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(Standing from left) John Bayer (Niner Delta); Walt Rutherford, XO; Karl Lowe, CO; Morgan Weed, third platoon leader; (kneeling) Jim Takacs, first platoon leader; and Jim Puhala, second platoon leader are among the war dead featured in a new book, “Unsung Heroes.” Special to the Enquirer/John Bayer

Singing of the ‘Unsung Heroes’

Author honors service members killed in Vietnam

Weaving the stories of 23 Morgan County service members killed in the Vietnam War with the overarching story of the war itself, Lisa Worthey Smith has released her latest book to honor the “Unsung Heroes” of Morgan County.  

Smith said the book, which was released earlier this year, was sparked by a meeting with Don and Heather Collins, veteran advocates who started the non-profit Vets Like Us. Smith said they approached her, after having worked on a project to learn more about each of the men, about helping to tell the stories of the men who died .  

Smith said the couple had recently found the graves of each of the fallen service members and worked to help clean the graves and fundraise for flags at each of the sites. She said she knew she wanted to help share the men’s story when Don told her about how the men had not received proper recognition. 

“When we first met to talk about the book, he told me, ‘These men fought under an American flag; they served under the American flag; they came home draped in an American flag; and they just deserve to have a flag flying over them now.’ I was in,” Smith said. We started doing some digging into the stories of these men, and I wove their stories into the overall broad picture of what was happening. It’s not just Morgan County; it’s what happened all over the United States and trying to tell their stories.” 

The book begins by laying out the setting that led to America’s involvement in the war and intertwining some of the men’s stories within the history. Smith said she was able to read statements from veterans who served with the men, and she wanted to capture the humanity behind the numbers.  

“These men were in incredible circumstances, and yet they made an impact on those around them by the way they served and the things they looked forward to coming home to,” Smith said. One young man who died had a girlfriend back home who had made her wedding dress by hand, and as soon as he got out, they were going to get married. He kept a picture of her at every bunker and every place they moved … When he died, that was one of the last things he was saying to his friend who was with him.  

These were people; they were not numbers. They were just like us, and they did not get home.” 

With the Vietnam War following the wake of the world wars and the Great Depression, Smith said the nation was weary of entering into conflict. She said with the addition of journalists being on the war front and bringing clips of the most brutal parts of the war home, the weary sentiment only grew.  

“While these men were at war – they left a county that was very thankful and grateful for them, and they came home to a very different feeling. So I explored that,” Smith said. They came back to a country that just hated them, hated what they did or what they thought they did. 

“That’s kind of why Don Collins chose the name Unsung Heroes,” Smith added. Where military war heroes and war casualties had returned in previous years to great honors, these men didn’t.” 

“Unsung Heroes” can be purchased at Zoey’s Downtown in Hartselle, Second Read Books in Decatur or on Amazon.  

“They served, they died, and their sacrifice has been brushed over,” Smith said. Their sacrifice was too important to brush over any longer.”