Remembered ... at last: Duplin honors Vietnam heroes
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 2, 2008 2:00 AM
Edith Boney talks about the experience of losing her son, Allen Lewis Boney. He died in Vietnam May 14, 1970, at the age of 22.
Duplin County Historical Society president Dr. Charles Ingram tells the crowd how reading a newspaper column led him to identify all 19 known sons of Duplin who died in the Vietnam War. Ingram then set up Saturday’s ceremony and said a granite monument bearing the names of the fallen will soon be on the county courthouse lawn.
Jo Cameron Jones, a retired Duplin County teacher, remembered four of her students killed in action during Vietnam in her speech at the ceremony to honor Duplin County’s Vietnam war dead held Saturday in Kenansville.
Roland Hayes traveled from New York to remember his friend, William “Guy” Turner.
Sarah Demers talks about her first husband, Litchfield Huie, who also died in Vietnam.
KENANSVILLE -- Edith Boney wiped her eyes. She had been holding back tears for hours, but when "Taps" started blaring from an 82nd Airborne specialist's trumpet Saturday afternoon, her emotions got the best of her.
The solo marked the culmination of a ceremony meant to honor Duplin County's Vietnam War dead for the first time.
Mrs. Boney's 22-year-old son, Allen, was one of them.
"He was such a good boy," she said.
Maybe that is why he volunteered for that night patrol May 14, 1970, the one that left him fatally wounded when a booby-trapped mine exploded in Binh Dinh.
Taking a friend's place was just his way.
More than 300 people packed a building in Duplin Commons to honor Allen and the 18 other sons of their county who never made it home from Vietnam.
Sarah Demers traveled from New Hampshire to be among them.
She remembers the day a uniform-clad man delivered "shocking news."
Her husband, Litchfield Huie, had been lost at sea -- his helicopter torn apart off the coast of North Vietnam.
"When the knock came at my door, it was a pretty tough one," Mrs. Demers said. "It was so difficult to lose him. ... It was like a light when out."
And then there was Jo Jones, a James Kenan High School English teacher who lost four of her students in Southeast Asia.
She can still see Guy Turner, the "good looking young man with a lock of hair always falling on his forehead."
She can still feel the rain that fell the day of Warsaw's Veterans Day Parade in 1968, the day 18-year-old Charles Costin was laid to rest in Pinecrest Cemetery.
"That broke my heart," Mrs. Jones said. "It was as if heaven and the whole town were weeping over our young, teenage solider. And we were."
Costin was the young son of Duplin killed in Vietnam.
But until Saturday, his story -- and those of the 18 others from his county who shared his fate -- was unknown to all but those who knew him.
And it might have remained so, had it not been for Charles Ingram, president of the county Historical Society.
It started with a newspaper column -- a few words about patriotism followed by the names of the men then-believed to be the lone sons of Duplin who never made it home from Vietnam.
Ingram read it last fall, and put it down with a sense of obligation to honor them.
So he started doing research, hours of reading and writing that led to the discovery of several others who had been forgotten.
"It occurred to me that it might be a good thing for the Historical Society to do, honor those young men who died in Vietnam," Ingram said. "It just sort of mushroomed from there."
His original plan was to host a small ceremony, to pass out a pamphlet with the names and hometowns of each man.
He ended up with a 50-page book, and a three-hour tribute attended by enough people to fill a 300-seat room.
"It couldn't have turned out any better," Ingram said. "This is a truly special occasion."
He spearheaded the event because he, too, was among those who mourned during the war.
Several of the men were his high school classmates.
And so part of him has always felt guilty that he lived the life they dreamed of coming home to, but never did.
"I'm a Vietnam-era veteran, but I was on a ship, a destroyer out of Charleston, and didn't serve in the Western Pacific," Ingram said. "So I got to go to college. (Guy) Turner didn't. I got to get married. Charles Costin didn't."
The trumpet stopped playing and the crowd began to dissipate, but Roland Hayes still had some catching up to do.
He had traveled to Kenansville all the way from New York, to honor "a good guy," a "likable guy" -- and to spend some time with the family his comrade left behind.
"(Guy Turner) was quiet, but he did his job," Hayes said. "I was there the night he died."
It was July 8, 1968.
Accounts from those who witnessed Turner's death said the medic showed little regard for his own wounds as he worked to pull other fallen soldiers away from what Hayes described as "an ambush."
"He saved my life when I was hit with rocket fire, which took both of my legs. (He) got to me and stopped me from bleeding to death," said fellow soldier Gerald Enderle. "I never saw him again."
Neither did Hayes.
"It's embedded in my mind," he said. "You can't forget things like that."
But he admitted hearing his fellow soldiers honored Saturday helped ease some of the pain.
"It's great to see them recognized, Turner and all those other guys," Hayes said. "It's good to know they won't be forgotten."
Mrs. Demers agreed.
"It was so wonderful to see them honored in this way," she said. "It was just such a moving service."
Ingram's knows his work is far from complete.
The event he planned and executed surpassed his "wildest expectations," but a monument honoring the men still needs to be purchased and placed in front of the county courthouse.
And there are other generations of war fighters left to honor -- those who fought and died in Korea and World War II, those from Duplin who never made it home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are his causes now.
But he vowed never to forget those 19, the young men who were simply names to him before last fall.
Just as he knows those loved ones left behind will never forget.
"You never forget. I will never forget," Mrs. Demers said. "(My husband) getting killed, it will always be a part of who I am."
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