August , 2007     Volume 7 - Issue 10




The Newsletter

Birthdays & Anniversaries

New Readers & Returns

Semi-annual Report

Honoring our Veterans

Memory Lane

In Memoria


Last month's HixNews


Jim and I (John) were both in the service during the Viet Nam War. I was in the USAF and Jim was in the ARMY. I enlisted in the USAF in 1961 and Jim was drafted in 1962.

I was an in-flight mechanic, after completing my training at Shepherd AF Base. I served four years with the Air Force Systems Command. Jim was assigned to radio school after he completed ARMY NCO Academy. His musical background, however, was needed and he was assigned to cemetery duty as bugler at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thank you for asking.

John G. Cunningham, '58


John Andrew Thorburn (Parrot) did not attend Hicksville High, but he might as well have...considering the number of times he was asked for a hall pass. The late Joe Guerra ('66) was his best friend. He ate lunch with everyone and generally hung out, the Charcoal Grill Diner or the pool hall etc. He was the one who told Billy Joel he needs to look for a job because he will never make it in the music business. Everybody who knew Parrot loved Parrot.

Parrot enlisted in the Army in 1964. He went into 101st Airborne and then into Green Berets. He was stationed in Germany. He returned home after 3 years and then re-upped into the Air force. He volunteered for Vietnam. He was into fields and skies of Agent Orange. Parrot was a helicopter machine gunner. Their job was to save wounded soldiers in the field or rescue them from perilous conditions; many times it was while the fighting was still going on. It was "in your face combat".

On December 8, 1969 a fellow comrade came up to Parrot. He was about to go on his last mission before heading home, a patrol needed to be rescued. He was very nervous; he felt he would not make it back. Parrot said, "Don't worry; I'll go for you, you go home". His comrade was right. Parrot's helicopter was shot down, but not before he distinguished himself by silencing the enemy and saving the patrol. He lay out there for 3 days in pain, in and out of consciousness before they found them. Their pilot was killed. When the rescue chopper landed, they looked at Parrot and he could hear someone say "this one's dead". Parrot had sustained major injuries. They picked him up and it was excruciating pain. His hip was forced further up in the socket from the impact of the crash and he had multiple injuries. John was in Saint Alban's Naval Hospital for a year. He was in a full body cast for much of it and gradual steps until he could walk with a cane. He received his medals at the hospital; he received The Conspicuous Service Cross, Two Distinguished Flying Crosses With Oak Leaf Cluster and two Citations for Outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty, 4 Air Medals And of course a Purple Heart. He receives 100% disability.

John has had 6 children. Two, Dee Dee and Maxx were born severely handicapped. They were Microcephalic, (Small brain) they did not advance mentally past 8 months old. Dee Dee was born in 1982, she was only supposed to live a few days, but she did survive, the doctors then said she would never be a teenager, Dee Dee died last month, she was 25 years old. Max was born in 1991, he was worse than Dee Dee, he was also blind. 6 years ago Maxx died at the age of 10 unexpectedly. John and his wife never put their children into an institution, they cared for them. Their children could not speak or walk they could only laugh or cry...they laughed a lot. John's daughter Lisa gave John his first grandchild, Vincent, in 1991. Vincent was born with a rare muscle disease. He died when he was not quite 6 months old.

Parrot, my brother was just diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in one lung and stage 3 in the other. Did I mention Agent Orange?

Now the reason I am writing, a few of John's friends and family got together and gave him and his wife Dee a benefit dinner on July 14th. A few of his old friends from Hicksville High surprised him. Hank Guerra ('61) Charlie Moone ('67), Jimmy Lean ('67), Vinny Feruzzi ('67) and Mark Joosten ('66). Parrot said he felt like he was in an episode of Cold Case. He also said it was like attending his own funeral.

If anyone else would like to help this amazing veteran and his family you can contribute to:

Bobby Hull Insurance Co
48 Nesconset Hwy
Pt. Jefferson Sta., NY 11776


Joyce (Thorburn) Jurgensen ('67)

Status of the Vietnam Era Service Project

Recently, there began an effort to collect and create some form of recognition for those members of the Hicksville community that served in the military during the Vietnam Era.

