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.”

FOUR SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY VVA CHAPTER 116

FOUR SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY CHAPTER 116

Veterans, the public, and citizens joined with Chapter 116 of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) for the presentation of the 2012 Vietnam Veterans of America Scholarships. The ceremony was held at 7:00 PM, Tuesday, July 10, at the Vietnam Memorial at Carter Park in Leominster.  Mrs. Helen Hill, Gold Star Mother, and Dan Joseph, Scholarship Chairman, presented scholarships to the sons and daughters of Vietnam veteran and one student from Leominster High School. All are attending college. Following the short program, there was refreshments at the Leominster Veteran Center, 100 West Street.

Dan Joseph, Scholarship Committee chairman and Treasurer of Chapter 116, Vietnam Veterans of America, said that the VVA, has for the last 29 years, presented more that $115,000 for higher education to sons and daughters of VVA members.  This successful annual project is the longest running project for VVA Chapter 116.

2012 Recipients are:

 
  • Olivia Bennett, the 2012 Legacy Award winner from Leominster High School. She will be attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute majoring in Biomedical Engineering.
 
  • Sean Toohey will continue his studies at Elms College, Chicopee, MA, majoring in History.
 
  • Jessica Simmons is a student at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, MA majoring in Human Services.
 
  • Mary Kate Simmons will be entering her senior year at Fitchburg State University majoring in Special Education.


MRS HILL AND 2012 VVA 116 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS

The Vietnam Veterans of America Scholarship is awarded annually to recognize, encourage, and contribute to the higher education of qualified Chapter 116 members children.  The Scholarship is presented to honor members of VVA who have devoted their energies in effecting positive change on behalf of all Americans.  Many Vietnam Veterans were unable to attend college because of circumstances and the very weak nature of the GI Bill available to veterans after their service.  Also, as a tribute to their continued service and to those who have lost their lives, this Scholarship program is in keeping with the spirit of VVA’s motto: “IN SERVICE TO AMERICA.”

RECIPIENT SEAN TOOHEY READS HIS ESSAY

VVA’s ambitious agenda has always aimed to find creative, pragmatic solutions to the programmatic concerns of Vietnam-era veterans, their families, and the community.

 For more information visit our web site: http://firebase116.org, or contact Richard Earley, President VVA Chapter 116 at: rsail1@hotmail.com

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

Welcome Home Brothers – Rest in Peace

Airmen Missing from Vietnam War Identified

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

           Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling of Phoenix will be buried June 15 at Arlington National Cemetery. There will be a group burial honoring Walling and fellow crew member, Maj. Aado Kommendant of Lakewood, N.J., at Arlington National Cemetery, on Aug. 8 — the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.

           On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

           In 1992, a joint United States-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site. In 1994, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Wallings name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again. Human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

           Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA which matched Wallings living sister in the identification of the remains.

           For additional information on the Defense Departments mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1420.

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.