Ralph's name is displayed on various memorials in his home town of Quincy, MA and can be found on the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, The Northeast Georgia History Center, US Army Aviation Museum, Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida, Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument at Arlington National Cemetery and online at The Virtual Wall. These memorials signify the love he had for this country. They are a display for the living to honor those who have sacrificed all. We must always remember and be forever grateful for their service to our country.





Wreaths Across America

Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA

16 December 2023

Mike Penella, Annette Penella and Jerry Mulvey


Ralph's dear friends, Jerry Mulvey and Mike and Annette Penella, joined Marie and Colin, Gerry and Swib and myself at Ralph's grave to lay the wreath on Ralph's grave. It truly was a special day sharing it with Ralph's friends. Mike told me that I would not believe how often they talk about "Ralphie". True friends! Annette showed me a recent photo of Ralph's friend's getting together for their usual card game. In the photo sitting around the poker table were Mike, Jerry, Gino Schleicher, Dennis O'Brien, Tony Vento and Richard Penella - Great photo!






Ralph's Presence

July 21, 2023 Sunset

Fourth Cliff Air Force Recreation Area

Humarock, MA

We were out at Fourth Cliff on vacation and of course thinking of Ralph all day. Humarock Beach and the walks around Fourth Cliff were special to Ralph; so it was a sign to me that Ralph had a hand in this beautiful sunset!





Memorial Day Weekend

28 May 2023

Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA

Bob Vinson called to say he and Andrea were leaving the house and would be at Ralph's grave by 10:00am. Barbara and Leah and Marie and Colin were able to join me to meet up with Bob and Andrea. Bob shared some funny stories of Ralph from their time together at WOC School and Flight School. We were thrilled to have been able to make it happen! Never Forgotten!

Andrea, Bob, Barbara, Marie and Nancy

Photo Courtesy of Colin Riley





Veteran's Day

9 November 2022

On/Or About 13:04

The Vietnam Wall

Washington DC

Ralph's army friend, Kendal Smith, volunteered again to participate in the Reading of the Names at the 40th Anniversary of the Vietnam Wall. Not only did he read Ralph and his crew members names, as Kendal likes to say, "in to the heavens", but also the names of the soldiers of C Company, 5/7, killed in action that day. Ralph's unit 227 was supporting C Company, 5/7, all day and into the night.

C Company, 5th Battalion/7th Regiment

Edward Garland Ash Jr

Russell E. Butler

Arthur Merino Flores

Brian Stuart Krill

C Company, 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion

Charles L. Callahan III

Robert Warren Parent

Robert Douglas Stone

Ralph John Willard

Video Courtesy of Eleanor McCree





July Fourth Celebration


I saw my friend Jane (McGuiggan) Churchill at an annual July Fourth Celebration. She told me she and her husband were at Fort Benning visiting their son at the time; who is now an Army Ranger. While there, they visited the National Infantry and Soldier's Center at Fort Benning (which Jane highly recommends). Jane showed me a picture she took of Ralph's name on the smaller sized replica of the Vietnam Wall. 


Photo Courtesy of Jane (McGuiggan) Churchill





Remembering & Honoring Staff Sgt. Robert Phillips, USA/MIA

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Clock Tower

Marina Bay, Quincy, MA

28 June 2022

The Vietnam Combat Veterans Group and the City of Quincy added the fiftieth name to the Vietnam Memorial Clock Tower at Marina Bay in Quincy. The driving force behind this accomplishment was John Magnarelli, Class of 1967, North Quincy High School (SGT, USA, 82nd Airborne Division, 11th Air Cavalry Regiment, Vietnam, May 1969-April 1970). The fiftieth name is Robert Phillips. John and Bobby were best friends in junior high and their freshman year of high school, before Bobby and his family moved to Ohio. They did not cross paths again (literally) until on 10 April 1970, when John was on the tarmac at Bien Hoa Airbase, outside Saigon, at the end of his tour in Vietnam, waiting to board the transport bringing him back home. John noticed Bobby walk by him and shouted out to him. They quickly caught up with each other. Bobby said when he got back to the states he was going to move back to Quincy. He said he was on his second tour in Vietnam, but this time he had a safe job. Three months later, while reading the local newspaper, John learned that Bobby was MIA. Later in 1973, when the POW’s were released, John searched the names, but did not find Bobby’s. It was not until much later, when official documents became available during internet searches in the mid-1990’s, that Bobby’s fate was learned. On a resupply mission to a fire base on the perimeter of Saigon, he and two other US soldiers were ambushed. One US soldier was killed and Bobby and the other were taken prisoner. Bobby was moved many times and made two escape attempts. After being in captivity for a year and a half, the second escape attempt was successful. He lived in the jungle for a short time before he was recaptured. He was taken back to the prison camp where he was executed. His body never recovered. Many years have passed, but now Bobby’s name is rightly displayed along with Ralph’s and his other fellow sons of Quincy. Thank you John Magnarelli for never forgetting Bobby Phillips. Welcome home Bobby!


John Magnarelli remembering and honoring his friend Bobby Phillips

Photo Courtesy of Lisa Aimola, City of Quincy




Memorial Day Weekend 2022

John, Evan and I visited Ralph's grave with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A shout out to Nancy, the florist at our local Star Market, who was very helpful in selecting the right colors - 1st CAV colors of course! The Veteran's Section at Wollaston Cemetery looked beautiful. The crew at the cemetery went above and beyond! Thank you!


Marie and Colin added her flag stone on their visit to Ralph's grave!

