Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Tom Feeley And Mike Brody’s Memorial Day Tale

As Memorial Day approaches, longtime Westporter Tom Feeley writes:

It was 1945. The war in Germany was almost over. But SFC Mike Brody and the POWs did not know it.

Fast forward to 1973. I moved from San Francisco to Westport. As a Vietnam veteran, I joined VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 VFW. I walked in the Memorial Day parade, attended the solemn Veterans Day ceremony, and made a bunch of new WWII NCO friends with CIBs, even a Silver Star.

My left shoulder had the Third Infantry Division Patch from 1/15 INF CAN DO, so I was real good with the WWII guys. I also led Audie Murphy’s platoon.

Junior Bieling

Westport veteran and Silver Star awardee Junior Bieling usually wore a coat over his uniform to hide his medal, out of modesty. He owned JR’s Hot Dog Stand.

I busted his chops: “You should be very proud. If an enlisted man earns a Silver Star, he really earned it.”

“Not too many officers would say that,” he replied.

On Fridays if I went in for a dog, I left smashed on his vodka screwdrivers. “Tom, the booze is on the house, but ya gotta pay for the dogs!”

There was also a burly Tech SFC Mike Brody, with ribbons and a CIB. He was from Brooklyn. I’m from Queens, with Brooklyn friends, so we became buddies. We ran into each other at the beach occasionally, and chatted.

He was almost 6 feet tall, built like a tanker. He had a contagious smile and a very quick wit.

The three of us hung out in the VFW bar after ceremonies or meetings. Those guys knew everyone.

Fast forward again, to 2000. I owned a boutique real estate firm. I had sold a beautiful modern home in Weston to inventor genius Bob Soloff and his wife Carol, also from Brooklyn. They held a beautiful catered open house for friends after the sale.

To my surprise, SFC Mike Brody showed up. We were a few hours into drinking when I asked Carol, ”Where do you know this guy Mike from?“

“He’s my little Jewish buddy from Brooklyn!” she said.

“What? Mike? Brody is a Jewish name?!”

In Jackson Heights you were Irish Catholic, Italian or Jewish, with a sprinkling of Protestants. We busted the Jews’ yarmulkes on Saturday, and they busted our Sunday ties or knickers.

Mike turned to Carol. “You’ve asked me about the war many times. I’ve had enough to drink that I’ll finally share my story with you and Tom.”

He continued:

“We were laying field radio wire, got encircled, captured and put in a concentration camp. I was a platoon sergeant, so I had some freedom to move about and interact with guards. who randomly asked to see my dog tags.

World War II prisoner of war camp, in Germany.

“Months later a new slender guard showed up. He was quite different, because he didn’t walk his post bored. He was alert and interested in what was going on behind the fence.

“I saw him a lot, and tried to be nice. He asked me where I was from. When I said Brooklyn, his eyes lit up. He called me ‘Brooklyn!’ from then on.

“One day he was looking for me. He pointed to the far corner of the camp, for me to go there. With a corner post and a lamp pole, it was hidden from the guard towers. He put his index finger to his lips and in perfect English said, ‘Not a word! Give me your dog tags. Return here tomorrow after breakfast. Not a word!'”

“I figured with no tags, I was dead. The next day we met. He returned one tag on the long chain — missing the long chain. He said ‘tank treads,’ and disappeared.

Some dog tags identified soldiers as Jewish with an “H,” for “Hebrew.”

“The next day, everyone was lined up for dog tags. ‘Jews over here!’ The tag the guard had returned was badly scuffed and twisted, like it was run over by a tank. The ‘JUD’ in the lower right corner had been mangled off.

“All the Jews were separated, and never seen again.”

Mike later learned that the guard was an American college student. He had been visiting his grandparents when he was conscripted and placed in a concentration camp, where he could spy with his bilingual skills.

Mike freed the guard by telling rescuers that the kid was an American citizen, and that he had saved Mike’s life.

