Hill Street

By Karen Nugent TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

LEOMINSTER —  Throughout Helen Hill’s apartment, there are reminders of the handsome young soldier with the sparkling blue eyes.  Framed portraits hang on the wall and sit on tables. A teddy bear on the sofa plays electronic patriotic songs.

There’s the official letter from the Army offering condolences and describing her son as a “courageous soldier in this vast and most cruel of wars,” and Mrs. Hill, 89, has a yellow star designating her a Gold Star Mother — meaning a child was killed in action — on her clothing and in her front window.

Yet when her son, Pfc. David A. Hill, was killed in Vietnam in 1969, she and her husband, now deceased, had to keep their shades drawn to avoid hurtful, insensitive comments about his military service.

“We were getting calls from people saying, ‘Are you happy now that you got your son killed?’ It was so hard,” she said.

Her husband suggested leaving their hometown.

“We were just left to ourselves, but I did not get bitter. I just thought I would try and help the other veterans, and give of ourselves and work with them,” she said.

Despite the turmoil surrounding that war, Mrs. Hill at the time attempted to get city officials to name a street near where they lived in his honor. It wouldn’t have been much of a change: from Hill Street to David A. Hill Street. The earlier “Hill” name has no connection to the family.

They were refused, Mrs. Hill said.

“They called it a conflict not a war,” she said.

A renewed effort is under way, with the help of City Councilor Claire M. Freda, whose late husband also served in Vietnam.

Mrs. Hill

Helen Hill, 89, holds a photograph of her late son, Pfc. David A. Hill, as she stands on Hill Street. (T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG)

Mrs. Freda recently submitted a petition to the council to change the name of the street, near Pleasant Street, to David A. Hill Street. So far, it has not been acted on.

“It is simply a step to start the process, not to cause any hardships,” she said.

Mrs. Freda said some residents have already questioned if a name change would cause problems with mail delivery and property deeds.

“If a legal opinion says it would be difficult then I would ask that the street be dedicated with a sign on the street sign itself in David’s memory,” she said.

The street naming request was partially prompted by the recent naming of a park and a bridge in memory of Pfc. Jonathan Roberge, a Leominster native killed in Iraq in 2009 at age 22. Ceremonies and fundraisers for Pfc. Roberge have drawn hundreds, including state and local officials.

“That made me live my own heartache all over again, since it was the first military death in a long time,” Mrs. Hill said. “I am not envious — my heart goes out to the family — but I thought ‘shame on me for not doing something sooner for my son.’ I find some people still resent Vietnam veterans.”

According to the Leominster Veterans Services agency, Pfc. Hill, a Leominster High School graduate, was killed in action on Feb. 13, 1969, near Duc Pho, Vietnam. He was 21, and served with the Army Company C, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade. He was one of nine Leominster soldiers killed in action in Vietnam.

Richard N. Voutour, director of veterans services, said that besides Pfc. Roberge and the 10 fallen Vietnam War soldiers, one died in service in 1969 on a training mission in Virginia, and two men died while on active duty in the Gulf War in 2001.

Mrs. Hill said her son had just finished broadcasting school when he was drafted in June 1968. He went to Army training for a few months, came home in December and was sent to Vietnam in January 1969. He was shot in the arm a few weeks later, and the family thought he would be discharged.

He was sent back into combat and killed three weeks later.

“We got the news at 7 a.m. on Valentine’s Day,” Mrs. Hill said. “A very young minister who said it was his first time informing a family of a military death came with the Army car.”

Mrs. Freda said she wants to raise awareness of how Vietnam War veterans were treated.

“Other veterans did not acknowledge them. The support mechanisms are so much different now, maybe because 9-11 brought patriotism back. I had thought about getting that street name changed for a long time, and I watched Helen’s pain come back through the Roberge’s suffering.”

MISSING FROM VIETNAM WAR IDENTIFIED

WELCOME HOME – Joseph Christiano, Derrell B. Jeffords, Dennis L. Eilers, William K. Colwell, Arden K. Hassenger, Larry C. Thornton.

MISSING FROM VIETNAM WAR IDENTIFIED

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of six U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were recently identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Col. Joseph Christiano, 43, of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords, 40, of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers, 27, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell, 44, Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton, 33, Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be buried as a group July 9, in a single casket representing the entire crew, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

REST IN PEACE BROTHERS.

On Dec. 24, 1965, the crew was aboard an AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” that failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew. Following the crash, two days of search efforts for the aircraft and crew were unsuccessful.

In 1995, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a crash in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Local villagers recalled seeing a two-propeller aircraft, similar to an AC-47D, crash in December 1965. A local man found aircraft wreckage in a nearby field while farming, and led the team to that location. The team recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage at that time and recommended further investigative visits.

Joint U.S./L.P.D.R. investigation and recovery teams re-visited the site four times from 1999 to 2001. They conducted additional interviews with locals, recovered military equipment, and began an excavation. No human remains were recovered, so the excavation was suspended pending additional investigation.