Photo Courtesy of Marie (Willard) Riley




Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

20 May 2022

We were invited to the wedding of Kaitlin and Bill at Quidnessett Country Club in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Charles Callahan (Ralph's co-pilot) is buried at Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery in North Kingstown, RI. After a quick search, I discovered that the country club and the cemetery are only a 5 minute drive from each other. We left early allowing enough time to visit Charles' grave first, pay our respects and place a small bouquet offlowers from my garden on his gravestone. Before leaving the cemetery we drove around a small loop to admire the beautiful flowering trees in spring bloom.

At the wedding we were seated with Marcia and Ralph Morse, their daughter Katie and her husband Joey. Marcia is the brides aunt and sister of my dear friend Sherri (mother of the bride). Marcia became a friend of Ralph's through her brother Bill, who was a school classmate of Ralph's. 

I mentioned to Marcia that Charles is buried close by and that we stopped and placed a small bouquet of flowers at his grave prior to the ceremony. Marcia wanted the directions to the cemetery, so I drew a stick map on the back of a seating place card. 

Marcia told me a story that happened on the day Ralph and Charles were killed. She and her family were out on a boat celebrating her mother's birthday. They had stopped at an island and were climbing over some rocks. Her dad was wearing his sunglasses that Ralph got Marcia for herwhen he worked at Polaroid. The sunglasses slipped off, fell on the rocks and broke. When they learned of Ralph's death on July 21 and it being her mom's birthday, they remembered that the glasses broke on that day. 

Marcia also told me a story that happened the day her uncle, William Caddy, was killed on Iwo Jima. Once the family was notified that her Uncle Bill was killed, they realized it was the day that Sally, Uncle Bill's dog, had whined all day! 

Also at the wedding, I had the privilege of being introduced to the father of the groom who was "in country" in 1968/1969 with the 101st. He fought on Hamburger Hill with the 101st, which had moved to Camp Evans after the 1st CAV moved south. 

The next day, I got a text from Marcia saying that she and her husband Ralph (LTC, USMC, Ret.), a fellow military helicopter pilot, along with their dog Daisy, visited Charles' grave. They brought with them a wedding bouquet of flowers and placed the bouquet on his grave. 

I told Marcia that Ralph was smiling down on them! 

I am sure Uncle Bill and Sally are smiling too! 

Thank you Marcia, Ralph and Daisy!





Ralph's Memorial Brick

Plymouth Memorial Hall

21 July 2021

We met Bob and Margie Kay at Memorial Hall in Plymouth to place some flowers at Ralph's Memorial Brick. We chatted for a bit and then Bob and Margie had us to their house for pizza that their daughter Meredith graciously picked up and delivered to us. We sat out on their lovely front porch that has a beautiful view of Plymouth Harbor, talked and ate some delicious pizza. We ended sitting around the dining room table enjoying each others company and Margie's dessert!





"God Bless the USA"

Lee Greenwood and the Singing Sergeants

Jim Brennan (C227) sent this video out in an email. I thought it should be on Ralph's memorials page. Thanks for sharing Jim! It is a beautiful rendition!







Memorial Day Weekend 2021

Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA

John, Evan and I visited Ralph’s grave Memorial Day Weekend. I brought a C227 Challenge Coin with me to place on his gravestone and photograph. Over the weekend I got calls from Bob Vinson who told me he would be visiting Ralph’s grave with his wife Andrea on Saturday. Bob and Marilou Weiss also called to say hello and let me know they were thinking of Ralph. My sister Marie called to tell me that her and Colin bumped into a friend, Jimmy Broderick, who was at the cemetery visiting his cousins grave. His cousin turns out to be James Cavicci. At the 2015 VHPA Reunion we were able to get a rubbing at the Vietnam Wall of James Cavicci’s name for his sister Carol, who Barbara had met by chance. Small world indeed. I was up in Quincy shortly after that and went by Ralph’s grave again and found Marie’s painted flag rock and another rock in the middle of the grave to tell me someone else had visited. Never forgotten!





Wreaths Across America

Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA

19 December 2020

Gerry, Marie and I volunteered laying wreaths for Wreaths Across America at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, MA. Ralph is buried there in the Veterans Section. This was the third annual wreath laying and participation was extraordinary. The ceremony portion of the event was cancelled due to cold weather and twelve inches of ice crusted snow on the ground. This was not a deterrent for the wreath laying. As you can see from the photo the veterans buried at Mount Wollaston dating back to the Civil War are not forgotten!

Gerry and Marie near Ralph's grave.





Vietnam Memorial

Battleship Cove

Fall River, MA

23 December 2019


Ralph's friend, Bob Kay, sent me a photo that his daughter sent him of Ralph's name on the

Vietnam Memorial at Battleship Cove. Thanks Bob and Bridget! Never forgotten!







United States Army Aviation

Graduating Class 20-001

Fort Rucker, AL

7 November 2019

My dear friend Peggy just sent me a picture of her son Brian proudly standing beside Ralph's name at the Honor Roll Wall located inside Fort Rucker's Aviation Museum. Brian graduated from Flight School today at Fort Rucker. He is the only Medevac Pilot in his graduating class! His dad Steve proudly pinned on his wings, with his mom and family beside him. Congratulations to 2LT Brian Millham!