That’s just one out of countless stories that our veterans can tell. As they gather for tomorrow’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony — and meet at places like the VFW, to share memories, socialize and enjoy their lives — let’s not forget every man and woman who has served our country.

All gave some. Some gave all.

Roundup: Pro-Choice Protest, Mitzvah Day, Bathroom Humor …

News of a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in an important abortion case has sparked nationwide protests.

There’s one planned for 4 p.m. this Sunday — Mother’s Day — on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Organizers (DefenDemocracy of CT) expect a large turnout.


“Mitzvah,” loosely translated from Hebrew, means “good deed.”

Last Sunday, over 150 congregants of all ages showed up at Temple Israel to perform mitzvahs.

Among the donations:

  • 10,000 meals to Ukrainian refugees
  • 200 comfort bags to hospitalized children
  • Dozens of lap blankets, walker bags, potted plants, and centerpieces to Jewish Senior Services and Weston Senior Center
  • 100 blessing/toiletry bags to Bridgeport Rescue Mission
  • 12 lasagnas were baked and delivered to Homes with Hope
  • 100 bagged lunches to Gillespie Center
  • 30 Mother’s Day cards to women fighting breast cancer
  • 50 cards and letters to US service members and IDF lone soldiers,

It was truly a local — and global — Mitzvah Day.


Want to give Mom something different for Mothers Day weekend? (Psssst…it’s Sunday!)

Take her to join Anthony Zemba at Earthplace on Saturday (May 7, 8 to 10 a.m.). The avid birder/environmental analyst/soil scientist/certified ecologist will lead a group along the trails of the nature and wildlife sanctuary.

Anthony recently joined LandTech, the civil engineering and environmental science firm that’s underwriting the bird walk.

Among the probable wildlife: scarlet tanagers; wood thrush; pileated, red- bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers; indigo buntings, goldfinch and orioles.

Spots are limited. Click here to register, and for more information.

Calling all bird watchers: See the pileated woodpecker!


Staples was ranked #5 nationally (large schools division), in this year’s 100 Best Wise (Working In Support of Education) High Schools Teaching Personal Finance. It was the top finish for any Connecticut school.

The list and ceremony honor excellence in personal finance education. Congratulations to teachers Lenny Klein and Sarah White — and of course their very “wise” students.


Whether it’s a Broadway show or a Westport restaurant, women know the drill: There’s a longer wait for the women’s restroom than the men’s.

So Tammy Barry was relieved (ho ho) when she spotted this sign yesterday at Rye Ridge Deli:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Every problem has a solution. This one is simple. It doesn’t cost a cent.

Now let’s see it everywhere else in Westport too.


Westporters know that the Memorial Day parade is one of the best community events of the year. Those who stay afterward, for the ceremony on Veterans Green across from Town Hall, know that it is a moving and important way to honor those who gave their lives for our country.

That is the idea of the holiday, after all.

There’s another chance to pay tribute too. That morning (May 30, 7:45 a.m.), the Fire Department honors all who died in service to our nation, and the Westport firefighters who died in the line of duty.

All are welcome at fire headquarters on the Post Road.

Westport Fire Department headquarters,


Former Westporter Diane (Prezkop) Reed died in November, after a brief illness. She was 71.

Diane graduated from Staples High School in 1968. She participated in intermural sports, and wrote for the school newspaper Inklings and yearbook.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in English and a master’s in Counseling and Higher Education.

In 1972, Diane married Steven Reed. She began a career at UConn as a research associate, then became assistant director of research and data acquisition for the Institute of Social Inquiry at Storrs.

The couple’s careers took them to Ohio, where Diane worked as an analyst, project director, manager of research operations and operations manager. A final move took them to Michigan, where she worked as marketing group director and director of teleservices. She loved being a mentor and coach to her staff, and enjoyed social and golf activities at Indianwood Golf Club.

After her divorce= Diane created a consulting practice, developing and editing training curricula and coaching management teams. In 2005 Diane returned to Westport to enjoy her family, and pursue her writing.

