The story of a Pratt County man, whose name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, is shared by his nephew.
Their names are just three among the 58,286 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington D.C.
But these men, who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, were from Pratt County. These hometown men who died far from home and family, were Army SFC Donald Eugene Moore of Pratt, Marine LCPL Jack Vernon Lackey Jr. of Iuka and Army PFC Forrest “Frosty” Dean Hoeme of Preston.
The wall honors those that fell in the war. A traveling version of the wall is coming to Kansas. From noon Thursday, Aug. 28 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute and Traveling Wall will be on display at the Museum of the Kansas National Guard at Forbes Field/Topeka Regional Airport oat 6700 SW Topeka Boulevard in Topeka. The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day.
Memories of one Pratt County man listed on the wall, Forrest Hoeme, are kept alive in letters he sent home to his brother Ewald and wife Deanna Hoeme. Their son, Luke Hoeme shared three letters that include inquiries of home and family including requests for pictures of Luke’s older brother Enick who was a baby.
The letters were addressed to Deannea, Edwald and Enick although the correct spelling was Deanna and Ewald. Here are selected segments of those letters.
Jan. 6, 1967
Dear Deannea, Edwald and Enick
Hi. Isn’t this the greatest. Here I am on radio watch and its 3 o’clock in the morning. We have a couple of companys out in the field now so our 2 F.O.s are out with them.
We arrived here and got off the ship on New Years Day. It would have been New Years Eve back home. The truce was on but I don’t believe that meant much to the V.C. because they fired a few times, not at us but other units…My boat ride was great. I didn’t even get seasick believe it or not. And the ocean is beautiful. The sunrise and sunset on the ocean is really great…How is Enick getting along? I’ll bet he is growing like a weed…
Write soon please. Love Frosty
Jan. 31, 1967
Dear Deannea and Edwald
I think were going to the Delta region and it just ain’t very nice down there. Matter of fact it ain’t so hot up here…I mean 2 companies of this battalion got hit. There were a few that got it and a few injured. It really makes me mad, the price they put on life. All you are is a number and I’m not kidding. I had buddies that told me about it. They said they walked right into a V.C. command post straight into a 50 cal machine gun. Brother that’s hell, don’t kid yourself. Kinda wish I was in a line company. Hate to see them out and leave me behind…It isn’t really so bad over here except for the two companies that got hit. Not much has happened. Don’t tell the folks about them don’t want them worrying…
P.S. Send a picture of Enick okay
Feb. 18, 1967
Well we are in the Delta now and I don’t like it. I can hear Bravo Company now just outside town. Guess they made contact. It is hell. The enemy is everywhere and so is the water. I was out in the paddies yesterday. All there is, is mud and water. Boy, that company sounds like they are catching hell. Would like to help but we went though the same thing yesterday. I have never been as scared before in my life either…We can’t get clearance to fire because they are too close in and our shells won’t arm themselves without 10 charges on them…Well Edwald, you’ll have to write and give me a run down on how things are going back at the ranch, okay. Had better close, write soon.
Hoeme was killed just 21 days later on March 11, 1967. He was 22. He is buried in the church cemetery just a mile north of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Natrona.
Luke Hoeme lives in the same house where his uncle grew up. Frosty went to Natrona Grade School. The Natrona School closed down and Frosty went to Preston where he competed in football, basketball and track.
He was drafted a year or two after he graduated from Preston High School, Luke said.
Although he was born after Frosty died, Luke has had two memorable encounters related to Frosty many years later.
Luke sold some hay to a man north of Turon. The man, Stanley Millington, asked how Luke was related to Forrest. The Army assigned a soldier to accompany a body home and stay with it though the funeral. Millington was the soldier assigned to accompany Frosty, Luke said.
On another occasion a man from Missouri had seen Luke’s tractors south of Preston. He stopped by and wanted to know if Luke was related to Forrest. The Missouri man knew Forrest when he was in the service and had visited with his parents.
He said Frosty was very likable, enjoyable and funny. He was just fun to be around.
Efforts to reach relatives of the other Pratt County men have been unsuccessful. Anyone with information about Army SFC Donald Eugene Moore of Pratt who died Feb. 7, 1968 at age 31 or Marine LCPL Jack Vernon Lackey Jr. of Iuka who died July 10, 1969 at age 19 is encouraged to contact the Tribune at 620-672-5511 or firstname.lastname@example.org