“Every day is Memorial Day on Burma Rim.” That’s how Greg Shine began his latest article. It gets even better as he tells us about a 1973 crash of a US Navy A-6A jet in the remote high desert of central Oregon. He took the photos that appear throughout the article, too. He loves to find a Decatur County connection and he found it for this story. He and wife Sarah are the parents of two sons.
Greg Shine, son of Sally and Bill Robbins of Greensburg and Jerry and Penny Shine of Anderson, graduated from GCHS in 1986 and from Wabash College in 1990. He attended Emory University for graduate work and earned his MA from San Francisco State University in 2000.
He’s written more than 30 features about history. How could we not be curious about these articles: “Lake Mammoth trackway reveals clues about Earth’s past,” “An incident at McLoughlin Canyon,” “How Floras Lake almost became the Atlantic City of the Pacific Coast.” Those titles gets my curiosity going.
Greg has had more than 27 years of experience working with our public lands and the stories and opportunities they represent. He serves as the Public Affairs Officer/Communications Specialist for Oregon and Washington State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. He explained that he helps people connect to more than 16.1 million acres of public land and resources in Oregon and Washington. When asked just what the job entails, he said, “My duties include speechwriter; communications lead on regional programs including Archaeology and Cultural Resources, Paleontology, Greater Sage-grouse, Wild Horse and Burro, and Rangeland issues; and advisor to the region’s eight Resource Advisory Councils.” He is also an FAA and Department of the Interior certified UAS/drone pilot, and serves as photographer, writer, editor, and a curator of digital and social media.
Greg hasn’t forgotten where he grew up. When writing the story about the 1973 plane crash of a US Navy A-6A in the remote high desert of central Oregon, he said he wanted to share a Decatur County connection to the story. He recently wrote about a 1973 plane crash, and while researching the story he learned that the pilot of the plane, Al Koehler, had gone to Luther College. “That rang a bell for me,” said Greg, “I knew that our close family friends, Bill and Lynda Smith, had also attended Luther. I reached out to Lynda, and she promptly replied. It turns out that Al had been in their 1968 graduating class at Luther! They sent me some photos of Al from their college yearbook, one of which I submitted to accompany the article.” He said he believes the photo adds a “compelling personal element to the story, as we had not been able to locate a photo of either of the two deceased aviators prior to their generous contribution. I’m so grateful they took the time to send it and the others, and I’m sure the readers appreciated it as well. I will add all of the photos to our research files for future use by any writers or historians, too.”
These few lines launch the story:
“Every day is Memorial Day on Burma Rim.
“The vast sagebrush sea of Oregon’s High Desert enchants and inspires, teasing revelation from deep within its silver-green majesty.
“This allure belies the events that, thousands of years ago, forged the craggy volcanic rocks at its core. Outside forces occasionally revisit the land’s cataclysmic birth, etching their mark and bursting open a portal to even broader human connection.
“Burma Rim is one of these places.
“There, on public land, miles from the nearest paved road leading to Christmas Valley, the remains of a Navy jet rest atop the edge of an ancient lakeshore escarpment, framed by sweeping vistas of sagebrush and rocky buttes.
“A plaque near the aircraft’s tail section honors the two naval aviators who died there.
“The flutter of fading American flags, attached in memorium to hulking sections of the decades-old aircraft wreckage, brings the only sound and motion to the static landscape.
“Where fire and havoc once raged, solitude now provokes reflection. Reflection on service and sacrifice. And on life, love, and loss.
“On Burma Rim, every day is Memorial Day.”
And then Greg tells us what happened and how it happened and the aftermath. It’s a great story.
It’s a captivating story written by our own Greg Shine.