Friends and family describe Diane as “sweet, witty, compassionate, generous and kind.” She loved literature, science, spectator sports, music and humanity as a whole.  She was an avid collector and supporter of local artisans and craftsmen. She was passionate about her family, lifelong learning, and creative writing.

Diane’s siblings were Edward of Seattle, Raymond of Westport, Carole Prescott of Madison, and the late Thomas Prezkop of Newburyport, Massachusetts.  She is survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces and great-nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate the lives of Diane and her brother Thomas Prezkop will be held June 29 at Waters Edge in Westbrook. Donations in her name may be made to the Westport Library.

Diane Prezkop Reed


Former Westporter Thomas Prezkop, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, died earlier this year, after a battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. He was 73.

Tom was raised, and taught himself to sail, here. That started a lifelong love for all things aquatic. He graduated from Staples High School in 1966.

In early 1971 he headed to St. Maarten. There he co-owned and restored a 108-foot ketch, which he chartered. He also managed restaurants, started an omelet café, and captained other boats.

In 1978, Tom settled in Massachusetts. He married his first wife, Linn Anderson, and had a son, Andrew

Tom’s second career was in mechanical design engineering. He worked for medical device companies before founding Andover Medical Development Group, to do component manufacturing. He operated AMDG for 35 years, fulfilling contracts with NASA, Boston Scientific and others.

Tom was a passionate sailor.  He was an expert angler, certified scuba diver, licensed pilot and professional cook. He also enjoyed snow skiing, surfing, water skiing barefoot, and golf. He could build and fix anything

Tom passed his patience, creativity and playfulness on to Andrew, in whom he fostered lifelong passions as a musician, athlete, craftsman, outdoorsman, adventurer and father.  He was overjoyed to be a grandfather to Avery and Luke.

In 1995, Tom and a friend rescued a fellow boater who had fallen overboard in Gloucester and been seriously injured by the propeller. Tom received a congressional commendation.

In addition to his wife, son, daughter-in-law Geneva Brion and grandchildren, he is survived by his sister Carole Prescott of Madison, and brothers Edward of Seattle and Raymond of Westport, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. He was pre-deceased by his sister Diane Reed of Westport.

There will be a celebration of life at Water’s Edge in Westbrook on June 29.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Ocean Foundation and the Kaplan Family Hospice House.

Thomas Prezkop


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a recent visitor to Berkeley Road.

Hey, a guy’s gotta eat!

(Photo/Jill Grayson)


And finally … in honor of Rye Ridge Deli’s new restroom policy (see above story): These are the 2 best bathroom songs I could find.

Memorial Day 2021: Tribute To A World War II Hero

Jay Walshon is a longtime Westporter. As Memorial Day nears, he memorializes his father — a World War II veteran — with these loving words:

On May 8, 27 days shy of his 96th birthday, my father Abraham Milton Walshon took his final breath on earth.

Forever he will be my hero.

During my 35 years in emergency medicine I’ve impacted thousands of families and helped save numerous lives. But all that pales in comparison to what my dad did. He helped save civilization from tyranny.

Whereas I worked within controlled confines of safe facilities, using disinfectants and sutures, he practiced in the office of heroism, laboring in mud, muck and mire, foxholes and entrenchments, under duress of bullets, bombs, grenades, and the mortar shells that took too many of his comrades and violated his flesh in 2 separate battles, earning him Purple Hearts among other distinctions of valor: a Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Oak Leaf Cluster, 5 Combat Stars, Occupation and Victory Medals.

Abraham Walshon’s medals

It was unnerving to learn that in one Nazi assault a mere twist of fate or divine intervention permitted the perpetuation of his lineage. My father’s unpublished cathartic memoir’s final punctuation mark forever silenced the unspeakable events of those years.

