Rae Cheney couldn’t believe that her son had been killed in Vietnam.
She recalled her reaction upon hearing the news: “This can’t be true! He’s been in country for 17 days!”
In that short span of combat duty, Lt. Dan Cheney sacrificed his own life to help save the life of a fellow Army helicopter pilot. He was killed on Jan. 6, 1969.
During a ceremony Saturday, the Gold Star mother looked back on some of her own personal moments in her son’s Army career.
“I pinned his lieutenant’s bars on his shoulders. I pinned on his (pilot’s) wings. And I laid flowers on his grave.”
Cheney, a 1965 graduate of Columbia River High School, is among 58 Clark County servicemen who were killed or listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.
Their names are on a memorial that was dedicated Saturday on Vancouver’s Veterans Affairs campus.
More than 400 people packed a gymnasium near the memorial to reflect on the lives cut short during the war. Many of them were veterans of the conflict. Veterans Affairs officials distributed 200 lapel pins to Vietnam veterans at the event.
Allies also were recognized, including a contingent of uniformed South Vietnamese military veterans. There also was a group of Laotians who had assisted U.S. efforts through covert operations.
The 58 military servicemen listed on the Clark County memorial are part of some 58,000 American military personnel killed in the war. That means that every name on the local memorial represents 1,000 other fatalities, pointed out Jerry Keen, another speaker.
After the dedication, many people walked over to the monument and searched for familiar names.
Vietnam veteran Ed Holterman found the name of fellow Washougal High School grad Gary Campen, who’d lived near him. Campen, who was killed in 1968, wasn’t the only name Holterman said he was looking for: “There are seven out here I know.”