Oakridge Oregon Memorial
OAK RIDGE HONORS FALLEN HERO
Tribute: Max Yabes is one of only, 11 Oregonians to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
By Eric Mortenson
Oakridge - The 1st sergeant is home. Maximo Yabes, the hero Oakridge nearly forgot, was honored on Veterans Day as 200 townspeople and military dignitaries dedicated a memorial to him in Greenwaters Park, just outside town along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. A brand new American flag snapped in the breeze, two jets from the Oregon Air National Guard streaked overhead, the Oakridge High School band played "God Bless America" and video cameras sprouted from a dozen shoulders as a bronze bust of one of only 11 Oregonians to win the Congressional Medal of Honor was unveiled. The only thing missing was a can of Olympia beer, the official drink of Oakridge's Java Joes, as the group of high school friends to which Max Yabes belonged called themselves. Ray Agee, also one of the old JJs, joked that he'd have to bring a can out to the park. Of course, Yabes was missing, too, because he was killed in Vietnam on 26 Feb 1967, at age 34. In a way, it was like Yabes disappeared when he dropped out of Oakridge High School in 1950, and he didn't make it back home until Friday. "It's like it was all meant to be," said his son, Greg Filter, who traveled from Dayton TN for the ceremony. "It means a lot to me," said Yabes' daughter, Kayla Papaylannis of San Francisco. "It's sure nice to see his face." "This is where he belongs," said Sharon Carlisle of Eugene, their mother and Yabes' first wife. "This river's his, and this community's his."
It took a community wide effort to bring Yabes home. After a story about Yabes appeared in the Register-Guard in February, a group of American Legion members, state veterans services workers and Yabes' Java Joe friends go together and decided, in effect" We've got a Medal of Honor winner from this town and nothing to show for it. We've got to do something. So they did. Headed by Robert Anderson and Don Crist, dozens of individuals, businesses and organizations donated time, money, labor and supplies to build the memorial, which features a fountain and flag pole and the bronze bust set on a handsome granite pedestal. Engraved on the base are the details of Yabes' Medal of Honor exploits: He was a 1st sergeant in the U.S. Army when his company was attacked at night by a Viet Cong force that outnumbered them by perhaps 4-to-1. When enemy grenades landed within the command post bunker, Yabes shielded others with his body and painfully wounded. He remained in the bunker, providing covering fire as the command group evacuated. He picked up a grenade launcher from a fallen comrade and fired point-blank into the attack Viet Cong, temporarily stopping the assault. Noting two wounded men in an exposed area, he dragged them to safety, then continued his deadly fire. When an enemy machine gun crew threatened the U.S. position, he dashed across exposed ground, killed the crew, destroyed the weapon and fell mortally wounded. "He sacrificed himself to save his men." said Stanley Adams of Bend, who won the Medal of Honor during the Korean War and was one of several speakers during the ceremony Friday. Col. Norman Hoffman, assistant adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard, noted that the United States has only 2,642 Medal of Honor recipients among the millions who have served in the armed forces since the medal was created 130 years ago.
"No one wins the Medal of Honor, it is not a competition," Hoffman said. "It is awarded by a grateful nation. Max Yabes is one of America's greatest heroes." The sculptor who created the memorial, Tim Outman of McKenzie Bridge, said he felt he came to know Yabes as the work progressed. "It really was an honor to do this," Outman said. Greg Filter told the crowd that his father's time in Oakridge was probably the happiest of his life. He expressed the family's heartfelt thanks for the work involved in building the memorial in the park. "It's peaceful here," he said. (The Register-Guard, Eugene OR, unknown date)