WALLA WALLA, Wash. (MCT) — A local casualty from the Vietnam War has been symbolically brought home.
As classmate Neil Jacobson and others watched, Orla Daniel Hammack’s name was added to the Walla Walla Area Vietnam Memorial at Fort Walla Walla.
Hammack’s name joined 18 others now inscribed on the monument located next to the fort’s historic graveyard.
Raised in Walla Walla, Spc. 4 Hammack was a 20-year-old U.S. Army infantryman when he died in 1970 while fighting in Cambodia during an operation to destroy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army bases in that neighboring country.
Hammack’s remains are buried at Riverview Cemetery in Wilton, N.D.
Although North Dakota was both his birthplace and final resting place, Hammack had grown up in Walla Walla and was only a few months away from graduation in 1967 when his family moved to Columbus, Ohio, which military records list as his hometown.
But Hammack’s Walla Walla connection wasn’t forgotten by Jacobson, who met Hammack at Edison Elementary School when they were children. Both went on to attend Pioneer Middle School and then Walla Walla High School.
But that’s where their paths diverged. While Hammack went into the Army, Jacobson joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
After finishing his tour of duty, Jacobson returned to Walla Walla and worked as journeyman electrician for about 10 years, then eventually went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport, Wash. Now retired, he and Jacobson and his wife, Cherilyne, moved back to the Walla Walla area this year.
The connection with Hammack was reawakened when Jacobson, former vice commander of the American Legion Post 218 in Bridgeport, visited the Vietnam memorial at Fort Walla Walla on Memorial Day this year and saw that Hammack’s name wasn’t there.
“I said to myself, ‘This has got to be fixed,’” Jacobson said. “You know the saying, ‘All give some and some gave all.’ Well, Orla gave all.”
Jacobson said he first talked with Fort Walla Walla Director James Payne about adding Hammack’s name and Payne directed him to Joan Schille, park maintenance supervisor with the city of Walla Walla.
Schille said she discussed Jacobson’s request with parks Director Jim Dumont and they agreed adding the name would be appropriate.
“This young man certainly grew up here,” Schille said. “The way we looked at it is the memorial belongs to those who come from here ... It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
So on Friday morning, Tony Pugliese Jr. of Wylie Monuments etched Hammack’s name into the granite face of the memorial. Among those watching him do the work were the Jacobsons and Don Schack, chaplain of Veterans of Foreign Wars Grant Farmer Post 992.
After Pugliese’s work was finished, the Jacobsons and Schack dedicated the addition with a salute and a prayer.
“He’s back home,” Jacobson said.
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