Brookline War Memorial
Daniel R. McKeever

Boatswain's Mate Daniel R. McKeever
United States Navy (1965-1969)

United States Navy (1775-present)

From time to time, residents strolling past the cannon along Brookline Boulevard at Queensboro Avenue might come across a thin, bearded man wearing a Navy Vietnam Veteran's cap, quietly toiling by himself inside the small parklet. He might be pushing a broom, working with a garden tool, holding a paint brush or retiring a flag. That person would be Dan McKeever, caretaker of the Veteran's Memorial.

Daniel Ray McKeever was born on July 15, 1946. His mother passed away in the hospital shortly after giving birth. A few months later Dan was adopted by his grandparents, Elsie M. and Lacy Scott McKeever. The family also included Aunt Genevieve Cochran and World War I veteran Uncle Clarence Ray.

Dan grew up in Scott Township and graduated from Chartiers Valley High School with the Class of 1965. Later that year he enlisted in the United States Navy. On December 26, 1965, he left home for the Great Lakes Naval Training Base. After training, McKeever received orders to report aboard the USS Charles Rorlan Ware (DD865), stationed at Mayport, Florida. His assignment was to the Boatswain's Mate Division.

                 

Aboard ship, a Boatswain's Mate trains, directs, and supervises personnel in ship's maintenance duties and in all activities relating to marlinspike, deck, boat seamanship, painting, upkeep of ship's external structure, rigging, deck equipment, and boats. The Boatswain's Mate takes charge of working parties, performs seamanship tasks, acts as petty officer-in-charge of picketboats, self-propelled barges, tugs, and other yard and district craft.

Bosuns, as they are commonly referred to, also serve in, or take charge of damage control parties. They operate and maintain equipment used in loading and unloading cargo, ammunition, fuel, and general stores. They are integral to ship's navigation and serve as ship's Helmsman and the ship's Lee Helmsman.

The USS Charles R. Ware left Mayport on February 21, 1967, for the Western Pacific and the war in Vietnam. Bosun's Mate McKeever passed through the Panama Canal when, for the first time in its many years of service, the USS Ware entered the Pacific Ocean. The ship soon became a member of the U.S. Seventh Fleet's Task Force 77.1 during "Operation Sea Dragon."

USS Charles R. Ware - 1967    USS Charles R. Ware - 1967
The USS Charles R. Ware underway off Oahu in August 1967.

Operation Sea Dragon was a series of American-led naval operations beginning in October 1966 to interdict sea lines of communications and supply going south from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, and to destroy land targets with naval gunfire. Targets included radar stations, boat repair facilities, bridges, and surface-to-air missile sites. By February 1967 raids were being conducted as far as 230 miles north of the DMZ to the 20th parallel.

Life aboard Sea Dragon destroyers proved stressful and tiring, yet morale consistently remained high. Crew morale was actually better, in fact, than morale on similar ships to the south. This resulted from a combination of frequent and true action by destroyer crewmen, immediate results from their efforts, and the possibility of being shot at by communist coastal defenses.

At the height of the operation in May 1967, two cruisers and twelve destroyers, including the USS Charles R. Ware, were assigned Sea Dragon missions. In nearly twenty missions conducted by the USS Charles R. Ware, 1080 rounds of ammunition were fired at enemy targets. On five occasions the enemy returned fire but no hits or casualties were sustained although shrapnel sprinkled the deck. The Ware and her crew spent ninety days in the combat zone.

USS Charles R. Ware - 1967
The USS Charles R. Ware approaching the USS Allen M. Sumner during Operation Sea Dragon in Spring 1967.

After three months in the war zone, the USS Charles R. Ware retired towards the Hawaiian Islands. On September 8, 1967, Bosun's Mate Dan McKeever crossed the equator for the first time and underwent the time-honored Navy tradition of Shellback Initiation. The Pollywog sailors are put on trial by King Neptune's Court. After a day of ritual hardships, the Pollywogs are declared Shellbacks and awarded a coveted certificate. Shortly afterwards, the USS Ware was back in the United States and Dan was home on leave.

