PAWTUCKET OVERDUE FOR VIETNAM MEMORIAL
Fifty years is too long to wait.
On May 21st, 1966, Marine Lance Corporal Antonio Maciminio became the first of twenty one soldiers from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to perish in Vietnam.
Exactly fifty years later an inspiring gathering of family and friends of these fallen heroes plus numerous Vietnam and Korean veterans met at Pawtucket’s Slater Park to honor them at an event called 21 Heroes. Amazingly, forty three years after the last troops left Vietnam in 1973, thirteen of these heroes’ families were in attendance. Widows, brothers, sisters and even Maciminio’s daughter, Vicky SanSouci, who never met her father, read their loved ones’ names in a roll call designated as 21 Heroes. They added poignant, personal remembrances of these brave men who gave their lives in service to their country.
It is sadly ironic that while there is a generic scalloped shaped monument labelled simply, “Pawtucket Veterans Memorial” at one of the entrances to Slater Park, nowhere in the city is there a memorial which pays tribute to all of these brothers -in- arms. While there are scattered individual plaques and renamed streets throughout the neighborhoods where these men spent their youths, it is far past the time to create a permanent memorial.
The genesis of the May 21st gathering was the recent publication of a book titled, “They Heard The Bugle’s Call”, written by retired Pawtucket Times journalist and Vietnam veteran, Terry L. Nau. Through extensive research and interviews the author skillfully tells the story of not only these 21 men, but also the impact their deaths had on their families and friends. Nau paints a vivid, sometimes painful, portrait of how some of Pawtucket’s finest young men of that era met their fate in the quagmire which was Vietnam.
Nau’s efforts with his self published book, his third related to Vietnam, has evolved through social media into larger projects the first of which was the Slater Park gathering.
Nau’s work also led to the Pawtucket City Council and Mayor Donald Grebien’s official Proclamation of May 21st, 2016 as “21 Heroes Day”.
Nau is donating the first $1,000 in proceeds from the sale of his book as a start up fund to create a permanent memorial wall. It will now take further action by the Mayor and the City Council to turn this nascent, long overdue, dream into a reality. Nau has created a web presence called Pawtucket’s Vietnam War Heroes to continue his efforts.
The title of Nau’s book was gleaned from a portion of a poem titled, “If I Die”, written for his parents by Army Specialist 4th Class Normand Plante.
“Don’t cry for me now that I’m gone.
The bugle called and I heard its song…..”
Here, in order of their passing are the 21 Heroes:
Marine Lance Corporal Antonio Maciminio, Marine PFC Ronald Pierce, Army Spec4 Normand Plante, Marine 1st Lt. Charles Yaghoobian, Army Spec4 Raymond Michalopoulos, Army PFC Robert Renaud, Army Spec4William Moore III, Army Spec4 James Cavanaugh, Army Captain Robert O’Brien, Army Colonel Walter Pritchard, Marine Lance Corporal James William Dean, Marine 2nd Lt. John William Hulme III, Army 1st Lt. Thomas Patrick Gill III, Army Corporal Robert Taylor, Army PFC Edward John Vaillancourt, Army Spec4 Albert William Haslam, Army Brig. Gen. Carroll Edward Adams Jr., Army Spec4 Valentino La Scola Jr., Army Spec4 John Francis Maloney, Army 1st Lt. Richard Stephen Dyer and Army 1st Lt. Michael Moran Dalton.
I was classmates of three of these men and as a Vietnam era veteran I still remember how the news of their deaths resonated in my soul even as I served 9,500 miles away in Alaska.
It is time for the City of Pawtucket to re-unite these 21 Heroes in spirit.
Fifty years is too long to wait.