THIS IS SURRATTS FOUNDATION E-NOTICE 2014-7 OF JULY 1, 2014
Here are some items that might be of interest:
1. FOUNDATION RECEIVES EXTRAORDINARILY GENEROUS GRANT. We are delighted to report that the Foundation has received its largest single grant to date, one that will benefit the great kids at Surrattsville in perpetuity. Nancy Miller (67) has endowed two new named scholarships to honor the memory of her parents, both of whom were active and long-time members of the Surrattsville community.
The Foundation’s Thomas V. Miller, Sr. (36) Memorial Scholarship will honor Nancy’s late father. Nancy notes, “My father was born in Clinton in 1919 and died here in 1991. After graduating from Surrattsville in 1936, he briefly attended the University of Maryland but decided that he would rather work than study, and thereafter worked six days a week, at least 12 hours a day, until the day he died, to support his wife and ten children.” This annual scholarship will be granted to a deserving, hardworking senior, with special preferences given to applicants who have to work at an outside job while in school. Special consideration also will be given to applicants who might be planning a post-Surrattsville educational path that does not include a traditional college experience.
And the Foundation’s Esther Clifton Miller Memorial Scholarship will honor Nancy’s late mother. This annual scholarship will be granted to a graduating senior planning to pursue an education degree and a career as a teacher. Nancy notes, “At age 19, my mother was then the youngest person ever to be certified to be a teacher in the District of Columbia. A native of D.C., she graduated from Eastern High School when she was 15, and Wilson Teachers College at age 19. She taught in the public schools of the District until she moved to Clinton after her marriage to my father, Thomas V. Miller, Sr. She was an occasional substitute teacher at Surrattsville Elementary School, taught CCD religion classes to elementary-age children at St. John’s Catholic Church in Clinton every Saturday, and was the leader of numerous Bluebird and Camp Fire Girl troops of all ages that met at our house every Friday after school. And all the while raising 10 children! She loved everything about children and teaching. I know she would be pleased to know that this Scholarship will be used to help Surrattsville graduates become teachers.”
We are extremely grateful to Nancy for this extremely generous gesture to advance the mission of the Foundation while honoring the memory of two outstanding members of our community.
2. FOUNDATION AWARDS ITS FIFTH 2014 SCHOLARSHIP. We also are proud to announce the awarding of the Foundation’s fifth scholarship for 2014. In addition to the four scholarship recipients announced in last month’s e-Notice, the Foundation and Surrattsville’s award-winning AFJROTC unit jointly awarded this year’s Cadet Colonel Tekau Rasayon Memorial Scholarship to graduating senior Cadet Colonel and Wing Commander Natalie Swadley. (A “program” about this year’s award ceremony – including a great performance by the AFJROTC drill team -- can be found on the Foundation’s youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK3q7NYMAro.)
Congratulations to Natalie on her very well-deserved selection as this year’s recipient!
3. NEW YOUTUBE PROGRAM FEATURES SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS. In addition to the youtube program about the 2014 Tekau Rasayon Memorial Scholarship, the Foundation’s youtube channel now also features a “program” about the four other outstanding 2014 Foundation scholarship recipients. This can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yG9Q4tbyVM.
(The Foundation’s youtube channel also features lots of other content. The main page is at http://www.youtube.com/user/SurrattsvilleFDN, and the “program” about the Hornet fight song seems to continue to garner the most interest!)
4. WRESTLING TEAM REUNION BEING PLANNED. A reunion of Surrattsville’s wrestlers and coaches from the legendary era of Coach Lew Jenkins is being planned for this Fall. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be placed on the email list for information about the gathering, or if you know someone who might like information about the event.
[Ed. Note: Our regular readers might recall that Coach Jenkins was recognized with a Foundation Achievement Award in 2010. Photos and bios of all of the Foundation’s extraordinary Achievement Award recipients to date, including the recent 2014 recipients, can be found on the Foundation’s web site at www.surrattsville.org.]
