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Gold Star mother remembers her Vietnam War hero 50 years later

By ALLIE KIRKMAN | The (Munster, Ind.) Times | Published: August 11, 2019

HAMMOND, Ind. (Tribune News Service) — “Freddie was a good boy.”

Ina Kizziah remembers her son, Fredrick King, as a man who loved his family dearly and would do anything he could to protect them. He was the oldest boy of eight children.

At 17, he quit high school and joined the U.S. Army in 1966. Like so many others from the area, Kizziah, 90, said her son was determined to serve.

“He decided he wanted to go to war. He said he feels like he needs to fight for his family and his country. And that’s what he went on to do,” the Gold Star mother said recently while sitting in her Hammond home, surrounded by the old photos and framed medals belonging to her Freddie.

“With Vietnam, the way it was and the terrible fighting and killing, I wasn’t too happy about it. But, I thought if that’s what he wants, if that’s what makes him happy, I am all for it.”

King kept in touch and wrote home often during his two years in the military. In the letters she received from her son, Kizziah said the soldier would describe the monsoon season and the lonely nights he spent on guard duty, watching over his comrades as they slept.

He was always glad when daylight returned, Kizziah said.

For a period of time, King was a jeep driver. He was responsible for traveling from base to base, picking up and delivering bed linens and anything else that might be needed.

“That was his end — the jeep,” Kizziah said, with tears beginning to fill in her eyes.

King was told that he was eligible to leave Vietnam early and to return home. When he got to the airport, his orders were not cleared and he was returned to his company at the base to await other orders.

When he returned, King was approached by the soldier who had replaced him as a driver of the jeep.

“One of his buddies asked him if would ride shotgun for him, which I suppose is manning the gun on the back of the jeep. So my son went with him to another base to pick up a load of laundry,” Kizziah said. “On that trip, they hit a land mine and my son was thrown from the jeep into a tree. The driver died instantly.”

King lived for 2 hours, 45 minutes before he passed away from head injuries on a field hospital operating table. He was 19 when he died on November 24, 1968.

“I was getting my kids ready for school that morning and a car pulled up in front of my house. When they walked up to the driveway and got up to the door, they asked if they could come in. They had papers in their hands and I thought it had to be about my son,” Kizziah said.

“I said, ‘Will you just please tell me one thing: Is my son badly hurt or is he dead?’ And they just asked again if they could come in. I knew then my son was gone. It was a very sad day.”

After she buried her son, Kizziah began to surround herself with other mothers whose children were killed in war.

“There was a lot of boys being killed in Vietnam from this area. So, when there was a wake and a funeral, we would go to the wakes and many times, we would go to their homes and visit with the families,” Kizziah said.

“My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their kids in war.”

Today, much of King’s military memorabilia, including the letters to Kizziah, are on display in a veteran’s museum at the Tri-Town Safety Village in Schererville.

“I wish that people would honor soldiers when they see them,” Kizziah said. “We’re always grateful in our hearts that they made it back alive. We’ve had so many that didn’t.”

©2019 The Times (Munster, Ind.)
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