Captioning his youthful image gazing from page, the June 1943 Jefferson High School yearbook notes that “Milty’s” graduation intentions were Brooklyn College and photography. But by its June publication, my dad knew all that must wait. Like for so many of his youth, World War II interrupted personal plans and desires. He turned 18 on the 4th of that month.

One brother enlisted in Army Air Corps bomber reconnaissance in the Pacific. The other served Coast Guard in the Philippines. For my dad, Army infantry under General Dwight Eisenhower awaited.

Abraham Walshon, on his 1943 enlistment.

Noted by their Thunderbird shoulder sleeve insignia with “Semper Anticus” their motto, his 45th Division battled across Africa, Italy, France and Germany. Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and Rome represented places few tourists can comprehend. Asked later in life why not travel to Europe, he quipped there was no need. He’d seen enough on foot.

Educated under the GI Bill at Packard and Columbia for an unanticipated degree in accounting, my dad set a precedent: the first civilian promoted to deputy inspector general. Base commanders shivered upon his arrival to inspect accounting and procurement records. But any harsh veneer belied the tenderness that lay within.

Forgoing the power and prestige of position so many strive for, Dad prioritized his 68-year love affair with Dorothy and the family they created. He chose to resign the military, rather than uproot our lives to D.C. To my sister and me it never appeared a difficult or regretful decision.

Music filled our Brooklyn childhood home: Jolson, Dorsey, Ella, Satchmo, Steve & Edie, Judy, Barbra, Sammy and Sinatra (who my dad considered a personal friend, having once met him backstage). With his own “Sinatra-esque” vocals that brought him to clubs in NYC, accompanied by his untrained fingers caressing piano keys guided by his remarkable natural ear, our Bensonhurst dwelling was transformed in a fashion only music can do.

Strong, obstinate, sometimes impatient and abrasive (a byproduct of the Depression), proud to a fault, a king of the cha cha, Dad suffered no fools, and was intolerant of superficiality, frivolity, disloyalty or ostentation.  Despite his 5-9, 150-pound stature, he never backed down.

Abraham and Dorothy Walshon’s wedding.

Whereas many fathers emphasized popularity, power and fortune, the virtues of modesty, frugality tempered with generosity, and above all else family, became his guiding light – a wisdom obtained from his life being daily imperiled.

With tenderness at his core, and flowing creativity with generosity until his death, my dad gifted every single loved one a personalized poem recognizing each occasion. Each writing was unique, elegant, tender, permeated with love.  Going through his belongings, we discovered 4 binders titled “The Loving History of the Walshon Family in Poetry and Rhyme.” Each overflowed with every birthday, wedding, bar mitzvah and anniversary poem he wrote over 7 decades. That was my tough dad.

His photography aspiration ultimately “settled” for many “snapshots,” and a handful of 8mm reels capturing the joys of post-war family milestones – my first bath, a wedding, rides at Coney Island – all borne of one man’s personal celebration of survival, validation of freedom’s triumph, and perhaps a subconscious poke in Germany’s eye that we didn’t merely endure. We indeed prevailed.

Losing the love of his life, severing the 68-year earthly bond to my angelic mother Dorothy 4 years ago, irreparably damaged the spirit that ravages of war had only tarnished. Despite incredible strength for a nonagenarian, independence and a continued presence of mind, these past 4 were not easy or kind. The ravages of time ultimately succeeded where the Nazis had failed.

68 years of happy marriage.

As the Army buglers’s solemn melody embraced the mourners present, and I tearfully watched the flag-adorned coffin lowered beside his devoted love of 73 years, my only regret was not knowing them during their innocence of youth, predating the horrors and darkness that no child should witness, yet so many were forced to endure.

My dad was from a generation of boys who were steeled so that those who followed would not be forced to be. They embodied the true meaning of bravery, selflessness and sacrifice in order to make the world a place worth living for we who have followed. “Duty,” “valor,” a time when mere teenagers knew what was at stake and willingly offered the ultimate sacrifice – not one conscription amongst them. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are forever indebted to role models like my dad.

