Hundreds Gather To Honor Passing Of Oklahoma War Hero

Sunday, January 27th 2013, 11:36 pm
By: News 9

Sunday night we honor one of Oklahoma's own, whose memory lives on in history books and even movies.

James "Jake" McNiece died Monday. This weekend hundreds gathered in Ponca City to celebrate his amazing life.

The country asked a lot of McNeice. And the Army sergeant delivered each time.

"[He] never wanted the limelight on him, but he wanted the story told," said Jake's wife, Martha McNeice.

And an amazing story it was. McNeice was part of the famed 101st airborne. His unit, dubbed the "Filthy 13", gained famed partly due to video of soldiers putting war paint on each other before what many called a suicide mission: A drop behind enemy lines on D-Day.

The group inspired the popular 1967 movie "The Dirty Dozen", with Lee Marvin playing McNeice. McNeice was at the state capitol last September accepting the French Legion of Honor; the award presented to him for his role in liberating France from the Nazis.

"He handled it very humbly," said Martha.

But for all his war exploits, Jake's legacy also includes his dedication to family.

"I'm honored to have had 59 and half years," said Martha.

Martha holds her husband's red bandana in her hand, something he always had for his grandchildren.

"He'd wipe their noses with a red bandana handkerchief."

Martha reminded us that Jake also started a food program through his church, finding delight in each meal delivered. He was a man who served country and community, until he died at 93.

"He would always say ‘I'm not a hero. I'm a survivor.' And he spend most of his life helping other people," said Martha.