Students at Bakersfield High School honored an alumnus on Friday. They held a moving tribute to a Navy Commander who disappeared over North Vietnam more than half a century ago.
Jim Mills vanished during the war, but earlier this week his remains were finally identified.
“We have an expression out here, it’s been around for decades: ‘once a Driller, always a Driller’” said Ken Hooper, History teacher at BCH.
Students honored the pilot by gathering outside warren hall waving American flags with posters welcoming mills home on what would have been his 78 birthday.
“We celebrate our people and this is how we’re doing it,” said Hooper. “We’re out here right now, we’ll be out here all day long with the students with the American flag and signs saying thank you to our vets.”
The students had an important message to our community:
“We’re trying to get them to recognize that he is home and he’s back to where he belongs because ‘one a driller, always a driller,” said Jasmine Mendoza, student at BHS.
According to relatives, Mills was a popular student. He served as Student Body Vice President and played football.
“The class of ’58 always talked about him,” said Hooper. “Here on campus, we have the distinguished privilege of having a memorial plaque that was dedicated in his honor to remember the fact that he was lost and not recovered over Vietnam.”
In 1966, flying on a mission over North Vietnam, Lieutenant Commander Mills went missing in action after his fighter went down.
“It’s important for us to recognize that a driller was in the war, and he did fight for us, so we just have to recognize the homecoming of him,” said Mendoza.
The honor was a daylong event. As students would head back to class, others would take their place.