On this Memorial Day we honor, salute and remember the many who have served in freedom’s highest calling – my dad now among them. As for so many others, life will go on, but never the same.

As years pass, our Memorial Day parades may become perfunctory – replete with dogs, burgers, barbecues and beer.  Conversely, they should become increasingly meaningful. In April it was estimated that of the 6.1 million WWII veterans, a mere 100,000 remain living. In 5 years perhaps, only a handful of scores; in 10, none. My dad’s passing lessens that 100,000 by only one – but for my family, as for every other, that is an enormous “one.”

Abraham Milton Walshon is not just my hero – he was ours. I pray that his kind are never again needed.

Abraham Walshon (center) with his family (from left): granddaughter Megan, wife Dorothy, Megan’s husband Jason, grandson Zak, daughter-in-law Caroline and son Jay.

Memorial Day: A Service Member Speaks

Justin Polayes is a 2004 Staples High School graduate. Unlike many of his classmates, he entered the military. This Memorial Day, he reflects on that life — and this day.

As a kid in Westport, Memorial Day was a great time. I walked in the parade as a Little Leaguer, Boy Scout, Bedford Middle School band member, what have you.

The holiday was the start of when dinners moved to the back yard, and life happened at Compo Beach. It was a safe, happy, relaxing day, without much thought of its origins.

A classic Westport Mmeorial Day photo. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

In college the holiday was much of the same. It was about summer starting, and usually a road trip home for cookouts and to see family and friends. As a young adult I became a bit more aware of what Memorial Day means. I saw wreaths being laid, tributes on TV, and more on social media.

But it wasn’t until 2 years into my military career that Memorial Day really meant something for me.

My first holiday came in the middle of grueling training and selection. I used that extra day to sleep and rest some injuries.

However, by that second Memorial Day as an active duty member I had already lost friends in combat. It was like a light switch flipped. The entire meaning of the holiday changed. Cookouts and beach lounging were replaced with visiting graves and “memorial workouts” to honor my fallen brothers and sisters.

Justin Polayes (left) spent one Memorial Day on duty in East Africa.

While living in the United Kingdom, the difference between our Memorial Day and their Remembrance Day was noticeable. I lived in a great little town surrounded by families with little children. All the kids wore red poppy pins on their shirts. On Remembrance Day, most families without any military affiliation went to a national military cemetery or war memorial. At the very least almost everyone watched the queen lay a wreath at the Cenotaph (war memorial in London). Once their respects were paid, cookouts and garden parties could begin.

For the last 5 years I’ve been based in Washington D.C. I live only a few miles from Arlington National Cemetery. My Memorial Day tradition now isn’t parades or beach cookouts; it is paying respects to friends.

In lots 62 and 65 alone, my wife (who also served) and I have 19 friends and fellow service members laid to rest. Walking those hallowed grounds on Memorial Day is a true pleasure, something everyone should experience in their lifetime. Politics go out the window. Petty gripes and complaints about daily life mean nothing. You feel small in the face of so many white marble headstones.

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo/Justin Polayes)

There is nothing wrong with how Westport celebrates Memorial Day. However, as a former resident looking inward from afar it does seem the celebrations are more about what we have and not about what we lost.

Westporters have given their lives in service for this country since the founding of our country. A handful are still in harm’s way today. Please take a moment to remember those heroes this Memorial Day.

And please teach the younger generation why.

Youngsters play at Veteran’s Green, after Westport’s 2018 Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Lt. Col. Armas’ Compelling Memorial Day Video

On 9/11, Thomas Armas was a Marine. When the World Trade Center collapsed, most people ran for their lives. He ran toward it. Marines, he says simply, are trained to help.

Lt. Col. Armas went on to serve 3 tours of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last week, he told his story on our high school’s TV show, “Good Morning Staples.”

Videos featuring service members are a Memorial Day tradition at Staples. Students in TV Production class spend long hours interviewing; selecting photos and music, and weaving together a compelling, instructive film, which is shown in every class.

