HILLSDALE, Ind. (WTWO-WAWV) — In early June, on a beautiful sunny day, dozens of people viewed the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall during its stop in Hillsdale.

The replica is smaller than the wall in D.C., but its impact on those who visit, is not any less.
Joe and Sandra Whitaker of Covington etched not one name, but eight names on the wall, Mr. Whitaker lost eight buddies in Vietnam.

Joe Whitaker was in Vietnam from April 69 to March of 1970 and was a turbine engine mechanic. He was with was with the 114th assault helicopter company, which was also known as the Knights of the Air.

Whitaker lost eight “buddies” and he spent an emotional time at the wall etching their names and remembering each one.

“Well the first one is Ralph Honaker, he was from Kentucky and it just the way he talked his expressions and stuff,” said Whitaker.

“Billy Head was from Georgia he was actually a staff sergeant and he was kind of like a dad to us, said Whitaker. He was 29 that’s all he was he was kind of like a dad so he was kind of father figure to us because I was 20 at the time.”

“Steven Brown he was a pilot, I didn’t know him too much he was an officer, and that didn’t make any difference over there, we could drink a beer with him the same as anybody else, said Whitaker.

“Gale Butcher was was co-pilot in the same ship, the helicopter, he went down with three others and lost their lives when their helicopter was shot down,” said Whitaker.

“Kenneth Kleppin, he was from Wisconsin thing about him was we went to Vietnam on the same plane,” said Whitaker.

“The next fellow is William Barnes he was from Rockville North Carolina or Rock Mount North Carolina, he was a door gunner of that same ship they all went they were shot down,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker also talked about Stanley Crawford he was from Compton California crew chief
door gunner and James Hussey Palestine Texas he’d only been in in country about a month

Whitaker visited the wall with his wife Sandra. For them, it was very emotional thinking about the lives that were cut short in service to the nation.

Sandra was asked the following question.

If you could see these 8 guys, what would you tell them about this fellow?

“He’s led a remarkable life, like they would have done, if they had made it through,” said Sandra Whitaker. We have four children six grandchildren he’s done a great job of living through his trauma of Vietnam.”

Whitaker reflected on his life and his “buddies” and he continues to have strong feelings about their deaths.

“There’s times I think, why them and not me,” said Whitaker.