Looking Back: Remembering March 29, 1973 – a day of return from Vietnam

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (Photo by Ian Hutchinson via Unsplash)

The latest issue of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Magazine reminded me that on Monday, March 29, our country will pay honor to the veterans of the Vietnam War, and we are requested to display our country’s flag on this special day of remembrance.

Over 50 years ago, many of our young people were called to duty to serve in what became an unpopular war, in a country unknown to most of us — for a reason understood only by our government. These young men and women paid a heavy price — too many came home in coffins, and those who lived to return home faced either silence or contempt. Unlike WWII, there were no ticker tape parades nor any cheers for these returning troops.

At home in South Snohomish county, there was little understanding as to why we had even become involved in what was considered a civil war in a far-off country. Before the fighting ended, 12 former students from schools in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace had lost their lives to the violence in the jungles of Vietnam. They were: Darrell Eugene Ayers (MIA), Anthony Michael Leach aka Tony Warner, Gregory Phillip Moser, Ronald Wayne Parker, Jerald David (Rocky) Swan, Miles Gene White, Richard Edward Wilkins, Michael Noel Hoban, Philip Eugene Nickerson, Ronald Page Paschall, Morris Keith James, Steven Jeffrey Minkler. In addition, Galen Eugene Warren, a graduate of nearby Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, can be added to this list. This list of former local students does not include the other area residents who also became casualties of this war.

The VFW magazine article states that March 29, 1973 signifies the date when the last of the troops were returned home from Vietnam, and that is the reason National Vietnam War Veterans Day has been observed by U.S. presidents on March 29 each year since 1974.

In addition, in 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Vietnam War Veteran’s Recognition Act, and then-President Donald Trump signed the aAct into law. This act encourages the display of the U.S. flag on this national day of remembrance.

Further acknowledgment of the ultimate sacrifices by the young men and women of our country in Vietnam came on Nov. 10, 1982 with the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (better known as The Wall) located at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. At the time of dedication, this awe-inspiring memorial listed 57,939 names. Since that time, as of Memorial Day 2017, an additional 379 names have been added—making a total of 58,318 names of those who are known to have lost their lives to the Vietnam War. We should also remember that as many as 1,600 of troops from that conflict still remain on the missing in action listing.

According to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund website, two bronze statues located near The Wall have been added to the display of honor. One is called The Three Servicemen Statue and depicts three soldiers —  one white, one Black and another intended to represent all other ethnic groups in our country. This memorial statue was dedicated on Veterans Day 1984 by former President Ronald Reagan.

Another remembrance memorial is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Statue, which was added to the display on Veterans Day 1993, with a proclamation of National Women’s Recognition Week by former President Bill Clinton, and dedication of the memorial sculpture by former Vice President Al Gore. This memorial shows three female service members caring for an injured soldier on the battlefield, and depicts the crucial role women played in Vietnam.

Lifetime Edmonds resident, Michael Noel Hoban, a casualty of the Vietnam War

Sgt. Michael Noel Hoban

One of Edmonds School District’s students mentioned above was Michael Noel Hoban, a popular graduate of Edmonds High School, class of 1966. This is his story.

On the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Michael Hoban’s 1968 death, a friend posted a remembrance on Facebook:

Michael was well-liked, a talented artist, wrestled for Edmonds High School, enjoyed boating, snorkeling, fishing in Puget Sound, the Stillaguamish River and Lake Goodwin, cruising the A&W, dancing, etc. He had purchased a 1946 Ford Woody wagon that he looked forward to restoring. A few months before reporting for duty, he met Jody, who he planned to marry after he returned from Vietnam. Michael brought happiness and joy into the lives of many. He died way too young, and epitomizes the saying “Only the good die young.”

Michael Noel Hoban was born in Seattle on Dec. 23, 1946, just two days before Christmas. Perhaps that is why his parents, Edmonds residents Wilfred and Ruth Hoban, decided their eldest child’s middle name should be Noel.

Michael always lived in Edmonds, attending Edmonds Grade School and graduating from Edmonds High School in 1966. In high school, he was on the wrestling team and was an art major.  In later years, several of his classmates remembered his notable talent as an artist.

Both of Michael’s parents were teachers in the Edmonds School District—his father was a long-time industrial arts teacher at Edmonds High School, and his mother a special education teacher at Edmonds Elementary. He had a brother, Patrick, and a sister, Jill. Younger brother Patrick, just 18 years old, was serving in the Naval Air Reserves.

Following his graduation from EHS, Michael had just four months to enjoy the last carefree days of his youth. He received his draft notice, and entered the Army in October of 1966.  Following a year of training at Fort Hood in Texas, Michael began overseas active duty on Oct. 4, 1967.  He rose to the rank of Sergeant in A Troop, First Squadron, First Cavalry, American Division, U.S. Army, and served in Vietnam as a gunner on an armored tank.

In the summer of 1968, he was looking forward to completion of his tour of duty with the Army in Vietnam in just 47 days.  Instead, his instant death on Aug. 5, 1968 was reported as the result of injuries suffered in action at Quang Tin in South Vietnam. Sgt. Michael Noel Hoban was just 21 years old when his dreams for the future came to an end in the jungles of Vietnam. His body was returned to his hometown of Edmonds, where he was laid to rest at Restlawn Memorial Gardens in the Good Shepherd Plot.

Michael Hoban’s name is included on The Wall in Washington, D.C. at Panel W49, Line 13. He is also honored on the Veteran’s Memorial Monument located at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery at Westgate, and on the Edmonds Veterans Plaza wall at City Center.

Michael’s father died in 1971, and his mother in 1989. They are both buried near their son at Restlawn Memorial Gardens in Edmonds.

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. She is also an honorary member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.


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