Vietnam service members, their families to be honored Saturday

Published 2:27 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

Local unsung heroes from the Vietnam War and their families will be honored Saturday.

The event, commemorating the bravery and dedication of nearly a dozen of Jennings High and Jeff Davis high school alumni who served during the Vietnam War, begins at 9 a.m. at Knights of Columbus Hall at 17286 La.. 102, just north of the I-10 overpass in Jennings. It is open to the public.

Honorees will include Anthony “Tony” Reed (JHS Class of 1962); Richard Ingalls (JHS Class of 1967); Guy E. New (JHS Class of 1947); Wayne Milner (JHS Class of 1964),  Robert “Bob” Miller (JHS Class of 1964), Julo Theunissen (JHS Class of 1961): Fritz Huber (JHS Class of 1948) and Charles “Chuck” Dumas (JHS Class of 1957). Milner is the only surviving veteran among those to be honored.

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Recognition will also be given to Iris Harrington (JHS Class of 1967), and Danny Dean Hanks (JHS Class of 1968), who were killed in action and Leslie Daigle Plasterer (JHS Class of 1962), who was the only female sent from Jennings High School.

Cathy Mayfield (Class of 1968) is among a group of former JHS graduates, known as Brothers Beyond the Perimeter, who have been working to recognize what they consider the “most extraordinary, unsung heroes” of the war from the area.

“We want to make sure they were recognized because this little town had so many who served in Vietnam,” Mayfield said.

At least 108 young men and women from Jennings served in South Vietnam, most as volunteers, she said. Many of those returned with an array of awards for valor.

The ceremony is an opportunity for the local community to express their gratitude and respect for the valor and sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans, Mayfield said.

“I am not a military person, but so many of my classmates were in Vietnam,” she continued. “They felt they never were recognized when they came home and were treated poorly and ignored.”

Mayfield said most residents in Jennings had no idea what the troops were going through and what they faced after returning home. Many of those returning and their families were struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and the effects of agent orange, she said.

The highlight of the ceremony will be the unveiling of a new book chronicling the life and military service of the late Bob Miller to his surviving family members. Miller served alongside the legendary Lt. Col. Hal Moore during the Battle of the La Drang Valley, which was recreated in the Mel Gibson movie, “We Were Soldiers.”

The book, “A Duty to Serve: The Bob Miller Story,” is the fifth in a series of books the Jennings High School alumni have written and published about their classmates over the past four year.

The program will also include remarks by keynote speaker Rear Adm. Daniel Lestage, author Dave Precht, project leader John Semmes and David Marcantel. Music will be provided by Daxton Broussard.

Special medal, pin and book presentations will also be made to family members.