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Dorothy Crockett, mother of William Crockett, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1972, was given a bouquet of flowers during the Veterans Day ceremony at Park High School. His picture is on a table in the background. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

Mother of deceased Cottage Grove Vietnam-era soldier honored

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When Dorothy Crockett was told her son, William, would be honored at Park High School's annual Veterans Day ceremony, painful memories from August of 1972 came rushing back.

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That month, nearly 40 years ago, was when she was told that her son was killed in combat in Vietnam.

But Crockett, 88, was also happy to be part of the ceremony where students, members of the Air Force Junior ROTC, and local veterans would remember her son's service. She attended with her other son, Stephan, a Navy veteran, and his wife, Judy.

On Aug. 22, 1972, First Lt. Crockett, a Park graduate, was a crew member in an F-4E fighter aircraft in a formation of four planes on a combat mission over Quang Tri Province when the plane was hit by hostile ground fire. The plane crashed with no ejection noted or electronic signals heard in the Cua Viet River. Crockett and his pilot were presumed dead.

Military service has been in Dorothy's family history and that of her husband, William, for a long time.

The senior William, who died a year ago, served in the Navy and his family's service dates back to the Revolutionary War, the Alamo and the Civil War.

Dorothy's three brothers, in World War II and during the Korean War era, were veterans of the Air Force, Army and Navy. "My mother covered them all," she said.

Her great-grandson, Jonathan Kelly, just enlisted in the Air Force.

The senior William Crockett, a chief petty officer, enlisted before World War II and served 20 years. He was on the USS Wilkes Barre when Pearl Harbor was bombed. His ship picked up survivors from those that were sunk. He was also on one of the destroyers at the site where the treaty was signed ending the war with Japan.

Also in the Navy during the war, Dorothy worked as a secretary in the Bureau of Ships.

People remember World War II veterans with pride but Stephen said it was different story for veterans returning from Vietnam who were often shunned.

"Those of us who volunteered thought we were doing a good thing," he said. "They believed in their country and fought for it."

While making arrangements for her husband's interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Dorothy asked if it was possible to also have a gravestone for her dead son.

She was very surprised when she was told his monument was already there in an area for those who died as prisoners of war or were missing in action and was erected in 1979.

Dorothy, who said she is in good health, "at least this week," lives in Norris Square in Cottage Grove. She said she appreciated Park's ceremony last Friday.

"It was beautiful," she said.

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Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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