Liz and Ron Hughart were ages 3 and 19, respectively, when their older brother Army Cpl. Romey Earl Hughart Jr. was killed in the Vietnam War.
“I was working and my supervisor came in the office and told me I had to go home and there was an emergency. It didn’t dawn on me until I walked in and there was an officer there. Mom said Romey Jr. is dead,” Ron Hughart said. “Dad, literally overnight, turned gray-headed. He was devastated. You don’t expect it. You just don’t expect it.”Things like this open up a very deep Pandora’s box of usually negative, sometimes positive, feelings about the politics of the war. Where does it end? Iraq, Iran, Israel? Ron Hughart
Wednesday, May 23, the Ravenswood connector bridge carrying U.S. 33 over Sandy Creek was renamed the U.S. Army Cpl. David Michael Hopkins and U.S. Army Cpl. Romey Earl Hughart Jr. Memorial Bridge. A ceremony was conducted at Ravenswood United Pentecostal Church, which is located near the bridge.
“It was a nice ceremony. I just wish we didn’t have to do it. Or I wish it could have been years ago when mom and dad were still alive,” Liz Hughart said.
Hopkins was a native of Ravenswood born Aug. 31, 1950. He served as an infantryman in the United States Army, reaching the rank of corporal in the E. Company, First Battalion, 501st Airborne Division. Hopkins began a tour of duty in South Vietnam on June 26, 1970, and died Sept. 28, 1970, at the age of 20, while missing in Thua Thien Province in South Vietnam. He is named on the wall of the Vietnam War memorial at Panel W7, Line 98.
Hughart, also a native of Ravenswood, was born Dec. 14, 1944. He served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army, also attaining the rank of corporal. He was a member of C Company, 716th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Group, and the 18th Military Police Brigade.
He began a tour of duty in south Vietnam on March 12, 1966, and died in combat on Aug. 11, 1966, at the age of 21. He is named on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial at Panel 9E, Line 127.
Wednesday’s bridge ceremony brought up a mixture of emotions, Ron Hughart said.
“Things like this open up a very deep Pandora’s box of usually negative, sometimes positive, feelings about the politics of the war. Where does it end? Iraq, Iran, Israel?” he said.
“The old timers here the VFW maintain, having served, a degree of respect and honor for the Constitution. Thank God they do, because a lot of us don’t. It’s on the negative side as I speak,” Ron Hughart added.
“It’s an honor that my brother and Cpl. Hopkins are remembered after 50-plus years. I’m sure that neither of them wanted their lives to end this way. They were too young and gung-ho at the time to say why, or on the other hand why not. Enough is enough. Period,” he concluded.
Del. Steve Westfall, who was one of the legislators who sponsored the resolution to rename the bridge, said ceremonies like the one last Wednesday are some of the best moments of his job. Westfall worked with the American Legion Post 107 on the renaming.
“It’s an honor when the Legion comes to me and gives me the names. It’s quite an honor for me to be able to do this,” he said. “We’ve got another bridge dedication coming up in July in Ripley. I just really enjoy doing it.
Westfall said honoring Vietnam Veterans in particular is personal for him because he remembers what it was like at the time of the Vietnam War.
“My senior class was the last to have a draft card. I still have my draft card. My sophomore year, we thought we would get drafted. The end of my junior year they did away with the draft,” he said.
It’s also for Post 107 Commander Bill Stephens.
“I was in the army in the war, but I didn’t get sent over there. I knew a lot of the guys who were. We had eight in the county who didn’t make it back,” Stephens said. “I made it my goal to get some kind of bridge or something named for every one of them. We’ve done five of them; we’ve got three more to go.”
Jerry McCommack is the incoming commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6669 of Ravenswood. He said Wednesday’s ceremony was important for a number of reasons, and it was an appropriate way to begin the Memorial Day weekend.
“I think it’s important that we always remember our veterans, especially those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “It’s an honor to travel our highways and byways and just to see the names of our heroes. It’s just a constant reminder of those who gave us the freedoms we have in America.”