WESTFIELD - Westfield students took time to remember a local hero Wednesday. An assembly was held to present the sword of Lt. Theodore Johnson, a Westfield native who served in Vietnam.
"The U.S. Senate this week has passed a resolution to honor veterans who served in Vietnam, by designating March 30 - that's today - as welcome home Vietnam Veterans Day," Principal Ivana Hite explained Wednesday.
Students gathered to honor Westfield natives and graduates David P. Anderson, Larry J. Fox, Terry L. Henderson, Rodney W. McClean, John J. Mott and Lt. Theodore W. Johnson.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
The sword of a local war hero was presented to Westfield Academy and Central School Wednesday. Pictured are Village of Westfield Mayor David Carr, Chautauqua County VFW Commander Katie LeBarron, WACS Principal Ivana Hite, Master Sgt. LeRoy Foster and WACS Superintendent Mark Sissel.
"I am here today to speak to you about one specific veteran; 1st Lt. Theodore W. Johnson. 1st Lt. Johnson was a 1960 graduate of Westfield Academy and Central School. He was a member of the Air Force Academy class 1965 and was an Instructor Navigator on the EB-66C that crashed and killed Lt. Johnson on November 17, 1967 in Takhli, Thailand," Hite explained to the audience.
The discovery of Johnson's sword was a lucky accident on the part of Master Sgt. LeRoy Foster. Foster was searching an auction site for a sword of his own when he stumbled across the one formerly owned by the Westfield native.
Coincidentally, Foster had just spoken to middle school history teacher Mr. S. Holmburg about local Vietnam veterans in relation to a trip to Washington D.C.
"I want to tell you a little bit today how I found the sword and how I was looking around for a sword for myself. About two weeks ago I had been talking with your history teacher Mr. Holmburg and we were talking about the men from Westfield that were on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, because some of you are going there, so you'll be able to do rubbings because you'll know Lt. Johnson and what he did for our country," Foster said.
After finding the sword Foster immediately went to work finding funding to purchase the sword for the school.
"So, we want you to know that we won't forget anybody that's served and I'm glad to find this on Ebay. I was able to get this for the school and we have donors that helped me do this ... Tom La Porte's Chevrolet, Westfield Dodge City, Tops and a few other business ... and also Mayor Dave Carr thank you so much for helping us," he said.
Johnson's sword was presented on a significant day. On March 7 the U.S. Senate declared the day "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans day."
Hite quoted North Carolina Senator Richard Burke, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs as saying, "Our soldiers served honorably and bravely in Vietnam, unfortunately they arrived home to a country in political turmoil and never received the recognition they deserved. By setting March 30th aside as a day to focus on our Vietnam veterans we can show our unified gratitude for their service and sacrifices that these veterans made on our behalf."
There was a total of 58,245 military personnel killed in action, 153,452 wounded and 1,711still missing in action after the conflict in Vietnam.
Johnson was one of the local heroes who served their country but did not come back.
"Thank you for letting that sword come home on this special day because Lt. Johnson couldn't come today ... He's a graduate of this school and he will always be in my heart and in yours," Foster added.
Lt. Johnson was born in Westfield, graduated in 1960 from the high school and died at the age of 25 in Vietnam. He is listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on panel 30E line 9.
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