Vietnam veteran from Groton to be remembered at D.C. ceremony
An article from The Day’s archives describes how Larry S. Miles, of Groton, a radioman with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, at one point during the Vietnam War helped to “eliminate” 10 North Vietnamese Army soldiers.
Miles and another soldier were at the top of “Arizona Territory,” a highly contested area southwest of Danang, transmitting enemy positions to Cobra gunships. One by one, the targets were destroyed by the gunships.
Miles served in the Marines from April 1, 1969, to March 21, 1974, and was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, spending much of his time in Danang, and saw heavy combat, according to his daughter, Lauren Lee. He was 18 when he left for Vietnam.
Next month, Miles, who died on Dec. 31, 2017, at the age of 67, will be one of 344 Vietnam veterans to be honored as part of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s In Memory program, which honors vets who returned home from Vietnam but later died as a result of their service. Miles’ daughter nominated him for the program.
The veterans are honored at an annual ceremony at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during which their loved ones recite their name, similar to the reading of names at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as The Wall. The families will be given a framed certificate with the veteran's photo, the veteran will be included in the "In Memory" yearbook and the veteran's name and service information will be added to an online honor roll where loved ones can leave remembrances, according to the program's website.
About 3,200 vets have been honored so far through the program, which was founded in 1999. They are not eligible to have their names appear on The Wall, which is for those who died within the defined combat zone of Vietnam, among other criteria established by the Pentagon.
“When we built The Wall in 1982, nobody really knew how many service members were going to continue to die from causes related to Vietnam,” said Heidi Zimmerman, vice president of programs and communication for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Miles often told his daughter, his only child, “You don’t know how close you were to not being here,” she recalled. He would tell her a story of how one night during the war, he was with another Marine and there was an opportunity for one person to go back to the camp and the other would have to sleep in a tent in the jungle. Despite the other Marine being higher ranking than her father, he let her father sleep at camp. The Marine was killed when a pipe bomb blew up the tent that night.
A graduate of Ledyard High School, Miles enlisted in the Marines because he thought he was going to be drafted. He found out later that he missed the draft by two days, according to his daughter.
While he was proud of his service, he would not have signed up to serve if he knew he wasn’t going to get drafted, she said.
“It’s hard for me, too. If he waited it out, my life would’ve been different,” she added.
Her father went on to work at Electric Boat as a draftsman, but the war had a profound impact on him. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a host of health issues. His health really started to deteriorate during the last decade of his life. He was frequently hospitalized and had a feeding tube.
Lee said her father wasn’t like other Vietnam veterans, who tend to not want to talk about their service.
“He was one of the rare ones who would tell you anything you asked,” she said. “I wish I had asked him more.”
When he was still alive, she asked him at one point if he wanted to return to Vietnam. She read about other veterans returning to the country years after their service to find closure.
“Hell, no. There’s no way,” he told her.
She asked him about the day he left Vietnam. He left by boat, and it was only when the boat reached the point beyond the reach of the enemy’s missiles that he finally felt like he was going to make it, he told her.
Lee said her dad loved The Beatles — his favorite song was “Fool on the Hill” — was active in local adult softball leagues, and was an avid Yankees fan, despite being a New Englander. She and her father practically lived at Eastern Point Beach during the summers. If her father wasn’t eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, she said she would’ve spread his ashes at Eastern Point.
In addition to Miles, the other Vietnam veterans from Connecticut being honored as part of the In Memory program are:
Justin J. Donnelly Sr., U.S. Marine Corps
July 6, 1941 – Jan. 5, 2018
Clinton Douglas Foss Jr., U.S. Army
May 31, 1948 – Jan. 26, 2017
Kenneth Michael Hickey, U.S. Army
Jan. 19, 1944 – Sept. 22, 2016
John Robert Hoff, U.S. Army
June 20, 1948 – Feb. 2, 2017
Lawrence William McNichol, U.S. Marine Corps
Oct. 7, 1949 – Sept. 9, 2017
William Francis Norton, U.S. Marine Corps
March 4, 1947 – Jan. 4, 2016
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