Skip to comments.Coast Guard's first MIA/KIA in Vietnam KIA to be buried.
Posted on 09/27/2003 12:21:06 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
Coast Guard's first MIA/KIA in Vietnam KIA to be buried
Seattle area Coast Guardsman to return her MIA bracelet worn for 15 years
Almost fifteen years ago, a 30-year-old Coast Guard Petty Officer Theresa Hubbard ceremoniously placed an 8-oz silver metallic engraved bracelet bearing Coast Guard Lieutenant Jack Columbus Rittichier's name and the June 9, 1968, date (the day that the helicopter he was piloting was shot down) upon her wrist. Hubbard, the daughter and wife of a Coast Guardsman, dutifully wore the keepsake with the hope and determination to keep alive the memory and spirit of the missing 34-year-old pilot.
Hubbard, now 33 years old and a Coast Guard Lieutenant herself, has set the slightly tarnished, nicked and well-worn bracelet aside with the intention of returning her treasured keepsake to the Rittichier family, Maggie and Dave, who are busy preparing for their son's long-awaited funeral. Lt. Rittichier, who flew his last mission as part of a Coast Guard/U.S. Air Force Exchange Program, will be buried at a portion of Arlington National Cemetery known as Coast Guard Hill, an area normally reserved for the top officials next month after spending more than thirty-five years as the U.S. Coast Guard's only Vietnam War missing in action (MIA) and the service's first killed in action (KIA).
"Leave no man behind," is the creed by which many Americans, like Hubbard, wear their MIA bracelets. "I never thought I'd be taking it off," said the brunet Hubbard as she sat next to her family photos in her Seattle Coast Guard office. "I purchased the bracelet about 15 years ago ...about the same time I joined the Coast Guard Reserves," she reminisced holding the simple band in her hand. Nearby sat another picture, that of actor John Wayne, one of Hubbard's heroes based on the military roles he played. "I come from a very patriotic family and wearing the bracelet seemed like the right thing to do," she said adding with pride that her son is now serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army. She explained that she was moved to make the purchase of the simple aluminum band from a veteran's group in North Carolina; it was the only one available for the Coast Guard. She added that she will now begin wearing a new MIA band in support of another missing servicemember.
Wearing of the bands began in the late 1960s in an attempt, by what was mostly college students, to raise awareness of the American prisoners and missing from the Vietnam War; but the program "officially" began on Veteran's Day in 1970. Lieutenant Rittichier, although flying inland, was participating in a traditional Coast Guard mission, Search and Rescue. He was flying as a member of the United State's Air Force's (USAF) 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, when he was shot down.
A large, multi-force mission had been ongoing to rescue a downed pilot who had landed near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Rittichier, piloting an HH-3E Jolly Green helicopter, was approaching the downed pilot to attempt the rescue when his helicopter, Jolly Green 23, lost use of its left engine to enemy gunfire and shortly thereafter crashed in what was reported to be a completely engulfing fireball. Rittichier was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.
There were three other servicemen onboard the JG23 that day: Capt. Richard C. Yeend, USAF; Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden, USAF; and Sgt. James D. Locker, USAF. The crash site of JG23 was discovered in 2002, with repatriation of the pilot's remains taking place earlier this year.
Rittichier's efforts as one of 12 Coast Guard pilots who flew with the US Air Force during 1967-68, represents only one of a myriad of multi-mission capabilities the Coast Guard offered in Vietnam and continues to offer today.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States Coast Guard deployed to the Persian Gulf and provided critical harbor defense services that not only protected offshore oil wells, but allowed for safe and secure navigation of the allied navies through the ports and waterways of Iraq, to include providing clear passage for critical ship-borne humanitarian supplies to reach the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. The Coast Guard has been involved in every major conflict in the United States since World War I.
On October 6, 2003, at 1300, the remains of Lt. Rittichier will be buried. Rittichier was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action in Vietnam, and the only Coast Guard member unaccounted for after the war's end. The Jolly Green 23's crash site was discovered on November 9, 2002, and the remains of the four crewmembers were repatriated on February 14, 2003.
Lt. Hubbard is available for interviews.
Four photos are available:
LT Hubbard displaying the bracelet http://www.piersystem.com/clients/uscg-13/LTWrist.jpg
Environmental photo of LT Hubbard http://www.piersystem.com/clients/uscg-13/LTH.jpg
LT Hubbard photo with John Wayne http://www.piersystem.com/clients/uscg-13/LTHandDuke.jpg
MIA bracelet photo http://www.piersystem.com/clients/uscg-13/Bracelet.jpg Rittichier History http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/bio_jack_rittichier.html
Rittichier History http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/bio_jack_rittichier.html
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-30- The U.S. Coast Guard is a military, maritime, multi-mission service within the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to protecting the safety and security of America.
The U.S. Coast Guard is a military, maritime, multi-mission service within the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to protecting the safety and security of America.
- BTW Tonk, next Friday is the 10th Anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu. Hope the Canteen has something special planned...
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