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Elwin Rox Shain
Elwin Rox Shain

Elwin Rox Shain

No. 1999127 August 1931 - 28 July 1968

Died: Vietnam
Interred: Iowa City, Iowa

HOW DO I REMEMBER MAJOR E. ROX SHAIN? I remember him as Rox the cadet and athlete . . . as Rox the devoted husband and father . . . and as Rox the officer and flier.

I knew Rox as the easygoing friend of classmates, teammates, and company mates. He came close to being the ideal cadet. He mastered cadet life in all its demanding facets. Military Aptitude and the Tactics Department provided him the chance to have the real Rox Shain stand up. He was a leader. He had the natural God-given characteristics of leadership. In his First Class year he was the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment. He is best remembered by company mates for his ability to combine leadership with friendship. He knew people and understood them. He was able to identify their problems or shortcomings and worked with people to help them overcome these deficiencies.

Rox the athlete competed successfully on both the Plebe teams and the A squads in football, basketball, and baseball. Rox brings life and meaning to a favorite passage of mine in the New Testament. In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he says, "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." He played by the rules and lived by the rules and he excelled while doing so.

He enjoyed the friendship and respect of all those who knew him. But there was an inner drive, a stern self-discipline that would not let friendly, easy-going Rox ever compromise his personal code in order to go along with the crowd.

He carried his athletic interests into his service career. In 1956 he was assigned to the newly established Air Force Academy where he instructed in the Physical Education Department and coached football and golf.

Many served with Rox the officer and flier. They knew of his love for flying and the Wild Blue Yonder. They knew of his devotion to duty, his genuine desire to serve.

Rox received his flight training at Kingston, North Carolina; Webb Air Force Base, Texas; and finished at Waco, Texas. He served as maintenance officer of the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, for three years and at the time of his death was serving as maintenance officer of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Vietnam. He was a veteran of more than 200 fighter bomber missions in Vietnam.

He was also assigned to the Office of Personnel, Headquarters, United States Air Force, in Washington. Following this tour he received his master's degree in business administration.

A friend suggested this thought of the man he served with. Rox was humble yet demanding. His men responded because of their respect for him, knowing full well that he demanded of them according to his own code. They knew he would always give more of himself than he would ask of others. His last scheduled mission was to be flown a few days before his return home. Typically, he refused to let another accept it. He would not compromise his sense of duty, permitting one standard for himself and demanding another of his men.

This final act of Major Shain, the flier and officer, was part of Rox that I saw as courage. Courage, very simply put, means "doing that which you must do." It is easy to believe in things and to talk about them, but it takes the real courage to be a DOER.

Rox typifies a statement attributed to Admiral "Bull" Halsey, made during the fighting of one of the great sea battles of World War II. He said, "There are no great leaders; there are just ordinary men who meet great challenges." Rox met each challenge . . . he played according to the rules . . . he finished the course.

And may we say, "WELL DONE, BE THOU AT PEACE."

Those who knew Rox knew his widow, Nancy, also. They had the storybook romance. They went steady during high school at Iowa City, courted at West Point, and were married at home the summer following graduation. Theirs was a bond of love that shared happiness, friendship, and fun as few others do. I cannot recall my cadet days without remembering Rox with Nancy. This love of two blossomed into a family of five. He is survived by his wife Nancy, daughters Christy and Sarah, and son Rox.

It must be helpful now to Nancy and her children to read these words from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . . love never ends."

And what is this love that lasted through years of courtship and marriage? The love I saw between them is best described in Paul's description of love as found in the same passage as the above. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right."

Though Rox is gone from our midst, he had left us a standard to live by. He leaves us with one other thought which helps to ease our sorrow and self-pity. I would like to read one of his favorite poems, written by Colonel David Marcus of the Class of 1924. It is typical that Rox should know our needs. He provides us with this final thought:

I am standing on the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails
to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until at length she
is only a ribbon of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
"There! She's gone!"
Gone where?
Gone from my side - that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight -
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me,
not in her, and just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
"There! She's gone!"
there are other voices ready to take up
the glad shout,
"There! She comes!"
and that is dying.
That is immortality.

— Eulogy by a classmate, given in a memorial service at the Cadet Chapel

Originally published in ASSEMBLY, Fall 1971

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