7 Baylor alumni added to Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial
“I can’t think of any greater service that alumni and students of our university can provide than to serve our country in the military.”
Those were the words of Baylor President Linda Livingstone in March at a ceremony in which the names of seven Baylor alumni killed in action during the Vietnam War were added to the Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial. When it was dedicated in 2004, the Waco Vietnam Veterans Memorial was etched with the names of 64 McLennan County veterans who died while serving, but it was recently decided that, as temporary Wacoans, Baylor alumni should be added as well.
Family and friends of the men gathered near downtown Waco as a bugler played taps and the names of these seven were unveiled:
* Robert Russell Barnett, MA ’55 (Air Force) — Captain Barnett was a member of the 8th Bombardment Squadron. On April 7, 1966, the former Baylor football player was the pilot of a Martin Canberra Bomber (B-57B) on a mission over Laos when his aircraft crashed from hostile fire. His remains were not recovered until three years ago, and he was buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. After the ceremony, President Livingstone walked with Barnett’s family to a memorial lamppost along the path to McLane Stadium, where the family had erected a plaque in his honor.
* Lowell Edward Morgan, ’57 (Army) — Captain Morgan, a career Army officer, crashed at Gia Ray Mountain late at night while on an infrared reconnaissance mission. His OV-1C Mohawk aircraft was destroyed and Morgan was able to eject, but he was killed in the process.
* Benjamin Steve Fordham, BA ’66 (Marines) — Lieutenant Fordham arrived in Vietnam on Oct. 5, 1967, and was assigned as the platoon commander to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. During Operation Pegasus, his unit was at Hill 800, 10 kilometers west-northwest of the Khe Sanh Airfield, when they were mortared by hostile forces. Fordham died as a result of fragmentation wounds to the body.
* Jack A. Whetsel Jr. (Army) — Lieutenant Whetsel attended Baylor only briefly before enlisting in the military, but always planned to return and complete his degree. As a decorated young officer, he graduated in the top 10 from officer training school and received many awards as company commander. Tragically, the 22-year-old Whetsel lost his life in Vietnam and never returned to the university he loved. Whetsel served with Company B, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Whetsel’s name may be familiar to some Bears, as the Baylor basketball practice facility is named in his honor.
* William Thomas “Billy” Hale, BA ’66 (Marines) — Lieutenant Hale started his tour in Vietnam on Sept. 11, 1968. Less than a month later, Hale was the co-pilot of a CH-46A helicopter flying re-supply missions to the 5th and 7th Marine Regiments when his helicopter collided with another aircraft and exploded. The four crewmen and passengers on the CH-46A and the four-man crew on the UH-34D were all killed.
* Richard E. Latimer Jr. (Marine) –Lieutenant Latimer, who attended Baylor from 1962-65, was an aerial observer from HQ Company, HQ Battalion, 3d MARDIV FMF on an O1-G aircraft that was shot down by ground fire. Both he and the pilot died from the injuries and burns caused by the crash.
* Orville Curtis Rogers Jr., BBA ’67 (Marine) — Lieutenant Rogers arrived in Vietnam on June 5, 1970, and was assigned to 1st Marine Air Wing. He died of injuries when the CH-46A he was on was shot down by hostile forces during a recon extraction.
(Information provided by the Waco Citizens for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial.)
It’s an absolute honor to Baylor and to these veteran Bears to be included among resident Wacoan Vietnam veterans.
Sic ’em, Bears who serve!
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