Memorial Day Weekend

25 May 2019

Marie and I went to Ralph’s grave to visit and say a prayer the Saturday prior to Memorial Day. The cemetery was at its finest in the Veterans Section of Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, MA, with all the American Flags waving in tribute to those veterans who sacrificed their lives defending our country. Later on, on my way home, I was surprised with a phone call from one of Ralph’s dear friends, Gerry Walsh. Gerry and his family lived around the corner from us; our families were close friends. Gerry called to say when he opened his local paper in Venice, FL that morning, there was an insert titled Honoring Our Fallen Heroes for Memorial Day. To his complete surprise, staring back at him on the insert was a photograph of Ralph featured as one of the “fallen heroes”! It turns out that my brother Richard and his wife Kathy provided Ralph’s photo and the information to their local paper in Punta Gorda. Both papers are part of the same media group and both ran the insert for Memorial Day. Richard and Gerry are only about 40 miles from each other and are planning a meetup with their wives Kathy and Andrea. We hope when Gerry and Andrea are back in MA this summer for a visit we can get together too! Nice story!


Insert Courtesy of Gerry Walsh





North Quincy High School

Alumni Soccer Hall of Fame Dinner

Hall of Fame Induction

Willard-Caldwell Award Presentation

Quincy, MA 

30 March 2019


I was asked by a dear friend, Peter Donovan, to present the Willard-Caldwell Award at the first ever NQHS Alumni Soccer Hall of Fame Dinner. It was named after two fellow NQHS Soccer Players, Ralph (Class of 1965) and Charles Todd Caldwell (Class of 1983) who was killed in Iraq in 2003. It was an honor and a privilege to present the award “For Dedication and Service to the NQHS Soccer Program” to Bill Donovan, Class of 1975, Hall of Fame Inductee. Bill grew up in the same neighborhood as my family, so it made the presentation even sweeter! Congratulations Billy! 

Before the presentation fifty-seven players and four coaches were inducted into the Hall of Fame going back to 1964 when the soccer program first began. Congratulations to all!







Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA 

15 December 2018

My friend Nancy Edmondson and I volunteered for the first Wreaths Across America “Wreath Laying” at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, MA. We joined at least 200+ volunteers to lay wreaths on the veterans graves in both the Veterans Section and throughout the cemetery. Prior to the "Wreath Laying" a ceremony was held to honor our veterans. At the conclusion of the ceremony, volunteers who had a connection to veterans buried at the cemetery were give the opportunity to go first and lay those wreaths. So Nancy and I were able to lay a wreath on Ralph’s grave. The protocol is to lay the wreath on the veterans grave and then say their name out loud; symbolizing that they are not forgotten.. We then laid wreaths on graves close to Ralph's grave to include George Fell (Ralph's high school classmate), Alfred Schofield and James Cavicchi. Nancy and I then concentrated our efforts in the Civil War Section. We did our best to read the names on the Civil War gravestones that have deteriorated due to the elements. Sponsorship of wreaths, donated by individuals or by companies, far exceeded expectations this first year at Mount Wollaston. What a great way to start! Wreaths Across America this year placed 1.4 million wreaths on veterans graves across our great country! For more information: Wreaths Across America







Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery

North Kingstown, RI 

1 December 2018


Marie and I drove south to North Kingstown, Rhode Island to the historic Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery, where WO Charles Callahan is buried in a family plot along with his wife Cheryl and his parents. We placed memorabilia on his grave marker and then paid our respects. Close to Qudinessett Memorial Cemetery is the Seabee Museum, which is on the grounds of what was once Camp Endicott. Camp Endicott was the "Home of the Atlantic Seabees" and where our dad trained with the 130th Construction Naval Battalion.The 130th CNB saw action in the Pacific Theater; it joined the 2nd Marine Division in Saipan, prior to its last mission, the invasion of Okinawa in April of 1945. We toured the museum, which is of course in a Quonset Hut and then got directions to Allen Harbor (still on what was once Camp Endicott). We had lunch there and raised our bottled waters to WO Charles Callahan, who was Larry to his family and Chuck to his friends. We thought it fitting that a "Sundog" showed itself in the sky; we took it as a smile from Charles (what my family calls him) and our dad!







The Vietnam Wall - Panel 51

Washington, DC

November 11, 2018 


Bob and Marilou Weiss were in DC to meet up with fellow 5/7 CAV members and families for the Veterans Day Ceremonies. Bob and his fellow C5/7 troops who fought alongside their fallen brethren that day and night were at The Wall to pay their respect and gratitude to them at Panel 51W. Fellow C5/7 troops who were KIA on 21 JUL68 - Edward G. Ash, Jr, Russell E. Butler, Arthur M. Flores, Brian S. Krill and C227AHB Crew - Charles L. Callahan, III, Robert W. Parent, Robert D. Stone, Ralph J. Willard.  


Bob at Panel 51W

Photo Courtesy of Marilou Weiss





Wildwood Cemetery

Wilmington, MA 

10 November 2018


My sisters and I drove north through Boston to Wilmington, where Robert Parent is buried at Wildwood Cemetery. We found his grave in the Veterans Section of this town cemetery; close to where the American Flag stands watch. We placed memorabilia on his grave marker and paid our respects. We found it fitting that we arrived here on Veterans Day Weekend. We had lunch closer to home, south of Boston; where we raised our glasses to honor SP5 Robert Parent.







St. Mary's Cemetery


8 August 2018


Vermont Scenic Byways, Routes 100 and 125, driving parallel and then over the Green Mountains, afforded John, Evan and I beautiful views as we drove to Middlebury, VT and St. Mary's Cemetery; where Robert Stone is buried. We paid our respects and placed the memorabilia we brought in a ziploc bag and placed it on the ground between the flowers that adorned the grave and the gravestone. As you can see from the gravesite there is a beautiful view of the Green Mountains. We continued to the Otter Creek Brewing Company for lunch and raised our glasses to honor SSG Robert Stone.







