Memorial Day is about young men and women like Major William Whitby “Bill” Duck who grew up here in Gadsden County, worked in the tobacco fields and graduated from Quincy High School in 1954.
After high School he joined the Florida National Guard in Quincy.
Duck had a stint at the University of Florida where he made the decision to join the United States Air Force.
The Air Force saw fit to take this bright young man through their officer training program where he graduated as a 1st Lt.
His tour of duty started and led him to California, Illinois and France with a stop for a while in Iceland.
It was there that he met his wife, Gugga, and they were married.
The couple would have two children, Hilda and Christine.
A twist of fate sent Duck to Vietnam where he was assigned to the 7th Air Force, 14th Air Commando Wing, 4th Air Commando Squadron.
His job was to be the navigator on an AC-47 or a C-47 (the military version of the DC-3) with three 7.62mm General Electric mini-guns that fired through two rear window openings and the side cargo door.
The planes were used to support ground troops.
On October 3, 1967 Duck’s plane was assigned support against the Vietcong in the Thua Thien Providence. The plane would not return and neither did any of the seven men on board.
Like Duck, three others were married while three were single. The oldest, the pilot, was 48 and the youngest was a gunner at 19. Duck was 31.
Once the news reached Quincy it was devastating to his parents, Joseph “Cullen” and Ann Duck, his sister, Peggy, and his aunts, uncles and cousins.
The first word back made the news even more heart-wrenching as William was listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Their plane had crashed on a hill in enemy territory. It took several weeks before the bodies of the slain men could be recovered.
William was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in late October, 1967.
It was a hard time for the Duck family; William was the first grandson of his mother’s five sisters.
As anyone could imagine, it took the prayers of family and friends to get through such an ordeal.
During the funeral, businesses in Quincy shut down for an hour to honor William.
Wiliam W. Duck’s name as seen on the Vietnam Memorial.
Teacher Guy Race read the eulogy at the funeral about William and after the funeral the family wrote a letter to the editor thanking all of those who
stood by them in their time of trial.
Duck is one of 58,267 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. You can locate his name at Panel 27-Line 43.
Major William Duck gave his life serving his country. He had told his wife, his sister Peggy said, that he understood why this country was there to help the South Vietnamese.
William has missed a lot since his untimely death halfway around the world. His two daughters, who were too young to remember much about him, are grown and he would be doting over three grandchildren today.
His sister and her husband, Turner Hiers, have two daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; more children he could have enjoyed.
He has many nephews and nieces as well.
That is the tragedy of war and the reason we celebrate those like Maj. William Duke and nine other local men who died in Vietnam to protect our freedoms on Memorial Day.