While on leave, on October 10, 1967, Dan married his long-time girlfriend Helen Finnegan of Brookline, who he had met back in 1963. The couple settled in Jacksonville Beach, Florida in a rented home. After a brief honeymoon, Dan was back on the USS Ware and, in March 1968, headed into the Atlantic destined for the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. This deployment with the U.S. Middle East Force lasted until September 1968, during which time the USS Ware crossed the Equator six times.

The USS Charles R. Ware returned from the Middle Eastern duty and, beginning in January 1969, settled at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Bosun's Mate Dan McKeever left the Navy and returned home to his wife Helen in late-1969. The couple soon moved to Pittsburgh to start a new life, settling on Jacob Street in Brookline.

Dan took a job with the United States Postal Service on March 23, 1970. He and Helen had three children: Kevin, Tracey and Amy. Thirty-eight years later, on July 18, 2008, Dan celebrated his retirement from the Postal Service. This joyful occasion was sadly tempered by the recent loss of Tracey, who passed away just nine months earlier from cancer. She had one child, Dan's grandson Logan, born in 2006.

Dan McKeever has always been a man with a big heart, willing to do his best in a number of social causes. While still a postal employee in 1996, he started an aluminum can recycling program with the West Penn Hospital called "Cans For Burned Children," an initiative that he remains very involved with.

In 2009, Dan became a member of the American Legion Post #156 in Dormont and is now a life-member. Through the organization he became involved in some community activities. One of his favorite places in the neighborhood is the Veteran's Memorial on Brookline Boulevard, a small parklet maintained by the American Legion.

Dan McKeever    Dan McKeever
Dan working at the Triangle Park painting the sign in August 2014 and the railing in August 2019.

Dan McKeever    Dan McKeever
Dan at the Brookline Triangle Park painting the railing in August 2019.

Dan has adopted the park and become the official caretaker of the Veteran's Memorial. He can be seen, from time to time, pulling weeds, painting the sign, the railing or the cannon itself. He is responsible for the care of the U.S., POW/MIA and State flags, something very dear to his heart and done with proper care and respect by a proud Navy veteran.

Along with Joe Nellis, he also handles the upkeep and maintenance of the flags unfurled above the small parklet at the Whited/Jacob Street community welcome sign. It was Dan's idea, three years ago, to display the POW/MIA flag at the cannon and the State flag at Whited.

Today it is hard to imagine the being up by the cannon without the iconic black and white flag flying proudly below the Stars and Stripes, honoring all of our servicemen and women over the years who are missing or were captured and held by the enemy.

Always on the move in search of a good deed, Dan sponsored and worked the popular Fish Pond at the Resurrection Fun Flairs for many years. He also painted the sign at the entrance to Brookline Memorial Park and the McGibbeny Field sign back in the summer of 2016.

Dan McKeever    Dan McKeever
Dan speaking with Clint Burton at the unveiling of the new Brookline Honor Roll plaque on August 31, 2019.
To the right is Dan with Joe Nellis and State Representative Harry Readshaw.

Dan's latest community initiative has been the purchase of a decorative U.S. flag drop box which will be installed outside the Brookline Teen Outreach Center. The drop box is a convenient way for residents to discard used or worn American flags with the full knowledge that those flags will be properly disposed of by the Boy Scouts of Brookline's Troop #6.

The flag drop box is adorned with one of Dan's favorite veteran's phrases, "All Gave Some - Some Gave All." This motto is also an appropriate expression on Memorial Day, another time when Dan is busy honoring fellow veterans. Dan handles the flag lowering during the opening ceremony and participates in the parade, riding his blue-white-red Honda scooter with two attached patriotic flags.

The community of Brookline is fortunate to have civic-minded residents like Daniel Ray McKeever. It is he, and other dedicated volunteers like him, that help make this neighborhood a special place. Our country is fortunate to have people like Dan who serve in the armed forces. It is he, and other brave men and women like him, that help make the United States of America a beacon of freedom and liberty.

* Written by Clint Burton - February 20, 2020; Information provided by Dan McKeever *

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Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

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