Colleen Shine was 8 years old the last time she saw her father alive.
Lt. Col. Anthony Shine was taking off from the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in the fall of 1972 for his second tour of duty in Vietnam. He wouldn’t return for 24 years.
“My mom gives him the thumbs up and we kids waved and blew kisses as his plane flew overhead and into the wild blue yonder,” Shine said in a 2008 speech when a POW/MIA flag was raised in The Market Common.
Anthony Shine was declared missing in action on Dec. 2, 1972. His family spent the next 24 years wondering just what happened to him.
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That anguish and uncertainty ended in 1996, when some of Anthony Shine’s remains were recovered and he was given a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
Today, Colleen Shine continues advocating on behalf of the families of service men and women still missing in action or prisoners of war.
And even though Myrtle Beach Air Force Base has been closed for 20 years, Shine appreciates the organizers’ continued efforts to pay tribute to men like her father and keep the spirit of the old base alive.
“It’s about an ethic, I think,” Shine said.
Happy memories on the base
When the family was previously stationed on an air base along the Pacific Ocean, Shine remembered typhoons and other “craziness” being a regular occurrence. She asked what the Atlantic Ocean would bring before moving to Myrtle Beach.
“I pictured a beach with a fence around it,” Shine said.
What the young girl found were peaceful beaches perfect for taking Jeep rides with her father and brothers. The calm waters also gave the children an excuse to take their aluminum boat out, which led to an adventure with dolphins.
Shine even got to pet one out on the open ocean.
“I remember thinking they felt like sand paper,” she said.
The Shines didn’t live on the base, but four blocks south of Garden City Pier. Having sand in the backyard was great for the Olympics-themed parties Anthony Shine and his wife threw for other members of his squadron. Arm wrestling and discus throwing were a few of the contests, and the young Colleen made paper-mache medallions for the winners.
Continuing to act as a family
Shine has many fond memories of Myrtle Beach, but that doesn’t mean it was a perfect childhood. In a war as polarizing as the conflict in Vietnam, some people forgot to hate the battle but love the warrior.
Her mother, she said, was told she was married to a baby killer.
Still, Shine said the family atmosphere fostered with other members of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base continued after her father went missing in hostile territory.
A freedom tree and plaque was planted on the base in 1973, while Shine Avenue is dedicated to Anthony Shine.
“They continued to care about our family,” Colleen Shine said.
She’s happy the city didn’t turn the former base into a theme park, and that it still retains portions of its military past through parks, plaques and the freedom tree dedicated to her father.
Her family got closure, but there are still many that haven’t.
The Department of Defense lists approximately 1,652 American still missing or unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, according to the March 18 Status of the POW/MIA Issue on www.pow-miafamilies.org.
Shine has served with the National League of POW/MIA Families and supported other organizations that offer assistance to Vietnam veterans and their families.
She continues advocating for these families both to honor her father, and to help those who need peace.
“Partly, I do it for the past,” she said.