Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — SP4 Robert Thomas Callan

Image source: The Wall of Faces, “Rob in Vietnam,” photographer unknown.

Memorial Day is America’s day to remember those who died in service to their country. Last year, I began what I hope will become a tradition, of remembering one of the many who paid “the last full measure” from the Mahoning Valley. In my post from last year, one of the comments remembered Robert Thomas Callan. I thought I would see what I could find and tell a bit of his story.

Robert was born on February 12, 1950, the son of Thomas and Anne Christoff Callan. He and his family were members of St. Dominic’s Church. His sister Nancy described him as “a quality person, so kind and generous and courteous and polite.” Elsewhere, his three sisters wrote: “In life, Bobby taught us to laugh, to ride a bike, to play football and how to open Christmas gifts before Christmas without anyone knowing we already saw our gifts.”  He was a Cardinal Mooney graduate. After high school he worked at the Republic Rubber Division of Aeroquip for a year before he was drafted by the Selective Service.

He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on April 14, 1970.  He held the rank of Specialist Four and was an Aircraft Maintenance Crewman attached to the 101st Airborne Division, 101st Aviation Battalion, C Company. He hoped to begin a carpentry apprenticeship after completing his tour of duty.

After returning from a leave to Hawaii on December 10, his helicopter crew was on a mission on December 16, 1970 when it came under hostile fire in Thua Thien Province in what was then South Vietnam. He was posted as a door gunner at the time, a vulnerable position. He died of wounds in the subsequent crash of the helicopter, his body being recovered and returned to Youngstown for burial. He lies at rest in Calvary Cemetery.

He was honored in death, being awarded the Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, and Vietnam Campaign Medals. His name appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel W6, Line 124. Robert Thomas Callan served with honor and died in that service. He is one of many from the Mahoning Valley who has done so. He, and they are worth honor this Memorial Day.

Who do you remember for their faithful service to country this Memorial Day?

We remember.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty

Life magazine, on June 27, 1969, ran a feature story titled  “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” The article ran ten pages and simply featured face after face, 242 in all, of Americans who died “in connection with the conflict in Vietnam” in one week. One of those faces was listed as “Patrick M. Hagerty, 19, Army, SP4, Youngstown, Ohio.” He was a field wireman and the picture in Life shows him on a pole, with safety belt and protective gloves, doing his work.

I came across the Life article searching for a story of one of those from Youngstown who died in Vietnam to remember on Memorial Day, the day this country sets aside to remember those who died in uniform in service to our country. According to the Virtual Wall, he is one of sixty-four from Youngstown who died in Vietnam.

Patrick Michael Hagerty was born on July 27, 1949 to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Hagerty who lived on N. Garland Avenue. He was a member of Immaculate Conception Church and attended East High School. He enlisted in the Army in September of 1966. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on August 11, 1968 as a field wireman. He was attached to the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, B Company.

On May 31, 1969 his unit was about 10 kilometers south of Kontum City, located in the central highlands of what was then South Vietnam, not too far from the borders of Laos and Cambodia. During a hostile action, he suffered multiple fragmentation wounds (wounds resulting from the fragments of an explosive device) which he did not survive.

He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. The Purple Heart is awarded for “Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces” Sadly, Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty, qualified. His name is engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial Panel W23 Line 27. At the Virtual Wall entry for PVT Patrick Michael Hagerty, you can see a virtual rubbing of his name on the memorial.

[After posting this article Patrick’s nephew pointed me to this comment about Patrick which may be found at The Wall of Faces under his name, possibly written by his Platoon Sergeant]:

I’ve tried to track down all of our Platoon, Patrick, and to post some small note of Remembrance…

You’re one of the last for me, although I visited you once again down in DC last month, for Veterans Day. I remember that you were assigned to my Platoon from another outfit, and that you were VERY ‘short’, possibly within two weeks of going back to The World. I recall that I asked if you wanted to become an RTO for awhile, and perhaps ‘coast’ a little, until we could get you sent back to the Rear…

You wanted no part of that, Patrick, and you took your assignment as part of Bravo’s flank security during our movement… When the contact ensued, you were in the middle of it all…

Everyone who reads this should know what a brave young man you were, Patrick, and a damned fine soldier as well.