5. FOUNDATION PARTICIPATES IN INAUGURAL 5K RUN/WALK. On Saturday May 31, Foundation representatives participated in the Tekau’s Heart Memorial Foundation’s inaugural 5K Run/Walk. The event was held at the School in memory of Tekau Turiya Rasayon (12), who passed away suddenly on March 28, 2012, at 17 years of age, from an anomalous coronary artery (ACA). This first 5K Run/Walk was a Fun Run, in honor of her spirit and temperament. In addition to raising awareness about heart conditions, especially ACAs in teens and young adults, the 5K helped raise money for a memorial scholarship in Tekau's name. Information about this foundation can be found at http://www.tekausheart5k.com. The weather was picture-perfect for the event, opening remarks were made by our Foundation’s inaugural Achievement Award recipient, Thomas V. Mike Miller (60), and the race went off without a hitch.
Congratulations to the Tekau’s Heart Memorial Foundation on a successful inaugural event!
6. CLASS OF 52 PLANS NEXT ANNUAL REUNION. The Class of 52 held its annual reunion at Mama Stella’s in Clinton this past Saturday evening, and kindly permitted a Foundation representative to make a presentation about the Foundation's mission and its activities to date. The Class already has scheduled 6 p.m. on Saturday June 20, 2015 as the date for its next gathering at Mama Stella’s. Please contact Jim Ripple at email@example.com if you would like to be placed on the Class of 52 email list or if you have any information on members of the Class.
[Ed. Notes: Some of our readers may recall that the Class of 52 made a very significant grant to the Foundation in honor of the late Ron Mortimer (52) to benefit Surrattsville’s band department. And Jim Ripple’s father was one of the eight students who passed through Surrattsville late in the second decade of the 20th century!]”
7. HORNET SHARES THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES ON MEMORIAL DAY. Our readers interested in the Viet Nam war might enjoy the following beautiful Memorial Day piece by Bill Crawford (62), firstname.lastname@example.org. (Bill was a rifleman and later a combat photo-journalist in Viet Nam.)
“My Last Day with Ollie Noonan: A Combat Photographer’s Remembrance. I finally reconnected with Ollie Noonan, Jr. after 45 years. He is on Campobello Island now, near his family’s home, not at Fenway Park where we planned to meet. His gravesite is hard by the Bay of Fundy where some of the world’s biggest tides provide a striking contrast to the rugged jungle terrain of Hill 445, Landing Zone West, where we met. I last saw Ollie in 1969 when we spent a long day together interviewing and photographing exhausted grunts as they battled an overpowering North Vietnamese division. The temperature was an unholy 120 degrees, and the strong stench of death poisoned the air in the Hiep Duc Valley, Republic of Vietnam.
Ollie and I bonded instantly because of rock ‘n roll and sports. We planned our day’s itinerary as the Coaster’s “Yackety Yak” pounded out of my tiny transistor radio. I sang along like crazy to calm my combat nerves. Ollie sang harmony pausing just long enough to remove his smoldering cigarette from his moustache framed lips. He cut a striking figure at 29: tall and handsome in his jungle fatigues. We talked furiously about the Celtics and the Red Sox. Ollie took mesmerizing photos of Bill Russell dueling Wilt Chamberlain in the Boston Garden. I wouldn’t see them until decades later on the internet. We made a solid plan to meet back in the world after the war to go to Fenway Park. He knew of a good neighborhood bar that served steamed clams-my favorite.
Ollie even took up the thankless job of trying to make me a better photographer. I lied during my job interview when my Sergeant Major asked me if I could shoot photos. I had plenty of writing experience from my college newspaper days, but I didn’t know about cameras. My assignment abruptly changed from rifleman to photo journalist in the same battalion. I learned on the job and Ollie pushed me along the learning curve. I realized later he was just paying forward a family debt he owed his father who taught him photography at an early age. Ollie’s dad, Ollie, Sr., was a respected Boston newspaper photographer. He took iconic photos such as the doomed Andria Doria foundering in “Times Square” off Nantucket in 1956. Ollie and his dad eventually worked briefly for rival newspapers. Ollie, Jr. quickly made a name for himself by shooting well known photos of the Kennedys, Boston sports figures, the Beatles, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was president of his press photographers association and he paid his own way to the Nam.