Welcome Center - Route 89N

Sharon, VT


Norwich University

Route 12 - Northfield, VT

7 August 2018





Weymouth, MA

Union Point

(Former South Weymouth Naval Air Station)

28 July 2018






21 July 2018


It all started with a beautiful email letter from my cousin Mary Ellen, sent to me and my family and continued with Mike Sprayberry graciously including me in an email chain with Jack Boyt, who happened to be a very young lieutenant on the ground with C5/7, fifty years ago today (the unit Ralph and crew were supporting with emergency ammunition and water). Mary Ellen, Mike and Jack all gave me permission to post their correspondence in italic here.

Dear Gerry, Barbara, Marie, Nancy and Richard,

I usually remember important dates and I know tomorrow is a very important one for the five of you - the 50th anniversary of Ralphie's death.  I don't know whether you have anything special planned to celebrate his life and what an extraordinary young man he was but I will be quietly thinking of Ralphie myself.

I've always believed that for a man or woman to die in the line of duty for his or her country should never be forgotten or minimized.   A person may well disagree with the military strategies of its government but never malign or belittle the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform.  To do so is petty and insulting and reflects a person who has no respect for people like Ralphie.  What more could any military person do than to sacrifice his/her own life for his/her country?

I know that you have been following Mike Sprayberry's diligent efforts to locate and bring home the remains of the six soldiers who died at Tiger Mountain in the A Shau Valley so many years ago.  I would like to make a donation in Ralphie's name to help Mike continue his work.  Please let me know what address I can mail it to.

I will be thinking of all of you tomorrow but more importantly, of Ralphie and his bravery and ultimate sacrifice.  May he rest in peace forever.

My Best to All of You,

Mary Ellen

I then forwarded Mary Ellen’s email to Mike Sprayberry.

On Saturday, July 21st, Marie and Colin and I were able to go together to Quincy to pay our respects to Ralph and place a bouquet of flowers at his grave, his street marker on Ditmar Street and the Vietnam Memorial Clock Tower at Marina Bay. We also walked Will, Marie and Colin’s chocolate lab around the Hummocks, where Ralph played and fished. When we were at Ralph’s grave, we placed our bouquet at Ralph’s headstone because Bob Kay, a dear friend of Ralph's, had already been by and placed one at the foot stone and someone had placed a US Army flag holder at the headstone. While we were at the marina, Gerry called to say she was at Ralph’s grave with Swib (her husband) and that Jerry Mulvey, a dear friend of Ralph’s, also came by while they were there to pay his respects. 

When we got back to Marie’s, we called dear friends, Bob and Marilou Weiss. If you recall Bob was one of the C5/7 ground troops who volunteered to hike down to Ralph’s crash site. We had a nice chat and as always a smile on our faces when we ended the call. 

The following is an email thread I received on Saturday, July 21st, between Jack Boyt, Mike Sprayberry, Bob Weiss and three other C5/7 soldiers. Jack and Bob and the three others included in this email thread were all on the ground that day and night. 

Ground unit: C5/7 (C Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (1st CAV).

Air Support (Ralph’s company): C227 (C Company, 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB), 1st Calvary Division (1st CAV)

*Mike was D5/7, not on ground, but somewhere listening in real time to the radio transmissions.

Jack first wrote to Mike and others:

Realized earlier this week, that today would be 50 years to the date since we lost our 4 Charlie Company brothers on that desolate daisy cutter LZ. And I include 4 more brothers from 227th Aviation who volunteered to resupply us with much needed ammo late in the day and went down with their aircraft – to whom I will always be thankful.

Think it is important we take a minute at the reunion to raise a glass together to celebrate the sacrifice these men made for us.

Look forward to seeing you all


Mike replied to Jack and included me in the correspondence:

Jack and all,

I will assume that you don't mind me sending this to Ralph Willard's sister, Nancy Collins. WO Willard was one of the pilots of the last C/227 resupply bird that went down that night. She, her sisters, and cousins have thru the adversity of Ralph's loss persevered with pride, honor, and yes, sadness. But thru it all, somehow it has brought out the best of human kind. It is difficult to explain to the uninitiated. Fully knowing the risks, and that the mission could quickly go tragically wrong, Ralph and the crew accepted their fate for guys they didn't even really know. As we sat glued to the radio that day and night, we fully expected that C Company would cease to exist that night. There was an abundance of courage that day, both on the ground and in the air. The loss of the crew only makes their noble effort more important to those who survived. May you all find peace of mind and heart this day. Each of you did your best for each other, and that mission continues.

Garry Owen, Forever,

Mike and Julie

PS: We will be traveling to Atlanta for the C 227th reunion in September. My purpose in attending will be to thank them all for what they, individually, did for their grunts, especially Ralph and crew. As fate would have it Julie shares a special bond with Nancy and her family, as her brother David crashed on this day in 1969.

I sent a reply email to all and received correspondence from Jack Boyt:

Nancy - 

Nice to hear from you. 

As you may know, I was among those who were direct beneficiaries of your brother’s selfless heroism. And, as I have said many times, my heart has ached knowing those guys volunteered to help us and then died as a direct result. 

Certainly these messages can used and we hope they convey a small part of our gratitude for the enormous contribution made by our 227th brothers on our behalf. 