The iconic photo of Thomas Armas, carrying a wounded woman from the World Trade Center.

This year’s video is one of the best.

With gentle prodding from senior JJ Mathewson, Armas describes that day at Ground Zero, and life in war zones.

But just as compelling are his insights into what it all means.

“People don’t give their lives for their country,” Armas says. “They give it for their hometowns.” That means, he explains, that Americans should have fun on Memorial Day. Going to the beach, a ballgame or barbecue is exactly why men and women have given their lives: so we can enjoy life.

However, he adds, we also have an obligation to give back.

Lt. Col. Thomas Armas during his “Good Morning Staples” interview.

As a Rye native — growing up in an environment very similar to Westport — he “was given the best childhood a person could have.” He gave back what he could by joining the military. He tells Staples students they don’t have to do that — but they should find some way to contribute to their community and their country, using their time and talents to better the lives of others.

The Staples Media Lab’s 2012 Memorial Day video is vitally important. It’s well researched, loving produced and richly rewarding.

It takes less than 15 minutes to watch.

But the lessons may last a lifetime.

Click below to view:

Planting Flags, Unearthing History

A Westport parent writes:

Dan, thanks for sharing stories about Westport’s Vietnam veterans.  It is essential for younger generations to be reminded of the bravery and sacrifices of our own townspeople.

I have to share with you the sense of pride expressed by the Westport Boy Scouts who spent 4 hours yesterday distributing flags to the graves of veterans all over town.

The Scouts were proud to honor these brave men and women, whose sacrifices helped safeguard our nation and allow it to grow in prosperity and security.

Assumption Cemetery on Green’s Farms Road looks great, thanks to local Boy Scouts.

To me, it was an incredibly important reminder of how history comes alive for our young people, and how much they marvel at and appreciate the sacrifices of those who came before them. I thank the VFW and Scout leaders for giving them this opportunity.

Some newer Scouts were surprised to discover that such a large number of Westporters have served our country in the armed forces, and wondered how many untold stories could be shared with their generation.  The boys also were impressed to see the physical resting sites of Wheelers and Sherwoods, and the founders of Staples and Bedford, whose contributions also resonate so strongly in their everyday lives.

We will visit the Westport Historical Society to find more information to answer their questions. And hopefully, when we march tomorrow morning, the boys will have the chance to talk with the veterans who, because of their service to our nation, are able to participate in the well-earned festivities.

Memorial Day To-Do List

Things to do tomorrow:

  1. Go to Memorial Day parade.
  2. Watch veterans, cops, bugle corps, kids/grandkids/random kids march; cheer for all.
  3. Gather entire family. Go to Veteran’s Green opposite Town Hall; find grassy spot.
  4. Turn off cell phone. Listen to speeches.
  5. Really, really listen to speeches.
  6. Find a veteran. Thank him or her.
  7. Go home. Enjoy the rest of the day.
  8. Oh, yeah. Pause from time to time to reflect.

Al Hofacker’s Letters Home

Thursday’s post on Lance Corporal Tim Barmmer — the Staples grad killed in Vietnam — brought an email from Mary Gai.

Al Hofacker, in the 1969 Staples yearbook.

She remembers Al Hofacker. A member of Staples’ Class of 1969, he too served in Vietnam.

Al was more fortunate than Tim. He made it home.

Like Tim, Al’s letters home are available online (at Military.com). Here are some excerpts:

April 1, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, the party’s over. They’re sending me back out to the bush tomorrow. I’ll be at CAP 2-7-6. Lt. Grebenstein called me up on top of a bunker this morning and had me test fire a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. He wants me to take it out to CAP 6 and add some firepower.

The thing weighs a ton. You carry it in front of your chest held by a sling. It’s got a magazine that holds 12 HE (high explosive) grenades and you can fire it semi or auto. The Lieutenant’s sending a guy named Cooper out with me to carry my ammo. He’s REAL happy about that.

