women spotted on this site or if you have any photos and/or stories that you’d like to share of the men and women who with the jeep helped make the world a better place!