Beallsville s loss of Vietnam War soldiers still felt
military vehicle creeping slowly up the farm s driveway and minutes later saw his dad dart for the cornfields, as if trying to outrun the news.
Even at 14, Roger Schnegg knew in an instant what that surreal scene meant: He had lost his older brother in the Vietnam War. And there was nowhere he could go or his dad could run to escape that agony in the village of 450.
Every time you turned around, there was another young man from our little town dying in that war, said Roger Schnegg, now 62. All this time has passed, but they will never be forgotten. Their service, the anger at the war, the reaction to it back here in the States, is all still so real for many of us.
Thursday was the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, but Beallsville sees no end to the war s haunting legacy. community during the Vietnam War.
The unpopular war took six of its sons between 1966 and 1971.
To descend into Beallsville from a rolling hillside on Route. 145, one must pass five of the six graves. The dead rest in a cemetery overlooking their old high school and the football field where some of them once played.
The towering Beallsville Veterans Memorial at the cemetery entrance commands attention, drawing visitors to look up toward the vast gray sky above.
Below it are more than 100 bricks honoring Beallsville veterans who have served in the military.
But it s the deaths and memory of Schnegg, 20; Jack Pittman, 20; Duane Greenlee, 19 (the only one not buried in the Beallsville Cemetery); Richard Rucker, 20; Robert Lucas, 20; and Phillip Brandon, 19, that has brought repeated national attention to a village that hasn t always wanted it. had declared war against other nations, visits by reporters stirred up memories that some have tried to put in the past.
Some also have been angered by media reports that suggested that only farmers, coal miners and soldiers are born in Beallsville.
We have produced some doctors, lawyers, executives and other professionals, Shirley Neiswonger said proudly while sipping a cup of coffee at the Historic Beallsville Diner. But, yes, we are most proud of what our boys have done for this country.
And for some of the 408 residents who remain in Beallsville, the feeling of trespassing on hurtful emotions has been replaced by a desire to have their own remembered and honored.
I knew every one of those six boys. We haven t forgotten them, and I don t want the world to, either, said John Gramlich, 59, the Beallsville mayor, between shifts at one of the local coal mines. My father owned a pool hall in town, and they all would come in to play and have a sandwich. It was just so hard for us when we lost them, but so much worse on their families.
Shirley Pittman was picking blackberries on a hot summer day in 1966 when the call came that her nephew had been severely injured in Vietnam.
The family was told he was being flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and they prayed day and night.
But a few days later, they learned that Jack had become Beallsville s first casualty of the war.
The Pittmans, angry from the start that their only child had been drafted, refused a military funeral.
There were a lot of people angry about that war, but it really hit us when we lost Jack, said Shirley Pittman, 78, who has lived in the Beallsville area since 1945. I went to the funerals when the others died, too, and it just was so hard on all those people.
Larry Pittman, who had played games with his cousin Jack until he left for the war, said the village s older generations have done everything in their power to keep the memory of the lost soldiers alive.
There have been endless services at the cemetery and moments of silence at high school football games. An estimated 20,000 people visited Beallsville in 2004 when a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall came to town.
And, of course, Memorial Days in Beallsville are a local history lesson for younger generations who aren t fully aware of those whom this community lost decades ago.
We make sure they will never really leave us, said Larry Pittman, 58, an insurance agent in Beallsville. We owe them that at the very least.
When Roger Schnegg stops at his brother s black granite headstone, he can still picture the two of them as boys flying down hills on bikes and doing their early morning chores on the 162 acre farm.
He thinks about how close he was to being sent to Vietnam himself, but he didn t go because his family had already lost his brother.