Noonan came to the war zone to experience every photo journalist’s dream: combat. Later his dad would say he went “in search of the truth.” The young photographer wrote his family: “If you hear that I am coming back soon, forget it. I like this place. It is really great for a newspaper man.” Noonan signed on with the Associated Press although he vehemently told me he was “just on leave” from the Boston Globe. He was one of the Horst Faas’ boys, the platoon of young photographers hired by the legendary AP photo chief. These lensmen would gain immortality for their stark images of the war. Faas also came to LZ West with Peter Arnett where he too helped improve my photography.
Ollie arrived in Hiep Duc, Que Son, and Song Chang Valleys in the summer of 1969 as the region became a focal point for big headlines. The Communists mounted a huge offensive against Hiep Duc, a model village for the South Vietnamese government’s refugee resettlement program. The powerful 2nd North Vietnamese Army Division infiltrated the area over time on a mission to annihilate Hiep Duc. When they were prematurely discovered by US troops, they revamped their battle plan to just kill as many GI’s as possible to take advantage of mounting anti-war sentiment in the US.
As temperatures soared a major August battle erupted. Infantry soldiers dropped like flies from heat exhaustion and withering enemy fire. A number of compelling subplots unfolded against the backdrop of this bloody inferno. Notre Dame running back Rocky Bleier, an army draftee, was seriously wounded as his company engaged in close combat with the NVA. He would later rehab from his career threatening wounds to win four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A movie, Fighting Back, depicts Bleier’s story, and a book, Death Valley by Keith Nolan, chronicles the heroism and the failures of GI’s during the summer battle. Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry attracted worldwide attention as GI’s demoralized by days of ferocious fighting, heavy casualties, and furnace like heat temporarily refused their commander’s orders to move out. Other US units balked throughout the region but with far less fanfare. Marines defied orders to don flak jackets in the boiling rice paddies. The entire demeanor of the American fighting machine was changing in 1969 as dope, facial hair, beads, and peace symbols began to chip away at military discipline.
On August 19, Ollie Noonan headed back for another visit to our region accompanied by AP colleague, Richard Pyle. A critical decision occurred when Noonan elected to chopper to LZ Center while Pyle continued on to LZ West. Both locations were in the thick of the battle, but the AP men attached themselves to different battalions several klicks apart. Noonan may have chosen LZ Center because he had already been with us on West several times. Noonan ended up embedded with the aforementioned Alpha Company near the Song Chang River. He experienced a day of fierce fighting against an NVA regiment with temperatures reaching 120 degrees. Later in the afternoon he made another fateful decision. He requested a helicopter extraction. Ollie wanted to get his fresh combat film back to Da Nang to be processed quickly.
He scrambled aboard the helicopter of Battalion Commander LTC Eli Howard. The chopper was taking heavy small arms fire, but the pilot managed to fly safely to the east by hugging the Nui Lon ridge line. Howard made several attempts to land with nearby Bravo Company, but he was forced to abort because of intense fire. The chopper then banked steeply toward Hill 101 probably to recon an enemy anti-aircraft position. Communist fire struck the chopper dead on throwing Howard and Sgt. Major Franklin Rowell out the open doors. The fuel tanks exploded creating a midair fireball. Some of the craft stayed intact as fuselage fragments rained down on the ridgeline.
I was scurrying around LZ West trying to coordinate the expanding press coverage of the battle. I scooted into the Battalion Operations Center to arrange a chopper ride to the bush when I heard a heart stopping transmission amid the chaotic buzz of radio chatter. A nearby battalion commander had been shot down. One of the passengers was an AP reporter. Ollie! Richard Pyle mentioned his location to me earlier. My heart sank way below my jungle boots. A pall settled on me. I staggered outside into stifling heat and the deafening sound of our artillery pounding away at enemy positions. The din muffled a single sob from deep within my chest. I selfishly thanked God that I wasn’t on that chopper. That’s what I always did when we had KIA’s-my only way of coping.
