City Hometown Hero program sponsors Memorial Day Service

City Hometown Hero program sponsors Memorial Day Service
Posted on 05/19/2016

The City of Redlands Hometown Heroes Program will sponsor Memorial Day Service at 10:45 a.m. Monday, May 30, at Hillside Memorial Park. Members of American Legion posts 106 and 650 will present a ceremony listing the names of departed comrades who have passed away in the last year, followed by remarks from local dignitaries and guest speaker Matt Proietti, author of “At All Costs,” a biography of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger whose life-saving actions during the Vietnam War were largely forgotten for more than four decades. 

Ladies from the American Legion Auxiliaries 106 and 650 will present a wreath commemorating fallen heroes and the event will conclude with salutes presented by the Post 650 Honor Guard and the Sons of the American Revolution.

“At All Costs” documents the life of Etchberger, a Pennsylvania native killed in March 1968. Etchberger’s widow, Kay, lived in Redlands prior to her death in 1994. Their son, Steven Wilson, and his wife, Kathy, have made their home here since the 1970s.

“At All Costs” was recently named to a recommended Air Force reading list by Gen. Mark A. Welsh, the service’s top officer. The book details Etchberger’s role as one of the senior leaders of a clandestine radar mission at a mountaintop camp, which was attacked at night by North Vietnamese Army special forces in March 1968.

Etchberger, despite having no combat training, killed several soldiers and protected two severely injured comrades. At daybreak, he helped them and a third GI make it onto a cable lowered from a rescue helicopter. Etchberger, too, boarded the helicopter only to be fatally struck when bullets tore through the floor of the departing aircraft. Eleven others were killed or declared missing, marking this as the greatest loss of Air Force ground personnel in the war.

Despite eyewitness accounts to his actions, they were not recognized with the Medal of Honor until 2010 because of where they took place: Laos, a country officially neutral toward the neighboring conflict and off limits to outside armed forces.

The book, Proietti’s first after years of work as a print journalist, was published in 2015 by a charitable foundation started by Etchberger’s sons. Proietti got his start in writing as a staff member of the weekly Globetrotter at the former Norton Air Force Base and remains a member of the Air Force Reserve. The Globetrotter was printed by the Redlands Daily Facts for many years.