Wednesday, May 17, 2000

City backs vets' effort

MIA from Covington cited

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — City commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday in the name of one of their own — Pfc. Gary Lee Hall, a Covington native and Marine listed as missing in action May 15, 1975, after battling communists in Southeast Asia.

        The resolution supports a push by Vietnam Veterans of America of Washington, D.C., to have certain medical benefits and the Vietnam Service Medal extended to those who served in Southeast Asia after American combat soldiers pulled out of South Vietnam in March 1973 and Saigon fell in April 1975.

        The cutoff date for the medal is now March 28, 1973, and May 7, 1975, for the benefits. If Pfc. Hall had survived, he would not be eligible for either. The VVA wants May 31, 1975, to be the new cutoff date for both the medal and benefits.

        “The Halls have fought a lonely battle for a long time,” city Commissioner Butch Callery said. “I think this will make the Halls feel better.”

        Mr. Callery sought the resolution after learning of the VVA's work from a story in Monday's Enquirer.

        His intent is to send the approved resolution to Northern Kentucky's representatives in Washington, D.C. He put some feelers out to his fellow commissioners Monday night and asked City Solicitor Joe Condit to draft the resolution Tuesday afternoon.

        Mr. Callery now wants to send the resolution to U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Richwood, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

        “Since Gary was a Covington resident, maybe we could do that and stir things up,” Mr. Callery said. “He did the ultimate sacrifice. He saved the lives of his buddies. It's a miscarriage that hasn't been addressed in Congress. Someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice shouldn't be forgotten at all. They should be role models for everyone.”

        Commissioner Jerry Stricker suggested the city ask the Kenton Fiscal Court and Gov. Paul Patton to pass similar resolutions.

        The VVA, the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization for that era, has been pushing for the date extensions for about 10 years.

        Mr. Lucas has promised to investigate the matter.

        “Private Hall served his country honorably, and we certainly want to ensure he receive the respect he and his family deserve,” said John Lapp, Mr. Lucas' chief Washington aide.

        Pfc. Hall was a 1974 Holmes High School graduate. He was one of more than 200 Marines who landed on Cambodia's Koh Tang island May 15, 1975, to rescue the crew of the SS Mayaguez.

        A heavily armed contingent of the Khmer Rouge was already there. The Marines opted for evacuation. They had made an unsuccessful sweep of the beaches when they left without Pfc. Hall and two other members of a ma chine gun crew. They were declared missing in action and are presumed dead.

        Mike Hall of Covington appreciates what city commissioners are trying to do for his brother. He gets upset when he hears some Vietnam veterans don't want to include the Mayaguez incident in the Vietnam period of war.

        “I thought (the resolution) was really nice,” he said. “It surely can't hurt.”

        Ray Schaefer contributed to this report.


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