Thank you

Mike sent a reply after I asked if I could have permission to include his email:

Dearest Nancy and Family,

We ground pounders all know that Bob Weiss will always be your most beloved and smelly ole grunt. However, it is our privilege just to be mentioned in your loving tribute to Ralph. If anyone is as well remembered and loved as Ralph, fifty years later, he would have done something very special. Both Ralph and his crew did exactly that and are deserving of our enduring remembrance and respect. While I never met Ralph, I know what he did and that is forever more than enough for me. It is a love story in the true sense and it continues to grow and bloom beautifully.

Thank You Ralph And Ladies,

Mike and Julie

I also heard from Gerard "G" Golden, another dear friend of Ralph's. He let me know he visited Ralph's grave at Mt. Wollaston and then went to Ditmar Street to visit Ralph's Memorial Square. He chose the 25th of July to pay his respects because it is the day we learned Ralph had been KIA. He also said he was touched to read that the " ground unit guys" remember Ralph's sacrifice.

Bob Vinson, Ralph's dear friend from WOC School and Flight School, texted me a photo of himself  at The Wall in DC next to Ralph's name. I have included it below.







Arlington National Cememtery

Arlington, VA

18 AprilL 2018


My sisters and I flew to Washington DC to attend the dedication of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument at Arlington National Cemetery. We arrived the day before and had a full day to explore our beautiful capital. We started at the US Botanic Garden and marveled at all the plants that were in bloom with the different colors, shapes and textures. Quite a display! Next we made a cold but quick paced walk to the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Marie said she heard a little boy say, "Their faded!" Yes, faded, but much loved! While there, we visited the profound "Remembering Vietnam" display in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery. After leaving the National Archives, it was time for lunch, so we thought we would honor Ralph and head to the Willard Hotel for the "Willard Burger". Of course we ordered drinks and raised our glasses to Ralph and his crew. After lunch we headed to the Mall to get a closer look at the WWII Memorial. Our dad was a WWII vet; a seabee in the Pacific Theater, traveling the central route that took him from Hawaii to Okinawa in April of 1945. It is a beautiful monument honoring the "greatest generation"! Next stop was the Vietnam Wall where we paid our respects to Ralph and his crew (67-17415) on Panel W51. After our visit at "The Wall" we walked past the Lincoln Memorial and hailed a ride back to the hotel in Falls Church. Don't tell anybody, but we were all in bed reading by 6PM! Well, the next day awoke with beautiful sunshine and the most beautiful blue skies! It took the Vietnam Helicopter's Pilot's Association four years to see this monument become a reality. What a difference a day makes. On both sides! Tuesday was cold and cloudy and Thursday was cloudy and rainy! But Wednesday, the day of the ceremony, was just perfect. Bob (C Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division) and Marilou Weiss drove down to DC and met us at the amphitheater for the ceremony. Bob was one of the soldiers in his company to volunteer to hike down to Ralph's crash site fifty years ago. So it was a special moment in time, and an honor to be sitting with him and his wife at the ceremony. Maybe the Memorial Amphitheater was not full to capacity, but it was full of love and appreciation. Not only for the pilot's and crewmember's who gave the ultimate sacrifice, but also for those who made the ceremony and monument a reality! Thank you to all for your hard work! Once the ceremony was over we all proceeded to the monument where taps were played; then we had the honor and privilege of witnessing four Huey's flyover the monument in a missing man formation! The sound and sight of those four Huey's flying over the monument signaled that the Vietnam pilot's and crewmember's, "who gave the full devotion to their nation," were finally home! Truly magnificent! How fitting!



West Point Alumni Glee Club

"Mansions of the Lord"


Taps and Huey Missing Man Formation 

US Air Force, 1st Helicopter Squadron, Joint Base Andrews


Flight Video from the Missing Man Formation

US Air Force

1st Helicopter Squandron 

Joint Base Andrews


Additional Media Coverage of the Dedication Ceremony







35th Anniversary of the The Wall

Washington, DC

November 7-11, 2017



Kendal Smith was in touch to let me know he had been in Washington, DC for the Veterans Day Ceremonies at the Vietnam Wall. He again participated in the Reading of the Names. He had 8 sheets to read, 30 names to a sheet, KIA's from March - July 1968. In a note Kendal sent me, he wrote, "It is a very moving, very beautiful ceremony. I am grateful to be able to read Ralph John Willard out into the timeless November sky, He is, in my memory, forever young, forever smart and funny. Worthy of memory." Kendal also told me in an email that Ralph died on his birthday. The following are photographs and some of the memorabilia that Kendal so graciously sent to me. Thank you Kendal!



