This story was originally published in the Tuesday, May 31, 2016 issue of the Boerne Star and is republished here with permission. www.boernestar.com.
By Carline Schwartz, News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Boerne resident Tyra Manning lost her husband, Air Force 1st Lt. Larry Hull, in 1971, when his plane was shot down over the Laotian jungle while flying a top-secret mission during the Vietnam War.
Manning wrote a book “Where the Water Meets the Sand,” detailing how she overcame that dark time in her life.
She met Larry while attending Texas Tech University in 1965 and both had dreams of finishing college. His was to be a pilot in the United States Air Force like his father and hers was to become a teacher like her mother. They were married in 1966 and in 1970 Larry earned his pilot wings. The couple had one daughter, Laura.
Larry was then deployed to Vietnam in July 1970. At the time he was getting ready to leave, Manning said she was still dealing with the loss of her father years earlier.
“I always knew Larry wanted to fly a plane in the Air Force and I supported that 100 percent,” Manning said. “It was his dream, just like mine was to be an educator. When it came time for him to go I became very distressed, but I didn’t tell him all about it. When he went to Vietnam, I just fell into a huge clinical depression and was seeing a psychiatrist while I was trying to go to school and take care of our baby.”
Ultimately, Manning’s doctor suggested she go to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In February 1971, Manning’s doctor came into her room and told her about Larry’s death.
“I’m so grateful, as I look back over my life that I was in a place where I wasn’t on my own when I got that news, but I was in a place where I had support,” Manning said.
Larry’s remains were not found until decades after his death, but at the time Manning had a memorial service for him in Seminole at their home church. She then went back to the clinic and was there for eight months.
She decided to stay in Topeka, where she earned her bachelors degree from Washburn University and raised her young daughter. Manning then got her first teaching job at a junior high school in Topeka and went on to earn her doctoral degree in education from the University of Kansas.
“Because of the help that I got, Laura and I were able to move on with our lives and I was able to have a very successful life and accomplish so many of the goals and promises Larry and I wanted to do,” Manning said.
Manning’s 40-year career in education included being superintendent of River Forrest District 90 in Illinois for 12 years, until she retired in 2004.
Manning noted that the Air Force paid for her treatment at the Menninger Clinic and said she always wanted to tell her story to help others.
“I wanted to be in a place where I could write this book, tell this story and advocate for mental health services for veterans,” Manning said. “So many of our veterans come home still suffering, from all wars, and their families are kind of silent. Wars affect soldiers and their families deeply.”
“I want families to have those kind of services, not just military families, but all families,” she added. “There is a stigma about mental illness in our country.”
Larry’s remains were discovered decades later in Laos and transported to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. In the fall of 2006 Manning and her daughter were flown there to accept their husband and father’s remains. Manning fulfilled her promise to Larry by having his remains buried at Arlington National Cemetery days later. Manning then explained where the title of her book came from.
“Back in that day, we sent cassettes back-and-forth, and he would say ‘get well and do what the doctors tell you’ and he would say ‘I’ll meet you in Hawaii at the beach where the water meets the sand,’” Manning recalled. “When my daughter and I went to Hawaii, the Air Force booked us in a hotel for military families and it was right on the beach, where the water meets the sand.”
The book was released earlier this month and is available in bookstores across the country.