The effort is focusing on high school alumni as a cache of information and data that can be sources to add to our collection of names. The purpose of this writing is to report to you, the High School alumni, and the status of that project as we continue "to move down range". I expect to be able to report to you several times a year and publish the "work in progress" as we move toward some identifiable date and place to present the list and pour the metal plaque. As I mention to all previously, the plaque will contain names, service affiliation, location of service, e.g. RVN, CONUS, Atlantic (Navy Service members), and if they were WIA or KIA. The later group we have gone over several times and hope by the time this project is completed, we have it correct; it is up to you the readers, to help us with this task. We are including Service in the US Army; US Navy; US Air Force; USMC; and USCG.

To date we have collected some 48 names and service information, a far cry from what I expect the actuality to be for Hicksville residents. With the class of 1962 graduating more than 500 in June of that year, it is difficult for me to believe that by 1968 we did not have 200 or more in uniform of some form. The point is, we have to dig deeper to turn up the names and find more sources to help us achieve this goal; Article written for locate veterans periodicals and newsletters is one source. For example, I know local resident Connie Steers from the Vietnam Veterans of America is a source, yet he has not come up for air and offered to help. We need to contact folks like him to help assembled the list of those that served.

One of the issues I face is we cannot just put a name on the list without second source confirmation of service. For example, it is known that Arizonians John Ziegler served in the US Army in Germany during the era, and Daniel Kniter served in the USCG. It is unconfirmed that Dr. Pat Alia of Ft Lauderdale served in RVN with the US Army and was WIA. All need to be confirmed through a second source to be added. We don't want to miss someone or put a name on the plaque if they actually did not serve. I believe we cannot have too many names on the plaque (s), the more we get the better the task we will have accomplished.

Please keep those cards and letters coming...emails too.

Your fellow alumnus,

Ken Strafer

Fairfax, Virginia 22032


Hoi Ann, Vietnam (Also known as Hoi An) is a picturesque city with imposing temples located near the coast and at the confluence of a half dozen rivers a short distance south of Danang. It is now regarded as a jewel among travelers in Vietnam, where many extend their stop by a day or two, and it is also know for the abundance of fine tailors.

Dreams of Hoi Ann

Life seems to race on by at an ever increasing clip, and I wonder in amazement at the changes I have seen in my life time. It is quiet and peaceful in my life now but my mind always takes me back to Hoi Ann in Vietnam. It was a painful time back then, a place so far removed from where I grew up in Hicksville, in the middle of New York's Long Island. It is funny thinking back to the things that were important during those teen years in the fifties. Rock and Roll music had just arrived, and we would gather at one friend's house or another to hear and rave over the latest record release, and we were quickly swept up in the rush to hear the top songs over and over again until they played in our heads without any outside music source. "Rock Around the Clock" was not just a song; it was a way of life back then. I would fall asleep next to the radio hoping they would play my current favorite song and feeling contentment if they did. I try to remember the excitement when a group of us boys and girls went into the under floor of the Fork Lane school extension construction to play, "Spin the Bottle", and that warm feeling as it was your turn for that first, shaky and crude kiss with one of the girls who was also having her first kiss, and all the while hoping that the bottle would stop on the fresh beauty whom you had your eyes on. With the innocence of youth and the thrill of being with equally adventuress girls in a place we weren't supposed to be, those were the things we didn't forget. Later, we would end up on the swings at the West Village Green, where we would be joined with other groups of teens, all wanting to be a part of a group, and all wanting to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. And of course the Pizza at the West Green Pizza parlor was not that "Plastic" tasting stuff that they call Pizza today, no, you needed two hands to hold it, and no matter how much you waited, it always burned the roof of your mouth, but boy was it good! And even the pizza places on Hempstead Tpk. in Levittown and downtown Hicksville were far superior to the pizza of today. In the later teen years, my buddy and I would sneak out of the house after our parents went to sleep, hitch or walk to the bowling ally in Hicksville, bowl a few games, eat a hero or some pizza, and head home around 4am. I always went out and in through the upstairs windows, although nowadays I can't quite figure out just how I did it? I also remember the time when I came back and the window was locked! Let's just say that that ended the nights of sneaking out, for a while anyway!

And there were humorous times, like the time we were taking the bus home from the Mid Island mall after a day of shopping and hanging out. There were only a few people on the bus as it sat at the mall, the driver reading his newspaper. My buddy Chris, always the prankster, decided to break the bus driver's chops. In a loud booming voice for all to hear, He started, "We have schedules to make! When schedules are posted, it is important that we stick to them!" The driver glanced up into his rear view mirror in bemused annoyance, his glasses riding low on his nose. He continued reading for another moment or so, and then fired up the engine and we started on our way. On those busses you paid for your trip and got a small ticket which you surrendered when you left so the driver could check to see that you paid the correct fare. The bus soon reached our stop at Levittown Parkway and Newbridge Road, and as we made our way to the front of the bus, the driver opened the door. "Tickets please", the driver announced! As we fumbled for our tickets, the door suddenly shut, and the bus started up again, while the driver intoned in a voice for all to hear, "We must stick to our schedules!"

