By Lacy Hilliard
On a drizzly and overcast Saturday morning; members of Johnson County High Schools class of 1964, the Johnson County Honor Guard, and friends and family gathered together to celebrate and honor the memory of United States Marine Corps Corporal Worley Wayne Hall.
The Vietnam War began in 1955 though United States involvement didnt escalate until the early sixties. During the United States 14-year occupancy of Vietnam, the lives of 58,220 American soldiers were lost and more than 300,000 American soldiers were wounded. Worley Hall was the first soldier from Johnson County to lose his life in Vietnam.
The ceremony opened with a speech by the master of ceremonies, Jeannie Countiss (JCHS Class of 64) as well as the introduction of Faye Hall, Worleys mother and only surviving immediate family member. As the Johnson County Honor Guard completed the presentation of colors, Kerry Gentry sang our National Anthem. The tears forming in the eyes of onlookers as the anthem echoed through the misty mountains told a tale of remembrance and honor.
Worley Hall didnt choose the military; he was drafted on March 17, 1966 and was sent to Vietnam in July of that same year. Though he aspired to be a college graduate, Worley had to put his plans on hold – which he did with valor and grace. Though he was frightened by the prospect of entering a foreign war zone, he never questioned his duty to his beloved country.
Many former classmates shared memories of Worley but the common theme was happy-go-lucky, compassionate and helpful. Nearly every participant commented on the care-free nature of Worleys personality and his willingness to help anyone in need. Worleys cousin, Barton Hall, said there was never a time when Worley wasnt sporting his favorite accessory – a smile. Jeannie Countess praised Faye Halls mothering skills as she relayed one of her favorite memories of Worley. Countess said that Worley always let the girls load the bus bound for pep rallies first, revealing that most of her male classmates werent quite as chivalrous.
In March of 1967, Faye Hall was forced to face every mothers worst nightmare. As casualty officers knocked on her door, Faye was presented with the most tragic of news; her son had been killed in action in the Quang Tin province of Vietnam. Though Worleys cousin, Barton, was also fighting in Vietnam, it would be several months before the news of his cousins death would reach him. As the news spread of Worley Halls untimely death, Johnson County residents were shocked to hear of this loss. Worley was well-loved by this tight-knit community and his death really brought the war home for many residents.
The memorial for Worley is located in Ralph Stout Park near the Johnson County Veteran Memorial Wall. Members of the class of 1964 graciously donated the funding necessary to make the memorial possible. Though Worley is recognized individually, the names of other Johnson County residents that were killed in Vietnam can also be seen on the wall. Hall is also recognized nationally at Washington D.C.s Vietnam memorial. His name can be located there on panel 17E, line 057.
The occasional raindrop that speckled the scene of Worley Halls memorial service and the daunting cloudscape above provided a fitting scene for a fallen hero. Though its sometimes easier to look the other way when we hear news reports of war casualties, memorials like this help us to remember that every seemingly miscellaneous soldier has a family and friends that want nothing more than to see their hero come home safe.
By Lacy Hilliard