ROTN Sheet with Ralph's name


Some Pages from the 35th Anniversary Commemorative Program






Ralph's Grave 

Mount Wollaston Cemetery, Quincy, MA

November 11th


Stone Flag Courtesy of Marie Riley






Plymouth, MA

20 July 2017

My family and I had a nice surprise last week, when out of the blue, I received a facebook messenger request from Meredith Kay. The name was not familiar, but for some reason, I decided to accept. It turns out that Meredith was reaching out for her Dad, who lost a high school classmate and friend in Vietnam. Well that turned out to be Ralph. Her dad, Bob Kay, had first met and became friends with Ralph back in junior high school and then they went onto North Quincy High School together. At the time Ralph was killed, Bob was actually serving his Army tour in Vietnam, but he did not know that Ralph was in VN nor that he was killed, until later, when he was home and on the Quincy Fire Department. Earlier this year, once he had learned that Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, MA had a memorial brick program, Bob knew then he wanted to have one done in memory of Ralph. Bob tried searching for us to let us know, but had no luck in finding us. Bob's daughter Meredith offered to search on Facebook and within 10 minutes to her dad’s astonishment, we were connected! We made plans to be in touch once the brick was in the ground. Well that turned out to be the next day, so we made plans to meet last night at Memorial Hall and see Ralph’s brick. We had a wonderful visit meeting and chatting with Bob and Meredith. Bob invited us back to his house where we met his wife Margie. We were invited  into their lovely home where Margie served up a delicious blueberry pie that she made that day along with of course, vanilla ice cream. We shared stories and all felt that we had known each other forever. Another of Bob's daughters, Jen, played a part too. Since she was going to be in Quincy this past week; he asked if she could place flowers at Ralph's grave, which she did! Truly special! Here’s to you Ralph for sharing your good friends with us! We love you! Your never forgotten!

As we were leaving Bob and Margie’s house, I noticed the beautiful photos hanging on the walls leading up the staircase to the second floor. I commented on their beauty! Well they turned out to be photograph’s that Meredith had taken in and around Plymouth. A follow up email from Bob had mentioned that he and Margie would love for us to each pick one out. So they had sent us two emails with twenty of Meredith’s images. My sisters and I all picked out the “Whale’s Tail” photo. After I downloaded it onto my computer, I immediately thought of Ralph. His presence was in the sun rays shining down, the little bight spot on the right and of course the whale’s tail. Meredith’s photo was a “godwink” from Ralph!  Reminding us that he is watching over us and reinforced what Barbara thought after we visited with Bob, Margie and Meredith, that Ralph had a part in connecting us to Bob and his family! Thank you Meredith! Your photo is both beautiful and meaningful!


Photo courtesy of Meredith Kay





Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA 


Bob Vinson called to say he was on his way to visit Ralph's grave. So I picked up a bouquet of flowers and headed up to Quincy to meet Bob. We talked about what was new in our lives and then Bob told me about another friend Tommy Lee, who was killed one month earlier than Ralph in Vietnam. He told me he thinks of Ralph and Tommy when he hears the ballard "Two Little Boys". 

I also received an email from Jane (Griffin) Gifun which read, "As always, I will be thinking of Ralphie today, as I do many other days...and think of him as the young handsome fun person he will always be in my mind." 

Bob Weiss, who was at his local ceremony in Maryland, emailed to say, "Wanted to know that you and your families are in my thoughts and prayers on this day to remember loved ones lost." 

Fred Bianchini also emailed to say he was in DC again this year along with his wife Janet and friends John and Winnie Alleruzzo. Fred sent this photo of himself to say he brought Ralph's memory with him!


Fred honoring Ralph!

Photo by Janet Bianchini


I also heard from Julie Kink to say her and Mike and her sister Susan were also in DC for the ceremonies. Julie (Gold Star Sister) organizes the Gold Star Breakfast for the VHPA Annual Convention and because of all the Gold Star Families she has met throughout the years, she has a long list of names that she visits at the Vietnam Wall (Ralph included). So this year she not only had Mike helping her but her sister too! 

Tom Fitzgerald, who grew up in our neighborhood, also emailed to say he attended the rainy Mount Wollaston Ceremony and was impressed that there were about 500 in attendance. After the ceremony he bumped into Ralph's good friend, Jerry Mulvey, who brought him to Ralph's grave, where he as able to say some prayers. 

Jim Brennan, a "ghostrider" with Ralph, called to say hello. I had to promise him that I would tell "the sisters" hello from him and that he was thinking of Ralph and us! 

It is heartwarming to know that Old Friends New Friends continue to grow with Ralph in the middle! And I know there are many many more who keep Ralph close to the heart. Never Forgotten!






Clock Tower at Marina Bay

Quincy, MA

April 27, 2017


The Vietnam Combat Veterans Combined Armed Forces and the City of Quincy celebrated Vietnam Veterans Day at the Clock Tower at Marina Bay. It was also the 30th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Clock Tower. It drew a big crowd to include former POW’s, Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans and WWII Veterans, Gold Star families, friends and local and state dignitaries. After the National Anthem was sung there was a “Missing Man Formation Fly Over of USAF F-15’s, 104th Fighter Wing, Lt.Col. Jeffrey S. Beck, MA Air National Guard Commander, 131st Fighter Squadron. 



Keynote Speaker
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., U.S.M.C.
 Chariman, Joint Chiefs of Staff 




By General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff


Vietnam War Combat Medic James McCloughan, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, gave an emotional testimony titled “Proud To Be An American”. He ended his speech with a salute to the 48 names on the Clock Tower! 


Memorial Listing By Name
30th Anniversary Commemoration Booklet
(Name Missing in 30th Anniversary Booklet - John H. Morgan)



After the ceremony was over many people stayed and enjoyed the sunshine and the welcoming atmosphere of the speakers who graciously gave their time without waiver. General Dunford, who is a Quincy native, stayed and personally spoke to all who approached him. We were able to introduce ourselves and say thank you to the general for attending and for dedicating Ralph’s Street Square back in 2011. As we were lining up to get a photo with General Dunford, Evan introduced Will, his cousin (who just happens to be a chocolate lab) to the general. I believe because of that thoughtfulness, General Dunford presented Evan with his challenge coin. Pretty cool! It was a beautiful ceremony and the VCVCAF and the City of Quincy should be very proud of the tribute they hosted for Vietnam Veterans Day. It was a beautiful day in every sense of the word!



