Honoring the Fallen: Author salutes Pawtucket residents who died in Vietnam War

Published in Senior Digest, May 2016

For over 30 years, Terry Nau served as sports editor of the Pawtucket Times. When Nau retired in 2012, the seasoned newspaperman did not miss the daily grind of working full-time but soon learned that he missed writing. With free time on his hands, Nau began to write about a part of his life that he had buried for 40 years – his stint in Vietnam as an artilleryman in 1967-68. In his first four years of retirement, the former sports writer would self-publish three books about the Vietnam War.

In 2013, the retiree produced his first book, which dealt with being drafted out of college in 1966 and finding himself in Vietnam by September 1967 for a one-year tour with A Battery, 2/32 Field Artillery. This book, “Reluctant Soldier … Proud Veteran,” focused on his personal journey towards understanding the role Vietnam played in his life.

A Vietnam Veteran Remembers

For his second book, Nau, a Pennsylvania native, decided to write about the 15 students from his high school who died in Vietnam.

“In 2014, my high school’s 50th reunion committee asked me to try and calculate the number of Vietnam veterans in my Class of 1965,” he said, “and from that project came my second book, ‘We Walked Right Into It: Pennsbury High and the Vietnam War.’ ”

A Pawtucket resident since 1982, Nau said, “It was only natural that I would follow up with a book on Pawtucket and its 21 Vietnam War casualties.” His latest book evolved into an oral history, told mostly through the words of surviving family members, friends and fellow soldiers.

“The courage these families showed became the underlying theme of ‘They Heard the Bugle’s Call: Pawtucket and the Vietnam War,’ Nau stated. “It was hard for them to talk about their fallen soldier but after a while, it seemed like they warmed to the idea of remembering these soldiers nearly 50 years after they died,” he said.

Celebrating the 50th

Nau’s latest book has triggered a movement to honor Pawtucket’s “21 Heroes.”

“Pawtucket must remember these courageous soldiers, beginning with its first casualty, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Antonio Maciminio, Jr., who died on May 21, 1966, Nau said, noting that the 20-year-old infantry soldier left a pregnant wife who gave birth to their daughter Vicky in October 1966. Two other soldiers from Pawtucket – Jack Hulme and Michael Dalton – would also die before they ever saw their sons,” Nau noted.

On Saturday, May 21, from noon-2p.m. at the Pavilion in Slater Memorial Park, the City of Pawtucket will honor its 21 Vietnam War casualties. Antonio J. Pires, Director of Administration for Mayor Donald Grebien, will speak on behalf of the city. A reading of the City Council resolution that declares May 21 as “21 Heroes Day” in Pawtucket will follow.

According to Nau, at least 13 of the 21 families will participate in a Roll Call ceremony that will highlight this event. Each soldier’s name will be called out, in the order they fell, beginning with Lance Corporal Maciminio and continuing through Army 1st Lieutenant Michael Dalton, who was the last city resident to die in the war, on June 9, 1971.

The city also plans to honor its surviving Vietnam War veterans with a “Welcome Home” salute from the audience. That will be the final note in an emotional ceremony.

“Vietnam veterans often came home by themselves from the war zone,” Nau said. “The welcome they received came from their parents, families and friends. And that was all they wanted. Over the years, our military leaders realized what a mistake it had been to send soldiers home alone, instead of in units. To have the City of Pawtucket honor our Vietnam veterans in the 50th anniversary of the war means a lot of these graying veterans.”

The May 21 ceremony will begin at noon with 30 minutes of socializing. The ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. and should conclude by 1:30 p.m., followed by another 30 minutes of socializing.

“Three of the soldiers’ widows will attend, arriving from Florida, California and New Jersey,” Nau said. “Cathy (Maciminio) Dumont is bringing her daughter Vicky, who turns 50 in October. Vicky will speak her father’s name in our Roll Call of heroes. Debbie Dalton and Ellen Hulme will also participate in the Roll Call.”

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For more information on this May 21 Slater Memorial event, email Nau at tnau3@cox.net or check out the Facebook page, “Pawtucket’s Vietnam War Heroes.”

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