I’m not real crazy about going back out but I’ll take care of myself. Thanks for the care package with the stuff from Joyce in it. Tell her thanks. Remember staring tomorrow my address is CAP 2-7-6.

Big Al


April 4, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

Here we go again. We got hit by a couple of RPG rounds last night walking down this trail they call “Frag Alley”. The rounds went right through our column and exploded behind us, but we all turned and opened up on the trees. You couldn’t see anything, it was almost dark. I fired off two rounds from the auto-bloop and got tree bursts and had to cease-fire and just sit it out because I don’t have a sidearm.

A photo posted on the page with Al’s letters, on Military.com.

Nobody got hurt and we never found the dinks. But I got on the radio to 7th Company this morning and told them I wanted a rifle because the auto-bloop ain’t worth a damn anywhere there are trees. So they came and picked it up and now I’ve got a 16 again. There’s just too much bamboo out here.

Most of the guys here are pretty cool. I’m hanging in there. Would really like a hamburger right now. Take care, I’ll write soon.

Al The Kat


April 10, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

This afternoon we were out on patrol with Sgt. Tingen and we spotted 3 people sitting on a rice paddy dyke in green uniforms, two men and a woman. Our PF’s told us they were VC so we got behind them in a treeline without them seeing us.

Then Sgt. Tingen stood up and opened fire and we all opened up and killed all three. It kind of made me sick. They didn’t have weapons. Joe Nielson was with me and he’s been low all day. There was a lot of horsing around and joking about the whole thing that didn’t sit right with me. But when the PFs say they’re VC, you gotta take them at their word, cuz we sure as hell don’t know. And if they don’t have weapons on them right then, that doesn’t mean they won’t be shooting at you later.

There sure is a lot of B.S. over here. I hope 2nd CAG gets pulled out soon. Tell Jeff Hunn I appreciate the letters and I’m glad he’s been coming over to visit. He’s the only friend I have who hasn’t written me off as a dead guy.



April 23, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad

I’M OKAY! I’M FINE! I don’t know what you have heard or what you haven’t heard but I’M GOING TO BE OKAY! I’m at the Army 95th Evac Hospital in Danang with a small grenade fragment in my face, had a piece taken out of my scalp, and a few pieces in my leg, but I’m okay. I don’t want you to worry. I’m not crippled, I didn’t lose anything important. I didn’t lose anything period. I don’t know and nobody can seem to tell me if they notify next of kin when you get wounded, so I wanted to write and let you know I’m fine.

We got hit bad on frag alley 2 nights ago and we got our asses WAXED by about 4 or 5 VC who’d got into the bamboo around us when we were sitting around at our Charlie Pappa 1 (check point one) and they just started lobbing grenades in on us over the trees. Just handfuls of frags that kept going off. It was unbelievable. Just about everybody got hit. I got hit, Ward got hit, the Corpsman was running around with a piece in his stomach, Henkle got hit bad, one of the PF’s got his eye blown out. It was insane. We had about 4 walking wounded (including me) and about 4 stretcher cases and we had to go about a click to get up to Hiway 1 where they could bring choppers down to get us out. Sgt. Tingen wasn’t with us. He was with the Alpha team who ran a react for us. We got up there finally and two Hueys came down on the road about 20 minutes later and they had some Cobra gunships work over the place with miniguns.

So anyway, I’ve been probed and X-rayed and picked at and had my trousers cut off, but I’ll be out of here in a week or so. PLEASE DON’T WORRY. I’m just fine and the food sucks. I’ll write again soon.

Al The Kat

(To read all of Al Hofacker’s letters on Military.com, click here.)

Lance Corporal Timothy Barmmer, And The Vietnam Plaque

The World War I and II memorials across from Town Hall are impressive. This weekend — as we honor our veterans — they’ll get their well-deserved share of attention.