Swib, Gerry, Will Riley, Marie, General Dunford, Nancy, Evan and Colin
(Photo courtesy of Colin Riley)
Other family members at ceremony Barbara, Mike and Ralph (nephew)


Additional Photos from the Ceremony






Dedication Ceremony
Punta Gorda, FL
November 5, 2016






Mount Wollaston Cemetery, Quincy, MA








Mount Wollaston Cemetery

 Quincy, MA








Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Quincy, MA

May 24, 2015








Clock Tower at Marina Bay

Quincy, MA

April 30, 2015







The Vietnam Wall

Washington DC

Veterans Day 2012

Kendal Smith


I was in touch with Kendal Smith last year when I discovered he had left a note on Ralph's Wall Page back in 2001! Luckily he still had the same email address and still had a sheet of names!

"Ralph and I first met in Basic at Ft. Polk, February 1967.  We were in the same platoon (4th I think) of B-3-5 at North Fort.  And we struck up a friendship over NBA teams.  Ralph, of course, was a Celtics fan. I rooted for the Knicks in those days, having been at Southern Illinois University with a Knicks guard named Walt Frazier. So we traded good-natured jabs about the rivalry.  Ralph was, in my opinion one of the good guys in the world.  Always smiling, wearing his hat a little cocked. Funny guy, good heart. We were young, immortals. When we left Polk for Primary flight training at Ft. Wolters, TX, Ralph was placed in the new "brown hat" contingent. (I was ahead of him by 2 weeks in the Blue hat bunch.)  WO flight classes had four colored hat designations for different groups of trainees.  With the demand for helicopter aviators for Vietnam, the cohort was undergoing expansion, so Ralph was one of the first brownies.  The official color of the Warrant Officer branch is brown, so the expansion was wholly appropriate. ...I frequently read names at the Wall during the Veterans' Day ceremonies. Last November, I requested (among others) to read the sheet of names (30 per) with Ralph's name on it. I am very proud to have spoken Ralph's name into the heavens." 







Army Aviation Museum - Fort Rucker, AL

May 2014


Bob Witt informed us of the Brick Paver Program at the Army Aviation Museum on Fort Rucker. Through Steve Davidson's generosity and effort, Brick Pavers were being ordered to immortalize certain individuals. Ralph was included as one of them. We were thrilled that Steve and Bob had again thought of Ralph! Forever watching his 6! It turns out that Ralph, Steve and Bob all received the Distinguished Flying Cross on 19 April 1968 for "exceptionally valorous action" during a combat support mission in the A Shau Valley, RVN. Ralph assigned to C/227 and Steve and Bob to A/227. We salute Steve now for his 5 May 2014 induction into the Army Aviator Hall of Fame and for his many years of service to  our country.  







October 6, 2014

My sisters and I brought a plant to Ralph's grave to celebrate his birthday. At his grave we found a card, a veteran's pin and a small wooden sailboat. We opened the card to find the the gifts were brought by Jane Griffin Gifun and her husband. A friend of Ralph's. Jane emailed later that night to tell me that her husband Joe had made the wooden sailboat. The gifts and the wooden sailboat were a beautiful gesture of remembrance and friendship.






 Paying Respect with Bob and Sam Vinson

May 24, 2014





Clock Tower - Marina Bay

Quincy, MA 

April 24, 2014






October 4, 2013

Gerry and I were up in Quincy and when we were done with our business we went by Ralph's Grave. To our delight we found a note on Ralph's foot stone.

 Through correspondence Janie was able share some stories with us.

"Our mothers were friends and roommates when Ralphie and I were born. In fact the story according to my mom was that your mom paid extra money, because every time her doctor came in the room he would just rave about how cute Ralphie was! ...My friend Nancy Haddad and I have spoken many times about Ralphie and how often we think of him. He was a special guy; from middle school on I had a crush on him! He was the reason I took sailing lessons, so he could be my teacher. …The few times I get to Quincy I try to make the time to go visit Ralph’s grave. It is like a magnet to me, I am always amazed at how quickly I find it. The year I was turning 40 I happened to be in DC for my birthday, I had to go see The Wall. I bought a little sail boat for Ralph’s birthday gift. I went alone to find his name; it was a very moving, emotional experience, one I will never ever forget. I never expected how the sheer size of the memorial would affect me. I went to the Willard Hotel that night for dinner to keep the connection going."






Memorial Day Weekend 2013

 Sam, who is Bob Vinson's thirteen year old son, just recently went to Washington DC on a school trip. Prior to the trip, on his own, he searched online for the wall panel information of his Dad's friends whose names appear on The Vietnam Wall. Once in DC, the group went immediately to The Vietnam Wall and were given a tour. But Sam had his names he wanted to find and photograph. His teacher was hurrying him along and Sam turned to him and said, "Their not just names, their people too!" Sam's teacher will tell you he learned from Sam that day. Here is Sam's card to us from one of the photos he took that day of "the person" whose name appears on The Vietnam Wall.





Forty-five years later

 My  Uncle Buddy (Michael Joy) made me this Flag Pole forty-five years in honor of Ralph. We raised it in our yard and the first flag flew from it on August 29, 1968. Flags continued to wave until my parents sold and moved from that house on July 4th, 2000. Since then, everytime I would drive by the old house, I would wish that I took the flag pole when my parents moved out. After my Mom passed away in January of this year my sisters and I went by the house to place a few flowers from the funeral at Ralph's Street Sign. There was the flag pole again. I then decided to knock at the door but no one has home. Bob, our old neighbor who lives across the street, saw us and came out to say hello. I told him the story and he said he would try and talk to his neighbor. Well Bob called me with great news the following Wednesday and within a few days  I met my sister Barbara and her husband Mike there to bring the Flag Pole back home. When Bob had called me with the great news he also told me he is a Vietnam Veteran and so too is the owner of our childhood home! I thought that was very fitting! The first flag flew from it today at my home on Memorial Day 2013.






