Saturday, Aug. 23, 2019, the State of Ohio and the Beaver, Pike County area honored a local hero by dedicating a portion of State Route 32 in his name.
PFC Walter Earl Duncan, Jr., was killed 52 years ago in Duc Pho, Quang Nai provence, Vietnam, 20 May 1967 when his platoon, while on a search and destroy mission, was attacked by Vietnam soldiers. Despite mortal wounds, PFC Duncan made an assault on the enemy, and reaching the bunker, hurled a hand grenade into it, destroying it and its occupants. He later succumbed to his wounds, but his efforts were instrumental to the success of the platoon’s assault and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. He was awarded, posthumously, the Bronze Star with the “V” device for heroism in ground combat. Like so many other Vietnam veterans, his return home was without ceremony, speeches or notice, like slipping home after dark through the back door, except for his hometown of Beaver, Ohio.
The people of Beaver kept his memory alive, and it was with the effort of a local woman, Bonnie Ward, who had known him in high school and championed the request to the State of Ohio to award this honor, that the dedication of the section of Route 32 was possible. The ceremony was well attended with nearly 100 family, high school friends and community residents, many of them veterans themselves. District Deputy Director from ODOT, Mike Dembrowski, himself a Marine, and Representative Shane Wilkin gave remarks about Walter Earl’s service. Earl’s sister, Linda Duncan Thompson, gave remarks about Earl before Vietnam, as well as recognizing family veterans attending the ceremony, Vietnam Veterans, and other veterans in the crowd. She also recognized the parents of Justin Helton, who was killed in Afganistan in 2014. She reminded the crowd that two other soldiers were killed within three months of Earl in Vietnam, SP/4 Charles Eugene Miller and SP4 Clarence Rickards, both of Piketon, died in Vietnam, and wonders if they have ever been recognized.
She stressed that awards, medals, speeches and signs are wonderful tributes, but that Vietnam vets need to be honored in other ways. Not until there is adequate health and psychological care, no long waits for care at VA hospitals, no homeless and no unemployed veterans, will they be truly honored and thanked for their service. Only when those needs are met, will we truly be showing honor and respect for those who give everything for this country.