In 2010, joint U.S./L.P.D.R. recovery teams again excavated the crash site. The team recovered human remains, personal items, and military equipment. Three additional excavations in 2011 recovered additional human remains and evidence. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental records and circumstantial evidence in the identification of their remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1420.

 

— America’s Military Women —

Celebrating National Women’s History Month 2012
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— America’s Military Women —
Experienced, Educated and Empowered

Women’s Memorial Foundation Releases 2012 Women’s History Month Kit

The Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation is proud to showcase America’s military women for the 15th consecutive year with the release of our 2012 Women’s History Month poster, America’s Military Women—Experienced, Educated and Empowered. Supporting the national Women’s History Month theme, Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment, this display quality poster is but a snapshot of the myriad of important and meaningful jobs performed by empowered military women everyday—all made possible by education and training. This poster represents the more than 405,600 Active Duty, Guard and Reserve women who serve today around the globe—professional, capable women leaders—who are making a difference for themselves, their communities, the nation and the world. The poster is sure to stimulate discussion about the evolution of women’s roles, the influence of education and the ever-growing prominence of women in all aspects of our society.

Accompanying the 2012 poster is our online Women’s History Month kit. The kit includes brief thumbnail sketches about the remarkable women featured in the poster as well as individual downloadable photos of each.

Also in the kit is a Tribute to Our Fallen Sisters, a chronological listing and tribute to the 144 women who have lost their lives in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. You’ll also find two special online exhibits. The first, A New Generation of Warriors, (also available as a downloadable feature article) is a recent look at the women serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The second online exhibit is The Baghdad Diaries, which features the personal e-mail correspondence of a Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant in the earlier years of the war in Iraq. Another element of the kit a feature article is about our Global War on Terror exhibit, which captures the activities of women warriors some five years into the wars. We’ve also included an article about the origin of Women’s History Month and an online resource guide to help you find more information about America’s remarkable military women, past and present.

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AMVETS

VFW

Many thanks to our generous sponsors, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) who’ve helped produce the poster and kit for nine consecutive years; the AMVETS (American Veterans) for the past eleven years; and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) joining us for the second year. Thanks to them, the poster is distributed free of charge to schools, libraries and veteran facilities across the nation and military installations worldwide.

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Click on the poster image to view thumbnail sketches of
the 28 women featured in the poster

                  The 2012 Online Women’s History Month Kit:

“Let the generations know that the women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.”

—Anne S. (Sosh) Brehm
1LT, USA NC, World War II

Annual Chapter 116 Meeting at the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Our Annual Meeting at the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial went well.  It was good to see and hang out with our Brothers.  We walked around the Place of Names taking time to remember our Fallen Brothers, stopping to pause and to remember our friends, relatives, neighbors, classmates and Brothers.  One thing I noticed was that we all seemed to touch their names when we talked about “These Brave Few”.  I personally felt a healing effect.  I know in my heart that Their deaths will never be in vain and that They will never be forgotten.

* firebase116.org would like to thank “the nice lady with a Chihuahua” for taking the photograph of all of us at the Memorial.

THE GODBEHERE PATROL (The Jere Beery Story)

THE GODBEHERE PATROL [The Jere Beery Story]

This 25 minute video is a 1992 rough-cut work-copy of a true story documentary film about the life and death struggle of 5 badly injured men ambushed by the Viet Cong in 1968. It is the intensely bloody, true, and untold story of combat on a river in the Mekong Delta as told by the men that where there.  You will hear the story of survival of a badly damaged PBR river patrol boat and her critically wounded crew.

ENDORSEMENT: “The intrepidity and courage of the Godbehere Patrol and the heroic story of the combat reported in this history had become legendary by the time I had become Commander of US Naval Forces, Vietnam, in September of 1968. The remarkable performance and the human tragedy involved in this experience are, in my judgment, most deserving of publication and of use in the production of a movie. It would be of great interest to the many millions who now understand the true nature of the Vietnam war and who increasingly revere the men who served in that war.” E. R. Zumwalt, Jr., Admiral, USN (Ret.)

STORYLINE: “Tonight we were under the command of one of our favorite officers, Lieutenant Richard Godbehere. The Lieutenant was in his early thirties and had been with River Section 511 for about eight months. During the period of time, the Lieutenant had encountered the Viet Cong many times, including having one boat shot out from under him, sunk. Because he was a “Mustang,” we all felt a little closer to him than some of the other officers, and his name ‘GOD-BE-HERE’ was considered good luck and sort of a divine blessing on our boats and our patrols”. I have recently decided to share this video at the request of many close friends and fellow veterans. This video is being shared with the full consent and permission of all parties appearing in the video.

For more information on THE GODBEHERE PATROL, visit: http://jerebeery.com/godbehere-patrol.