See you soon,

He was 19 when he died. He enlisted and so chose to answer his country’s call. He represents both what is noble and tragic in war. His is only one of sixty-four Youngstown stories of those who died in Vietnam, and one of many more from Youngstown who died in America’s wars. Each one is worth remembering. I chose this Memorial Day weekend to remember Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty. Who do you remember?

We remember.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Memorial Day Parades

Parade Down Federal Street, circa 1940 / copyright Ohio Historical Society

Parade Down Federal Street, circa 1940 / copyright Ohio Historical Society

Memorial Day weekend. Time to fire up the grill if you haven’t already. Spring is coming to an end, the last frost is past and the gardens are going. And when I was a kid in Youngstown, we would make our way downtown to the Memorial Day Parade along what we then called Federal Street.

We usually found a place near the Home Savings and Loan building. The challenge was working your way in front of the tall people so you could see all the action.

Probably the most fun was to see and hear all the marching bands from the local high schools with the drum majors and majorettes twirling (and dropping) batons as they made their way down the street. There was lots of John Philips Sousa. Nothing says patriotism like his marches such as Stars and Stripes Forever.

There were the various veterans posts with men marching in their uniforms carrying American and veterans post flags. Of course this was fitting on a day when we honored the service of our military and those who died. Many of these were World War II and Korea veterans only fifteen to twenty years or so after these conflicts. My dad, who was an Army veteran from World War II would always stand a bit straighter, almost as if he was at attention. Maybe it was just pride.

Interspersed with these groups would be our local celebrities–the mayor and other local politicians riding in convertibles, and other local leaders. I always remember the pretty girls who would be perched on top of the back seats waving at the crowds.

As a small kid, it was always cool to see the police come by in both police cruisers and on motorcycles. And the fire department would always have at least one of their trucks in the parade sirens blaring.

There would be a mix of other groups as well. You would have dance groups dancing their way down Federal Street. There would be union locals with union officials in more convertibles, always carrying a sign with the local number and some slogan. There were ROTC units from Youngstown University and ethnic groups in costume

All this seems pretty tame fare by modern standards. But it was a great way to begin this day where we remembered those who served, and especially those who gave all for their country. Our patriotism was yet to be tempered by cynicism over our country’s involvement in Viet Nam. Our parents were members of “The Greatest Generation”.

We didn’t talk a great deal about those wars. Then as now, wars were terrible things and the most vivid memories were not ones easily revisited. But after the parade, we often went to a cemetery, to lay a wreath, to place a flag at a veteran’s grave, to remember. Years later, when my son was involved in Boy Scouts, his troop would place flags at all the graves of veterans at a local cemetery. When we finished, the place was abloom with flags. So many served.

But then it was often off to my grandparents until grandma passed in 1965. Cousins and uncles would be there for a big picnic in their big backyard. I remember how good the hot dogs were off the grill with relish and mustard. Then there was my grandmother’s potato salad. We topped off the day with the first fireworks of the summer at Idora Park. We’d often watch from Rocky Ridge, where we could see the fireworks over the trees.

School was almost finished for the year and Memorial Day got us thinking of all the fun things we liked to do in summer. Good memories of a simpler time.

[Want to read other “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts? Just click “On Youngstown” on the menu bar at the top of this page to read any or all in this series.]

Memorial Day 2014

I can’t think anyone currently serving in the U.S. military nor a veteran for whom I have less than the greatest respect. My father and uncle were World War 2 veterans and my uncle a career Navy man. My nephew is an Air Force Academy graduate who was just promoted to the rank of Colonel and will shortly move with his family to Okinawa, I believe for the third time. My father was incredibly proud of his service in Europe in a medical evac unit. It meant so much to arrange a veterans salute at his graveside service and the memory of my nephew in his dress uniform saluting him ramrod straight will forever be etched in my mind.