But nearby lies a smaller, less-noticed plaque. This one salutes 5 Westporters killed in Vietnam. Timothy M. Barmmer (Marine Corps), Michael B. Paquin and Stephen A. Shortall (Army) and Frederick M. Rader III and Francis A. Walsh (Air Force) are cited for their “honorable service in Southeast Asia, in the face of uncommon adversity.”

Westport’s Vietnam Memorial, opposite Town Hall.

In January 1968 — more than a year after arriving in  Vietman — Tim Barmmer wrote to his parents in Westport:

Listen, I’m sorry I’ve waited so long, but I went to Bangkok for 7 days, and when I got back we were pretty busy.

I guess you’ve heard a lot about Khe Sanh on the news & stuff, but DON’T WORRY! I’ll be honest, we’ve been getting hit with rocket & artillery every day, & they’ve surrounded us, but if you’ve seen the support we get, you’d feel as good as I do.

We have built a bunker so good, NOTHING could get through it — believe me.

Lance Corporal Tim Barmmer

We have jets bombing the area every 15 minutes, gunships, & B52 bombers every day. Feel a little better? I have not been SCRATCHED. The American flag flies atop our hole, unscathed!

We call ourselves the “glorious untouchables” and we’ve been put in for two more medals. How about that?

I’m pretty sure they’ll be pulling us out after all this is over, ’cause we’ve lost about 40 in a month — maybe we’ll go to Okinawa or something!

Bangkok was REALLY GREAT! I’m gonna go back there some day — met some really good people there. Thailand people are really friendly & good to Americans. It was terrific R&R!

I have a lot of work to do. Take care of yourself, and remember – I AM FINE — morale is terrific, and the guys are fighting their hearts out. Keep praying as I am, and we’ll keep fighting for you.

I made TV carrying a wounded News Coresspondent down the street — look for me on CBS! How about that?

Don’t worry, please. Give my love to all, and I’ll see you in 4 1/2 months. Love you all,

Two days later — on January 30, 1968 — Lance Corporal Timothy M. Barmmer was killed by enemy fire. He was 20 years old.

Tim Barmmer’s company.

A recon corpsman said, “He died in my arms. He died trying to get someone else in the bunker during incoming… Tim was literally throwing people in (the bunker).  Shrapnel got to him.”

Later, Tim’s parents received a letter from a woman named Viola Howes. Her son Roger had often written about Tim — his best friend, and someone who “made this place bearable.”

This time, Roger wrote about his best friend’s death. Viola wanted another mother to read Roger’s words:

Yesterday evening we were sitting in our bunker eating C rations and a rocket came in about 3 feet from it. Huck (Tim’s nickname), Doc, Mac and Zeke were outside heating chow. Huck tried to push them in like the big stupid loveable guy he was and took the blast and was killed instantly. The other 3 are in serious condition and sent back to the States.

My God, what a dear friend we’ve lost, Huck was big and big hearted, he could be gruff yet gentle. We loved him like a brother and he left an impression that could never be forgotten. Everyone in our company could not help but like him. He was first to help a new guy coming in. He was the first one to welcome me here. This place can never be the same without him.

God has some purpose in it I know, but Oh God, we will miss him. Could you do me a very great favor and have a Mass said for Huck. His name is Timothy Barmmer. Thanks Mom, so much.”

Timothy Barmmer’s name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. It’s panel 35E, Row 65.

His name lives forever, too, in the much smaller — but no less significant — Vietnam veterans’ plaque opposite Town Hall, right here in Tim Barmmer’s hometown.

Happy Memorial Day 2010!

Eating and parade-watching at the Carpenters' on Myrtle Avenue.

Everyone takes part in Westport's Memorial Day parade: veterans, marching bands, civic organizations, young athletes, church groups -- and the town's septic education task force.

America's Memorial Day meets the global economy.

At the Memorial Day ceremony (from left): First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, and grand marshals George Marks Jr. and Sr. (though it's hard to tell which is which).

Staples bugler Cameron Bruce plays "Taps" at the Memorial Day service.