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August 23, 2019 - 3:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in notre dame high school, Vietnam, batavia, alexander, veterans.

Above, Marine veteran and former Batavia resident Jim Heatherman. Photo courtesy of Jim Heatherman.

Editor's Note: Eighteen days apart in 1968 two 1964 Notre Dame High School graduates were killed in Vietnam. Today, on the 51st anniversary of one of their deaths, their classmate and fellow Vietnam vet Jim Heatherman remembers them and wishes he got to know them better.

Story by Jim Heatherman.

It has been 50 years since I was a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam. It doesn’t seem like it but it’s true. Longer still since I graduated from Notre Dame High School in Batavia. I think of those days often. Notre Dame was a fine school but certainly not heaven on Earth.

My friends and I were by no means angels when we went to school there. I remember helping to make hydrogen sulphide in the chemistry lab, which permeated the entire school with the smell of rotten eggs and nearly caused an evacuation.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a proud graduate of Notre Dame in 1964, a college graduate later, and a Marine Vietnam combat veteran later still.

Many of my family grew up, lived, and died in Batavia. My brother, Pat, and I regularly visit their gravesites although I now live in Tulsa, Okla. My friend, Dave Reilly, has written wonder articles for The Batavian reminiscing those youthful days in Batavia.

Incidentally, we older people think in our minds and hearts that we are still young people living back in the 1960s. We try to ignore the pains in our knees...and, well, everywhere else, too.

I don’t think we spent much time thinking of the world situation including Vietnam when we were in high school. We were accepting our role as average teenagers thinking mostly of driving, girls, and sports. Since most of the girls didn’t particularly care for us we were able to focus mostly on the other two things.

Of course there were other guys in our class who were better looking, smarter, and all around cooler than we were and they got the girls. I wonder whatever happened to them. And then we had other classmates who were not members of our group and we didn’t think much about knowing them at all.

One of them was Daniel Bermingham (inset photo, left), who I remember as a pleasant person but not particularly cool...like we thought we were. (He was killed on Aug. 23, 1968 in Vietnam.)

Another was Thomas Welker (inset photo, below right), who with others was bussed into Notre Dame daily from a farm community.

Like Dan, Tom was an outsider to our group and we hardly got to know him. Unfortunately that did not change through four years of high school. I’d like to think that we are now wiser than we were then. That is our blessing but it is also our curse.

Well I graduated from Notre Dame, went on to college and joined a Naval ROTC unit. When I graduated from college I was happily commissioned a Marine 2nd Lieutenant. I come from a Marine Corps family so that result was expected and inevitable.

After additional training at Quantico, Va., I got orders to WESTPAC Ground Forces. That meant Vietnam, of course. I was fortunate to survive my combat tour in Vietnam as an infantry platoon commander and battalion staff officer.

I spent several more years in the Marine Corps and then returned to civilian life. I got married and had five children. They all went to Catholic school, too, and are all college graduates.

The four boys are Marine combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan, later became federal agents, and one is now a United States Attorney.

My daughter is a wonderful teacher in a Catholic school in Tulsa. I go there and mostly talk about Revolutionary and Civil War battles, although the kids want to talk about Vietnam, too. I have 15 grandchildren. I go to many, many sports events. I think often how blessed I am to have that family.

Then I think of Dan and Tom -- the guys that we never really got to know in high school. When most of us were happily running off to college in 1964 they were both preparing to join the Navy.

Dan became a member of a Naval Construction Force battalion -- the Seabees -- and was eventually sent to Vietnam. People in those positions rarely die in combat but Dan was killed.

He is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Batavia, only 50 yards from my grandparents. I want to visit there often and leave a memento.

Tom received medical training in the Navy and became a Corpsman. Eventually he was sent to Vietnam and, of course, assigned to a Marine infantry unit.

As a Marine myself, I can tell you that no one is more revered by the Marines they serve than the Navy Corpsmen. They are always known as “Doc.” Tom was killed on a patrol with the Marines he served. He is buried in Attica.

I read in an article that his mother never really recovered from the loss of her son. I’m sure she is not alone.

Looking back now, I think of two things. As a very fortunate head of a family of 27 people today, I think of the void and unfulfilled promise that was cut down for Tom and Dan and so many others in Vietnam. The wives, children, and grandchildren that never were. Also, as a wiser and a bit more humble person now, I think that just being the goofy teenagers we were in those days should not have been an excuse for not knowing and appreciating our Notre Dame classmates, Tom and Dan, more.

Yet I’m sure we are not alone either. Wouldn’t it be nice after all these years to have a do-over?

Inset photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

June 24, 2019 - 1:43pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Le Roy, news, Gary Scott Scholarship, Vietnam, veterans.