Arlington National Cemetery. Photo is in the public domain.

Arlington National Cemetery. Photo is in the public domain.

My nephew tells me the world is a far more dangerous place than most of us know, and that’s about all he can say about it. Those in our military have always known that, whether the threat is a bullet or bio-terrorism. We can sleep at night because of the vigilance of these people and the risks in which they place themselves to keep us safe, to preserve peace if possible, and to prepare for war if necessary. I am continually amazed at the stories of excellence, of courage, and of heroism that come from the ranks of those who are simply doing their duty to the very best of their ability. It seems so appropriate to pay tribute to those both living and those who have died, for this sacrifice.

It seems this Memorial Day that there are at least two ways beyond the moments of silence, the tributes, and the parades that we can honor these who truly deserve honor.

One is to clean up this mess in the Veterans Administration. In my father’s last years, I helped him secure various benefits he was qualified for as a veteran. What I found is that the people we dealt with were in fact deeply caring individuals who were embedded in a deeply dysfunctional bureaucracy. News revelations of recent weeks and the difficulties of veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to secure treatment in a timely fashion which is so crucial for healing in unconscionable.

The other is much longer range. Several years ago, I was in a somewhat tense dialogue with a friend with sons in the military because I had expressed on social media grave concern over decisions made in Iraq. This was perceived as not “supporting the boys”, including sons of his own serving in Iraq. I responded that it was precisely because I did care deeply and valued the service of these young men and women that I sought to exercise my responsibilities as a citizen. It is always the case with war that older leaders, mostly men, will make decisions that result in young people fighting and dying, or living with the memories of the brutality of war. I think we must honor the sacrifices of these men and women regardless of the wisdom of those who sent them there. But it seems the best way we honor those who train and prepare to put themselves in harm’s way is to never send them to this needlessly, nor with less than all they need to fight with effectiveness. Fool’s errands, and wars fought on the cheap dishonor those who serve and parades in a thousand small towns and large cities will never make up for that.

What I Like About May

I think May and October are my two favorite months of the year. Maybe in October I will write about that month, but what they both have in common in Columbus, where I live,  is that they are transition months between seasons, and warm but not hot or cold, mostly sunny rather than torrid or dreary.

Some of the things I like about May:

1. Green. Everything growing is such rich and fresh shades of green. This morning, looking out our kitchen windows at the maples on our tree lawn, my eye is caught by both the rich green and the sheen of the leaves. As summer passes, both of these fade.

2. I might complain about cutting it at times, but I love a rich, green lawn, and I actually do like the pleasant satisfaction of the difference, for a few days, an hour’s work makes.

3. Although it is distant from my own experience, I still love the conclusion of the school year and the activities associated with it–proms, graduations, parties. Just hope all the graduates party smart and stay safe!

4. Then there is the anticipation and planning of summer vacations!

5. Baseball. Diehards go to games in April. In May, you can enjoy being at a game where there is just a bit of coolness in the air and no blanket of humidity.

6. It’s also time for barbecues, where you don’t just grill, and rush into the house, but really enjoy good food off the grill in the open air.

7. It’s a great time for walks and hikes.

8. Sitting out in the evening and watching the neighborhood go by. In our neighborhood, it seems everyone is walking dogs and the variety of both is fun to watch.

9. Memorial Day parades. Mostly this is a childhood memory of city officials in convertibles, marching bands, veterans groups, and pretty girls!

10. The first fireworks of the season. In our town, this is the beginning of the buildup to Red, White, and Boom celebrating Independence Day. But from Memorial Day on, kids are shooting off fireworks, it seems, anticipating the big show!

What do you like about May?