The helicopter crash site quickly became famous in every newspaper in the world. A dazed and exhausted Alpha Company temporarily refused to move out to recover the bodies. After five more days of fighting US forces finally reached the remains of the bird. Horst Faas arrived to accompany the advancing GI’s. There was little left of Ollie Noonan, but Faas did retrieve one of Ollie’s cameras. Eight persons perished including the crew. Several grunts related stories of Noonan furiously shooting photos, even leaning past a firing helicopter door gunner to capture images of the bedlam. Noonan even laid down his camera to help drag a wounded GI to safety.
Several years later during a hurried trip home through Boston my wife and I visited Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. I tried to remember the name of the bar where Ollie and I planned to meet. I couldn’t dredge it up. All I could see in my mind’s eye was his moustached face with that smoldering cigarette dangling. “Yackety Yak” pounded in my brain. I remained silent, flashing back, still not close in 1976 to coming to terms with the jungle war or with Ollie’s fate. We waited our turn at the teeming ticket window. The clerk finally barked out in a clipped Boston accent: “How many?” I silently thrust my left hand forward with my wallet in my right. I curled back my index finger with my left thumb exposing my remaining three fingers. He shoved three tickets out the window. I stuffed them in my pocket with the change.
I said not a word to my unsuspecting wife. I never discussed the Nam with anyone but ex-grunts back then. Ollie’s empty seat in our crowded section was his memorial. I lamented that he would never again help me with my photography. There would be no steamers and beer with him that night or ever. There at Fenway for a few heart breaking hours I finally caught back up with my friend. It just took me 45 years to be able to write the story.
Epilogue: Ollie Noonan often wrote poetry and listened to tapes of classical music to calm down after combat. He wrote the following poem in Vietnam and sent it to the Boston Globe obituary department for use if he were killed. It is at his grave site.
On the Side That’s Winning
The moon hangs like a tear
'Nothing comes easy here. Everything is earned.' – Ollie Noonan, in a letter home, 1969.”
8. CLASS OF 95 PLANS REUNION. The Class of 95 will be celebrating its 20 reunion in June 2015 at the Colony South and is looking for our classmates. Please send an email to Kenya Samuels Gray at Kenya.Gray@gmail.com if you have any information on 95 grads or members of their family. The Class also has a Surrattsville Class of 1995 group on Facebook. To kick-off the "countdown to 20," on June 11, 2014 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. the Class’s planning committee is hosting a celebrity scoops night at Rita's in Clinton (the old Pizza Hut near the intersection of Woodyard Road and Brandywine Road).
9. CLASS OF 75 PLANS REUNION. The Class of 75 is considering plans for a reunion. (Note that the Class of 75 reunion is not part of the upcoming Class of 74 reunion as was previously mentioned.) Please contact Lorraine Frank Kerr at email@example.com, or Cindy Shaffer Kluth on Facebook, if you are interested in the Class of 75 event.
