All gave some, some gave all."
Saturday was a perfect Fall day to honor eight men who gave all for their country. The sun was shining, the air cool and the dieing leaves ablaze with color.
That it took 40 years is both understandable and a shame. Among the lessons of the Vietnam War is that America has learned to separate the politics of war from support for our troops. Had we known that then, we wouldn't have called our returning vets baby killers and spat on them.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, keynote speaker at Oregon's Vietnam Memorial service, reminded the estimated crowd of 1,000 of that. She said, "Even as young men, they met the call of their country in a war that even America didn't understand. This is a ceremony that was long overdue...Today we celebrate lives that may have ended early, but these men will live on forever."
Rep. Kaptur was among the dignitaries to speak to families and soldiers who served with these eight. Others included Ohio State Senator Teresa Fedor, State Representative Matt Szollosi and Oregon Mayor Marge Brown.
The ceremony had special meaning for Mayor Brown. The new monument is located next to the memorial honoring Clay grads killed in World War II. These include her brother James TenEyck. She said to the vets in the crowd, "Thank you...for doing what you did to give us the right to do what we want to do today."
Both Sen. Fedor and Rep. Szollosi presented surviving families with proclamations. Szollosi apologized for all of us when he said, "I'm guilty as everyone for not remembering the sacrifices of these young men."
There were many other memorable moments including playing of Taps by Steven Swartz, the benediction by Chaplain Gene Shurtz, a Vietnam vet; the Honor Ride through the city by the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club and the thoughtful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Clay grad and Vietnam vet David Meyer. But, the moment that will stick with me as I return to my daily routine was the reading the names of the fallen by Jerry Eversman followed by ringing the solitary note of a bell after each name by Marine Master Sergeant Steve Kosinski.
The men honored included seven Clay grads and one Genoa grad. They were:
Arthur J. Heringhausen: This 18-year-old was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on November 20, 1968.
Heringhausen was a Specialist 4 with a Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) unit. While behind enemy lines, his unit was attacked by an overwhelming force. The Army's citation reads: "As the first man moved toward the pick-up zone, he was seriously wounded by enemy automatic weapons fire. Specialist Heringhausen immediately laid down a heavy volume of suppressive fire, so that the injured man could be pulled back into the hastily established perimeter. In doing so, Specialist Heringhausen continuously exposed himself to the enemy fire by firing from a kneeling position in order to make his fire more effective.
The citation goes on to describe more of the battle and his death from a Chinese Communist Claymore Mine. One helicopter door gunner estimated the unit killed more than 200 enemy soldiers with help from artillery and helicopter gun ships responding to a radio call for assistance. The unit lost four men.
The battle has been featured in a number of books including The Eyes of The Eagle by Gary Linderer.
Esiquio (Arnie) Cantu: This Bono resident was awarded the Bronze Star for valor for his actions while serving as a rifleman on a search and destroy mission.
His citation reads, "As the battle increased in intensity, the American unit sustained several casualties. Private First Class Cantu saw several comrades who lay wounded and exposed to the intense hostile fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, he crawled to the casualties and used his body as a shield against the Viet Cong fire as he treated their wounds. He then picked up one of the soldiers and carried him to an evacuation helicopter landing zone 50 meters to the rear. PFC Cantu made numerous trips through the insurgent fire to extract the casualties. As he moved toward the battle area to carry another wounded soldier to safety, he stepped on a well-concealed Viet Cong mine and was mortally wounded."
Gerald E. Corlett: Corlett lost his life in a fierce engagement while his company, on patrol between two mountains, encountered intense rifle fire from snipers.
Corlett was promoted posthumously to Corporal and awarded the Army Commendation Medal with First Oak Leaf Cluster for heroism.
Scott D. Corello: This Jerusalem Township man was assigned to the 41st Engineer Company and was last seen operating a barge on the Saigon River. Army coroner records list the cause of death as accidental drowning concluding Corello fell into the river and struck his head.
Joseph G. Gill: PFC Gill was in Vietnam less than six weeks when his tank was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.
Gill was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor. His citation reads, "One of the lead tanks in the armored column received a direct hit by a rocket round which caused the entire crew to be seriously wounded. With complete disregard for his personal safety, PFC Gill voluntarily advanced through the hail of hostile rounds toward the disabled vehicle so that he could use the tank's guns to maintain fire superiority over the hostile forces. PFC Gill fired his machine gun with such speed and accuracy, while he simultaneously assisted in loading the main gun, that the fire from the vehicle soon suppressed enemy activity to their front. For approximately 30 minutes, he continued his devastating fire until the vehicle was stuck by another round and he became mortally wounded.
Ervin E. Harris: Harris lost his life in a fierce two-day battle. Spec. 4 Harris was a radio telephone operator and, as such, he was a prime target for the enemy seeking to disrupt communications. Harris was awarded two Bronze Stars for valor for his actions in separate battles a month apart. In one battle, Harris's unit was advancing toward an enemy bunker under intense fire. The citation reads, "With complete disregard for his personal safety, Spec. Harris maneuvered through the hail of hostile rounds to maintain constant communication for his company commander and put forth suppressive automatic rifle fire. Spec. Harris climbed atop an armored personnel carrier and while placing devastating barrages on the insurgents, he was mortally wounded by enemy rocket-propelled grenade fire."
John M. Thayer: Airman First Class Thayer was in charge of an ammo dump at an Army Airfield. Thayer was killed when a large truck, which came around the corner of a building at night with its lights out, hit him.
John W. Vaughan: 2nd Lieutenant Vaughan was a passport and auditing officer in the US Army. He died when his plane crashed due to mechanical failure shortly after take off. He was a Genoa grad who lived on Pickle Road.
Jerry Eversman, a childhood neighbor of Art Heringhausen, and those who served on the Oregon Vietnam Memorial Committee deserve credit for leading the effort to honor these men. Eversman said, "I hope we started a lot of people on the road to healing."
The Oregon-Jerusalem Historical Society is seeking memorabilia for a military display. To donate items or contribute financially contact Eversman in the evening or on weekends at 419-266-7776 or OJHS at 419-693-7052. To learn more about those honored go to www.oregonvietnammemorial.com