Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, the day we honor our service men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. Tipton County’s sons have never shied away from conflict. They have answered the call and fought in every battle their country has asked them to. Vietnam was no different. The Vietnam War was a long, costly, and unpopular conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. By the time U.S. forces withdrew in 1973, more than 58,000 Americans, including 11 Tipton Countians had lost their lives.
This Memorial Day, we honor those 11 sons of Tipton County – three from Atoka, three from Brighton, four from Covington and one from Mason. The oldest was just 26 and the youngest two were 19. Their average age was 20. Only one was recorded as having married and a father. They were all in the prime of their lives.
Sergeant John Albert Hughlett
Sergeant John Albert Hughlett, U.S. Army, of Brighton, was the first Tipton Countian to die in Vietnam. He was killed on Nov. 8, 1965 in the province of Bien Hoa, just north of the Dong Nai Rover, after arriving in country just six months before on May, 4 1965.
Specialist Billy Clyde Alston
Brighton’s Billy Clyde Alston, an Army Specialist was a Light Weapons Infantryman and had been in country less than five months when he was killed at age 19 on April 15, 1969 by enemy fire in the province of Tay Ninh.
Sergeant Leroy Buford
Army Sgt. Leroy Buford of Atoka, enlisted in the Army on Oct. 13, 1965 for a three-year tour as an Infantry Operations and Intelligence Specialist. He arrived in Vietnam on Feb. 22, 1967 and has the distinction of being the oldest TiptonCountian to die in Vietnam and yet, he was only 26 years old when he was killed by rocket mortars on April 18, 1967 in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. The following memory was left on the page dedicated to Buford by retired Colonel Lawrence Brede, Jr. on June 15, 1999:
“I first met SGT Buford at Ft. Devens, MA, where he was a part of the training cadre for the newly formed 196th Light Infantry Brigade. I was then a Second Lieutenant and served as SGT Buford’s platoon leader. We formed and trained a Reconnaissance platoon for the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, which deployed to Vietnam in June of 1966. SGT Buford was one of our stalwart leaders in the platoon. He “led from the front” and always ensured that his men were prepared for battle. Perhaps more importantly, he maintained his sense of humor and contributed in a positive way to the morale of our unit under very difficult circumstances. After we were in Vietnam for about half of our tour, he along with several others from our seasoned unit were transferred to another unit so that we would not rotate back to the States at the same time. It was in that unit that SGT Buford gave his life for our country. While I do not know the circumstances of SGT Buford’s fatal engagement, I believe he fought to the last to protect his fellow soldiers–that was simply his makeup. I think of SGT Buford to this day and I can see his face with amazing clarity each time. He is an American hero who fought for what he believed to be right.” – Colonel Lawrence Brede, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired.
Specialist Lonnie O’Neal Hill
Army Specialist 4 Lonnie O’Neal Hill of Atoka enlisted in the Army as a Light Weapons Infantryman and arrived in Vietnam on April 13, 1967. One of the youngest Tipton Countians to die in Vietnam, he was just 19 when he was killed in South Vietnam by small arms fire on Aug, 29, 1967, less than 4 months after he arrived.
Lance Corporal Billy Wayne Glass
Covington native, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Billy Wayne Glass, was 21 when he arrived in Vietnam on Sept. 19, 1969, a member of the 1st Mar Div., Co. C, 1st Bn. 1st Marines where he served as a rifleman. He was killed seven months to the day after his arrival on April 19, 1970 in the Quang Nam province.
Those who serve know that time does not erase the memories of those who served with you. On LCPL Glass’s page the following memory was left for him on April 14, 2006:
“34 years after your death, you are still remembered and honored by those who served with you in Vietnam. On Sunday, April 25th, 2004 the “Vietnam Wall Experience” was in Oceanside, Calif. and a man in his mid-fifties came to the information and assistance area to get help in locating your name on The Wall. As happens too frequently in combat, he didn’t know your full name but he had enough information that we were able to locate you on The Wall. He was with you when you were hit and after 34 years and 6 days he visited The Wall to pay his respects and to honor your memory. I did not get his name but I was touched by his emotional reaction to having seen your name and have the memories come flooding back.”
Lance Corporal Alfonso Augustus Webb
Marine Lance CorporalAlfonso Augustus Webb of Atoka, enlisted in the Marine Corps as a Mortarman and arrived in Vietnam on Sep. 13, 1968, a member of K Co. 3/1stMar. 1st Mar Div. He was just 20 years old when he died on April 26, 1969 in the Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.
Corporal Jimmy Dale Blalack
Army Corporal Jimmy Dale Blalack of Brighton, was a married 22-year-old and father of one when he arrived in Vietnam on Sept., 21, 1968 as a member of the 198th Lib, C Co., 1st Bn, 52nd Infantry. The son of Walter and Clara Blalack, the young corporal was killed in action a month later on Oct. 31, 1968 in the Quang Tin Province.
The following was posted on Nov. 19, 2002 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall website, by friend and fellow Vietnam veteran, L. John Babbitt for Blalack:
“I would like to offer sincere condolences [sic] to the family of Jimmy! I went thru basic training and AIT with Jimmy and we became good friends. We went to different outfits in Viet Nam, but I heard about Jimmy’s passing thru a friend. I remember he spoke with great love of his family & especially his wife. I believe Jimmy had a new daughter at the time and she should know her Father was a real hero and highly respected by myself and all others who knew him. I believe Jimmy is in Heaven with the Lord! May God Bless his family!”
Lance Corporal Jerry Wendell McCullough
LCPL Jerry Wendell McCullough of Covington, was a two-year veteran of the Marine Corps when he was killed by small arms gunfire on Sept. 16, 1966 in the Quang Tri province in South Vietnam. A rifleman attached to the 3rd Mar Div., B. Co., 1st Bn, 4th Marine Regiment, he was just 20 years old.
Specialist Ronald Gordon Smith
Army SP4 Ronald Gordon Smith of Covington, son of Dudley and Eura Smith, arrived in Vietnam on May 14, 1967 as a 19-year-old light weapons infantryman. He celebrated his 20th birthday on the fields of the Republic of Vietnam and drew his last breath at age 20 on Nov. 21, 1967 in a battle in the Quang Tin Province.
Private First Class Charles Sid Jackson
Marine Private First Class Charles Sid Jackson of Mason, arrived in Vietnam on Nov. 14, 1967 as a rifleman for 1st Mar. Div, F CO 2nd Bn, 5th Marines, the most decorated Marine Corps battalion. PFC Jackson was 10 days shy of his 21st birthday when he was killed by a mine on Feb. 3, 1968 in Hue City, Thua Thien Province.
Specialist James Alan Wilks
SP4 James Alan Wilks, USA, of Covington was a 21-year-old Army specialist fourth class with the 196th LIB, D Co., 2nd Bn., 1st Infantry and began his tour in Vietnam on May 16, 1969. He was killed in an explosion five months later on Oct. 27, 1969 in the Quang Tin Province.
As the years past, it becomes easier to forget the person behind the name, and so it falls on our shoulders; the legacyholders – the parents, spouses, children and siblings – to tell the story our soldiers can no longer tell. This Memorial Day, before you fire up the BBQ, take a moment to reflect on all of our fallen countrymen and women of all wars and the sacrifice they have made on our behalf. If not us, then who?
The Tipton County Museum has a veterans memorial honoring those who died in Vietnam as well as other wars and conflicts. Visit the museum at 751 Bert Johnston Ave. in Covington.