And there were days at Tobay beach which were filled with fun and excitement. I remember always peering over the dunes as we rode along Ocean Parkway, trying to see the waves, and hoping they were big, yet apprehensive if they were! We didn't need surfboards back then, we were the surfboards! Making a hollow at the top of your chest by keeping your arms together and stretched out front, you could ride a wave in for quite some distance. If you got careless and went over the "Curl", you ended up with your face and chest as a bulldozer in the sand at the bottom of the water. It would be years later when I found the reason why I would get pounded into the sand on the bottom. When a wave breaks and turns into a foamy mass, the water becomes loaded with bubbles, and you can't float in bubbles.

And while I savor the memories of youth with the exploration of the unknown, my dreams always take me back to Hoi Ann, Viet Nam. That is where I got shot in the back and five of my comrades were also wounded in the war, in a place so different from where we grew up! We had just come down from Danang, about 16 clicks to the North, and were hoping to maybe get to China beach which was not too far away, when we suddenly found ourselves in a firefight with the Viet Cong, who seemed to rise out of the ground like ghosts. I felt the bullet rip through my back just below my right shoulder blade with a burning sting as if a giant hornet had unloaded all his venom. I remember my face in the dirt frantically trying to reach behind to touch the burning pain as if that could help. After that, time sort of dissolved in a fade of yelling and screams. But we were the lucky ones, as the rest of the squad was all killed. One moment in time we had graduated to body surfing huge waves during a passing hurricane, invincible in the folly of youth, as we fought our way out to where the waves were breaking along Jones Beach, and short moments in time later we were slogging through the lush green jungle and rice paddies of Viet Nam, shooting at people we didn't know, who were simultaneously shooting at us. I had never been back to Hoi Ann since the war until now, only in my dreams of explosions and gunfire and the smell of death! After we were all hit that day in Hoi Ann, life became a blur, and things back home were never like they were before. My family and friends were all distant and aloof, and we never received any kind of welcome home that returning soldiers had received in all the previous wars. I didn't know why we were there in somebody else's country shooting the natives. The president said it was important, and we were the chosen ones to carry out the task. I kind of thought it was neighbor against neighbor, where their leaders took one side, and our leaders took the other, and we bore the brunt of the consequences of their decisions. All of my friends and family seemed to have an instilled sadness about them, especially when they looked over at me. It was like we could never communicate about the events of the war, and so I kept it to myself and in my dreams of Hoi Ann.

Even before I returned to Hoi Ann, I kept dreaming of how it must be changing over there, how the life of the people had settled down to eking out a living in another one of the worlds poor countries. I could see the imposing temples, lush gardens and the quaint yellow tinged houses, and it was almost as if I could see the smiling faces of the native Vietnamese, who had forgotten the war long before we did.

When I arrived in Viet Nam, it was a completely different place than during the days of war. Now a beautiful land of lakes and profuse lush greenery, bustling open air markets, and smiling, friendly people going about their daily chores with a hustle and enthusiasm. I was also surprised at how well it matched up with the way it looked in my recent dreams of Hoi Ann.

It is funny that despite being completely changed since the days of war, I had virtually no problem finding the place where our squad had fought our final battle.

There was a park like area where the Vietnamese had made a little garden massively planted with beautiful tropical flowers, and I knew it was the site of our battle. They had even put 6 small wooden crosses there, honoring some of the Americans who had died in the fight.

I saw the name of John "Cappy" Petersen, although I don't know why his name was there, as he was wounded along with me. And Billy Jameson, Mike "Big Mike" Stafford and Ray Crandall, also all who were wounded with me, which was beginning to make it a little weird and hard to understand why their names were there, since they were the ones who survived.

Then I got a chill when I came to a cross and my name was on it! This was ridiculous, and I didn't know what was going on. At that moment, an elderly Vietnamese couple slowly strolled towards my direction. When they got close I put my hand out to greet them, but they didn't appear to see me and seemed to walk right through my arm!

I felt sick and suddenly very weak, and slowly dropped to the ground. I just needed to rest, and as the earth embraced me, I felt a calm peace as I once again dreamed of Hoi Ann...

(A Fictional Story by BoB Gillette)