Jerry Hansen, former Principal Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of the Army and former Project Executive Officer for the National Museum of the United States Army (2007-2012), has rallied his United States Military Academy classmates to support the Museum project and, in particular, preserve the memory of their fallen fellow class of 1968 graduates. Led by Hansen, the West Point Class of 1968 launched a campaign in July 2015 to raise money to purchase Army Commemorative bricks for their twenty classmates who were killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Hansen said he was inspired by the story of LTG Bill Reno (USA-Ret.), (featured in the March 2015 issue of Call To Duty), in which Reno purchased memorial bricks for each of the Soldiers who served in his company during Vietnam. Hansen recalled speaking with his wife about who they could similarly honor at the Museum. An artillery battery commander during Vietnam, Hansen was lucky enough to not lose a single Soldier under his command. His wife, however, recalled that his West Point class has lost twenty Soldiers in combat and suggested a brick in memory of each of these fallen men.
Enthusiastic about this idea, Hansen called upon the Class of 1968’s class president, Dutch Hostler, for help in rallying the class for support. Through emails and other communications, the class quickly reached and then exceeded their goal to purchase the twenty bricks for those who were killed in action as well as another brick in honor the class as whole plus additional funds to gain recognition on the Army Museum’s Veterans’ Hall Memorial Wall. The effort was so successful the class has earned a place on the Veterans’ Hall Wall at the Silver Star level ($5,000). With this realized success, Hansen stated, “We are now looking forward to see the bricks honoring our classmates, and to see the memorial wall where our class will be listed among those who have made significant contributions to the Museum.” He continued, “We will also be telling the family members of our fallen classmates about the bricks honoring their loved ones. We include the family members of our fallen classmates in our reunions and memorial events.”
Hansen explained that he remembers all twenty of those fallen Soldiers and is proud to have graduated with each one of them. In particular, Hansen recalls Ken Cummings, an All-American swimmer who Hansen briefly roomed with; Don Workman, who had graduated from the same high school as Hansen; and Bill Ericson, who was Hansen’s regimental commander. In recalling these names, Hansen said, “All died very young and we miss them.”
LTG Roger Schultz (USA-Ret.), AHF’s President, commented on this generous group effort, saying, “We are really pleased with how well Mr. Hansen’s initiative has gone. The work of the Class of ’68 illustrates one of the key themes of the Army Museum—the Army is a family and each member deserves to be remembered.”
In reflecting on how successful the campaign was, Hansen remarked, “We didn’t have to do anything extraordinary. Our class motto is ‘No Task Too Great for ‘68’ and they showed once again that they mean it.”