 The Army lieutenant assigned to Ralph's Funeral Service brought me most of these patches in a brown paper bag the second day of Ralph's wake. My mom sewed then on my jacket, which you can see in one of the above photos. I wore them proudly and have held them as a treasure ever since. They are displayed here. I believe the Navy patches belonged to my Dad. Ralph talked about the Seabees in Vietnam so I think it is fitting they are displayed here too.






Fort Rucker, Alabama

1 August 2012



Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial 

Dedicated June 2002

Rededication Ceremony - June 2012






Mount Wollaston Cemetery

Veterans Section

Quincy, MA

 Memorial Day 2012






Washington D.C.


Bracelets worn by Fred and Janet Bianchini and Paddy and Chuck Joy during their trip to Washington D.C. to visit The Vietnam Wall and witness the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally

Donald J. Greene - Childhood friend of Fred Bianchini

 Photo Courtesy of Paddy Joy






VFW - MAY 2012







Veterans Day Remembrance 2011

Presented By Bob Witt






Dedicated 29 April 2011 


  North Quincy High School is the only high school in the country to graduate

 two Medal of Honor Recipients and two Prisoner's of War!



Ralph's Memorial Square (at top) was dedicated on 28 April 2011 by the Quincy Chapter of the Vietnam Combat Veterans Combined Armed Forces and the City of Quincy. It is located at the corner of Ditmar Street (childhood home) and Quincy Shore Drive. Below is an article and pictures from the dedication.

 Above photos: Amelia Kunhardt Photos/The Patriot Ledger


Photos courtesy of Joan Swirbalus 


 Ralph's Friends at the Dedication

 Ralph's Friends and Neighbors In Attendance - Not Pictured

Mike Penella, Bob Vinson, Hank Lamb, Mr. & Mrs. Cetlin

 Photos courtesy of Joan Swirbalus



(Read at the Dedication By Jill Riley)

Ralph’s sisters, Geraldine, Barbara, Marie and Nancy could not be here today and asked me to read a brief tribute.

Each of Ralph’s sisters has their own fond memories of their brother. They remember him as being considerate, generous, kind, and compassionate.

Gerry recalls one time when she was seven or eight. She was goofing around in the garage with her brothers. Ralph was busy swinging a wooden bat that she had just borrowed from a friend’s house, (ok she admits stolen off his porch). Unbeknownst to Ralph that she “sort of” stole the bat, or that she had stepped up behind him, he swung. Several stitches later she was back home. To this day, she loves that scar.

Barbara remembers one Halloween when she was sick and could not go out for trick or treat. Ralph returned with two bags of candy, one for him and one for her.

Marie has a special birthday letter from Ralph that he sent from Vietnam that she treasures. He also had two buddies from his tent sign the card to her. She also remembers vividly a day when he raced out the door to a car his friends were in, clutching a bag of Huck Finn cookies and yelling out to them, “I got them”!

Nancy remembers a special moment on a family day trip to New Hampshire, when her and Ralph fed their mom’s cookies to chipmunks. She also remembers many days sitting in the backyard watching her father catch Ralph, as he worked on his fastball, curveball and knuckle ball.

One thing they all loved were the silk pajamas he sent to them from Vietnam. They all agree that Ralph made each believe that they were his favorite.

They wish to express their sincere thanks and gratitude to all that made this day possible.

And as Ralph’s nephew, Evan, would say, “although we could not be here today, we send our hearts.”


 General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.

Quincy Native

Four Star General - United States Marine Corps

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps

 Memorial Clock Tower, Marina Bay, Quincy, MA

28 April 2011 

 Above photos: Amelia Kunhardt Photos/The Patriot Ledger


  Photos courtesy of Joan Swirbalus


Quotes from General Dunford's Speech 


 It's great to be home."

"As you all know, you Vietnam Vets, all it takes is a simple thanks to motivate a soldier, sailor, airman and Marine."

"The truth is, most who served in Vietnam, did simply because they believed it was the right thing to do. Among those serving in Vietnam were our best and brightest." I know all that because I grew up in the shadow of Vietnam Veterans. For me, those were the big kids on the block when I was growing up. They were my instructors at Officer Candidate School and my Platoon Sergeants when I was a Platoon Commander. They've been my mentors throughout my career. Vietnam Veterans are my heroes. Those of us who are in uniform today, benefitted from walking in their footsteps. ...They've helped remind us that freedom requires sacrifice and that sacrifice to our nation is an honorable thing to do."






October 2008 

 Card design by Geraldine Willard Swirbalus




Quincy, MA

Dedicated October 16, 1987

 General and Mrs. William Westmoreland

The General was the Guest Speaker


 Quote from General Westmoreland's Speech

 "The Vietnam War was a "noble cause". 

"American forces never lost a major engagement in Vietnam."

 (The Patriot Ledger , Sat., Oct. 17, 1987 Vietnam memorial dedicated By Maurice F. Reardon)






 Dedicates Bronze Plaque






Washington DC

Dedicated November 13, 1982






 Bronze Plaque Dedication















Vietnam Memorial Flag

February 1969