One deserving Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School senior will become the recipient of the Gary Scott Scholarship this Thursday, which will mark the 50th year of commemorating the life of this American hero.  

The namesake scholarship originated five decades ago in memory of Scott, who was a Le Roy native, distinguished ROTC graduate in Syracuse and Army lieutenant.

When Scott was presented with a choice of which branch of the Army he would join, he challenged himself to enter the infantry.

Scott felt this dangerous assignment would be worthwhile because he could prove himself to be an African American role model who created leadership opportunities for others.

Sadly, at age 22, Scott was killed in action during the Vietnam War when he sacrificed his life to save a fellow soldier.   

Scott’s Syracuse University classmates and friends established a scholarship fund at Le Roy High School to honor Scott’s memory and encourage graduates to embody Scott’s ambition, courage and dedication.

“What inspires me to keep this on and have for 50 years is that we want to give back ... to the Le Roy community that’s embraced the Scott family and to give back to the students that receive the award and inspire them,” said Jim Bruen, a founder and lead coordinator of the scholarship fund.

Previous award recipients, Scott’s high school and university classmates, friends and family members are coming from across the country to celebrate Scott’s story together. This year, $8,000 will be awarded to a new scholarship recipient.

To set the 50th year of this scholarship apart, Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School will host a dinner in Scott’s name in the school cafeteria at 5:30 p.m Thursday (June 27).

The scholarship will be presented afterward at the annual awards ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Bruen said, “Seeing the kids that come back that have received this award, it’s a very rewarding night for me and for others. It clearly encourages us to continue to do it.”

Bruen said that he and others who were close to Scott are comforted by the thought that the award recipients will achieve great things in the spirit of the local hero.

“Looking forward, I would like this scholarship to go on for another 50 years," Bruen said. "In order to do that, I would cherish and appreciate funding to the scholarship at the Le Roy High School. That way we can keep the message, the passion and the mission going.”

The scholarship founders are seeking additional support from the Le Roy community in order to fund the award in future years.

Bruen said that past award recipients and prospective donors are welcome to contact the high school for more information about the dinner, award ceremony and the Gary Scott Scholarship.

Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School is located at 9300 South Street Road, Le Roy. Phone is (585) 768-8131. Website is here.

Photos of Gary Scott provided by Rebecca LeClair.

March 29, 2016 - 4:57pm
posted by WBTA News in VA, Vietnam, veteran, war.

The VA Center in Batavia was host to a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War.
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The commemoration is being held in honor of Vietnam Veterans and their families including those held as prisoners of war or listed missing in action.

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Guest Speaker Mr. Vincent Schollard served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Navy Corpsman from 1966 to 1968.  

In a stirring speech he described what those who served in Vietnam had to come home to, “There was a cardboard sign in the window of a house sometimes saying "Welcome home Vet John or Mike" and the other people were still outside the airports with thier picket signs calling us baby killers, and what war criminals we were, and waiting with bags of dog crap, but we persevered and it's because of the Vietnam Veteran that the VA system got a better understanding of what PTSD really is...”

Schollard went onto speak of the exclusive brotherhood that he joined called the Vietnam Vets and how they have persevered not only through the horrors of War but in making many improvements to the VA system.

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Schollard received a standing ovation as he choked up delivering the last words of his speech, “We are a strong group of men and women and I'm deeply proud to be a part of that, and I thank you for your service, welcome home my brothers.”  

St. Joe’s Brass Ensemble of Batavia played a service medley tribute as members of various military divisions arose for their tune to be be honored.

Frank Panepento and Tom Cecere led a haunting rendition of Silver Taps to close out the ceremony.

VA representatives were on hand to field questions about the VA system and many of the opportunities that a number of Veteran’s are underutilizing or completely unaware of.  For more information on VA services visit www.va.gov 

 

February 9, 2009 - 4:00pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in veteran, war, Vietnam, documentary film.

Kenneth Herrmann, along with several of his students from SUNY Brockport, are part of a film on post-war Vietnam that will air at an upcoming festival in Beijing. That film, Going Back, is about "three vets who returned to Vietnam to do humanitarian work," including Herrmann, who is from East Pembroke.

From VietnamNet:

The film includes interviews with Herrmann and in-depth coverage of the Brockport students who are filmed saving the life of a very sick and disabled child, serving lepers at the leper colony in Da Nang Province, assisting the elderly in a nursing home, and engaging 30 disabled kids at a respite programme for Agent Orange disabled children.

The theme, says Herrmann, is one of enhanced Buddhism - making peace with yourself in order to make peace with the war.

"Herrmann's work differs from that of others in that he engages in direct aid," said Steven Emmanuel, the film's producer and a professor of philosophy at Virginia Wesleyan University. "He and his students form a personal connection with the people they serve. We tried to show this in the film."

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