10. CLASS OF 79 REUNION UPDATE. We received this update from the Class of 79 Reunion planners: "Mark your calendar for Saturday, August 23, 2014 for the Class of 79 Reunion, and surrounding classes are more than welcome to join in the fun. The event is planned to be at the Hilton Garden Inn in Waldorf, MD. To sign up and buy tickets go to: http://www.surrattsville79.reunionmanager.com/ Or email Marilynda Orange Macquade at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
11. CLASS OF 74 REUNION UPDATE. And we received this update from the Class of 74 on its reunion planning: “Invitations to the Class of 1974’s 40 year reunion on September 6, 2014 at The South River Golf Club in Edgewater, MD (7 p.m. start time) have been mailed out. Please go to the “Surrattsville Class of 74” Facebook page to get more details on the reunion and to review comments from your fellow alumni on the reunion. The Facebook link to the Class of 74 site is https://www.facebook.com/groups/117993451552383/. If you have not received an invitation yet and would like to attend the reunion please contact Paul Myers at email@example.com. Related to this, about 20 invitations have been returned due to non-current addresses from the post office. Here are the alumni whose invitations were returned: Pamela Linkins Twiford, Richard (Rick) Gehrman, Jr., Cynthia (Cindy) Miner Gehrman, Keith A. Armstrong, Bill Simpkins, Harry Carter, Elizabeth (Betty) Endres Raimondi, Tim Shanahan, Brenda L. Murphy, Robert Cornett, Charles (Charlie) Disharoon, Rosemary Harris Duke, George Sheppard, Fred Selby, Lisa Fugate Southerland, Joy Griffiths Taylor, Laurie Nichols Rhatican. If you know of the whereabouts and/or are in contact with any of these fellow alumni please let them know that an attempt to send them an invitation to the reunion was made. If they would like to attend please request that current contact information be forwarded to Paul Myers at the email address shown above. Finally, there is a substantial list of alumni for which the Reunion Committee has no contact information. We intend to post the list on the Class of 74 FB site. This will hopefully yield additional contact information for these alumni. Hope to see many of you in September. In the meantime, have a great summer – the Reunion Committee.”
12. CLASS OF 64 FINALIZES REUNION PLANS. And we received this reunion update from the Class of 64: “The Class of 1964 has finalized plans for the 50th reunion. A fun-filled weekend is being planned for September 26-28, 2014. The reunion will be held at the Commander Hotel located at the Boardwalk and 1401 Atlantic Street, Ocean City, MD, 410-289-6166. The hotel's web site is www.commanderhotel.com. If you are interested in staying at the hotel, a block of rooms have been held with a 20% discount. However, you must mention the SHS reunion. It is recommended that reservations be made as early as possible.
We have a deadline of June 1, 2014 for reservations to attend the reunion. The cost for the dinner/dance on Saturday, 9/27/14 is $64 and also includes a "goodie" bag. Dress for the entire weekend, including the dinner/dance, is Beach Casual, but no speedos or thongs please! On Friday evening, March 26 there will be a reception at the hotel, which is a BYOB event. Appetizers will be provided. Remember, the deadline to register is June 1, 2014.
This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event! If you are interested in attending, please contact one of the following people and we will let you know where you can send the money for the reunion. Please do not hesitate to call - we are looking forward to seeing everyone and having a great time. Call or e-mail:
[Ed. note: Love the pricing and the dress code!]
13. CLASSES OF 83/84/85 REUNION. And we received this notice from the Classes of 83, 84 and 85: Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 11, 2014 for our Classes of 83/84/85 Reunion. Please email Debbie O’Clair MacKenzie at Debbiemackenzie45@yahoo.com to be placed on the mailing list (if you have not already received the “save the date” email). If you have questions about the event, contact your Class representative:
14. SEEKING WEB SITE VOLUNTEER. The Foundation is still seeking an individual who might be willing to volunteer time to post items to the Foundation’s web site from time-to-time, and perhaps to update the website with more modern technology. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would consider volunteering your talents to this noble undertaking.
15. NEW PHOTOS CONTINUE TO BE ADDED TO FOUNDATION'S FACEBOOK GROUP. Thanks to the on-going work of Foundation Historian and Archivist Shelby Lee Oppermann (79) and a number of members of the Surrattsville community, the large collection of wonderful historical photos with Surrattsville themes on the Foundation's Facebook Group, "Surrattsville Alumni," continues to grow. (Naturally, the Foundation would love to have any Surrattsville- or Clinton-themed historical photos or videos you might wish to share.) The Group now has almost 1820 members.
Here's hoping you are enjoying a relaxing and enjoyable start to your summer!
All the best, Henry Smith (71)
MANY THANKS TO THESE EARLY DONORS TO THE 2014 CAMPAIGN!