Doug Vaughn, Vance Shuler. William D. Brown, Richard Preston, Larry Turner, Bobby Van Brackle, Donald Singleton, Roger Jones, Phillip Jones, Al Payne, Robert F. Proctor, Dan Thompson, David M. Lovell, Ernest Harold Fowler, Jay C. Volker, Glen Dale Williams, Gary W. Jahn, Jimmy McLeod, Rick Gardner, Richard Hall, Harry Lee Boles, Sausto Tenen, Duane Swope, Larry S. Lucas, Ervin Nelson, Carlton Cooper, Robert Sharpe, Lowry Taylor Cuthbert, Alvin V. Thompson, Charles Henderson Jr., Bill Reed, Michael Stabach, Darner Carmichael, William B. Helms, Max Spencer, Charles Parsons, Elmer Glen Hickey, Lewis W. Gill, Russell Teet, Ray Carter Sr., Jim Carter, Tommy Carter, Bill Acebes Deborah Haymans, Jimmy Hurd, Donald Bennett, Albert George, Michael Wright, James Yawn, E. Paul Brodner, Mike Harden, William M. Fillers, Phillip Hodges, James M. Baumgardner, James D. Hostetler, James Francis Clark, Karen Odell.
Bob Proctor was among a number of Vietnam veterans to get a welcome home Tuesday during a Veterans Day observance at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill.
It was a first.
“This is the only time in the 50-odd years since (the war) that anyone has personally recognized me for my service,” said Proctor, a doctor who served with a Special Forces Medical Unit during from 1966 to 1967 and earned his combat medic badge. “The first time. It was welcome. It made me feel good.”
The family of Sergeant Harry Lee Boles were also on hand at Tuesday’s ceremony, which attracted hundreds to the park. Boles is one of three from Richmond Hill who didn’t make it back from the war. He was killed Oct. 3, 1969 in Kien Hoa, three months after he’d re-enlisted. It was his second tour in Vietnam.
“It brought flashbacks,” said Albirda Boles Meadows, after her brother’s name was called.
In all, 58,300 American service members were killed in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded in action, among them Phil Jones, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1990 after serving 25 years.
“I wish there was one thing we could learn,” said Jones, who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony honoring all veterans, but especially those who served in and during Vietnam. “And that’s to learn to peacefully coexist on this planet.”
Until then, a select few will continue to serve, Jones said, noting that out of a population of roughly 200 million during the Vietnam era, only about 9.1 million served in the military from 1964 to 1972, and of those only 2.7 million were in a combat zone.
Jones, who flew helicopters in Vietnam and was shot down five times, broke the numbers down further.
“Of that 2.7 million, only 50 percent of those people served in a combat environment and saw hostile fire,” he said. “So if you looked around at a normal gathering maybe those who served would be one in 100, but those who actually served in combat would be less than 100. All that data to say you’re special.”
Boles siblings – Albirda, Fristine Haynes, who was at Tuesday’s ceremony with her husband Patrick, Karin Boles, Sam Boles and cousin Beatrice Simmons – said Harry Lee Boles was special; both smart and gifted and he could create just about anything, from airplanes to bicycles.
“He was an artist,” Sam Boles Jr. said.
They also recalled the day they learned he’d been killed in Vietnam.
“I went under the bed for about three hours, they had to find me,” said Fristine, who was 8 at the time of her brother’s death.
Boles has a panel on the Vietnam Memorial Wall – panel 1W, row 33 – and his sisters and brother hope to someday have a place in the park named after their family, Boles Park, to put his medals, including a bronze star and purple heart.
Karen Boles ordered replacement medals after the originals were stolen from their father’s house some years ago. She said she recently found a letter in an Army duffel bag her father kept of Harry’s belongings – the last one she’d ever written her brother.
“I sat there as a grown woman and I cried,” she said.
They said Harry never forgot a Christmas or birthday and always answered letters. They also recalled the kindness of people like former postmaster Bobby Carpenter, who helped notify the family and then consoled their father after Harry’s death.
“Mr. Bobby came with two military men, Fristine and I were under the tree and we heard Daddy screaming at the top of his voice,” Karen said. “I’d never heard that before. That’s how we found out.”
Jones told the veterans and family members assembled at Tuesday’s ceremony – which concluded with a wreath laying ceremony at Veterans Memorial and taps – that people are running out of time to honor America’s older veterans.
“World War II guys are dying at a clip of about 10,000 a day,” Jones said. “Soon there will be very few left with us, and soon to be none left. Vietnam guys are dying at a rate of about 365 a day, and that number will likely increase with time. So if you see them, please say ‘hi folks,’ and thank them again for their service.”