UNION CITY, Ohio — The 196th Light Infantry Brigade SP4 Robert L. Fowble Jr. and PFC Jack E. Beam Memorial Highway was dedicated Saturday morning on State Route 571 between Union City and Greenville.
Hosted by the Fort GreeneVille Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Commemorative partner, the ceremony took place at the Evangelical United Methodist Church in Union City, Ohio, when family, friends, government and organization officials as well as members of their brigade gathered for the occasion.
Larry McLear, Darke County, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, served as master of ceremony and David D Eichhorn, president of 196th Light Infantry Brigade Association, was guest speaker. Brooke Netzley, a great-great-niece of Jack Beam, sang the National Anthem.
Dedicating Senate Bill 182, which pertains to special designations of highway and bridges, were State Rep. Jim Buchy of the Ohio House House District 84 and Senate President Keith Faber.
“With the Governor’s signature we are able to commemorate the sacrifice of SP4 Robert L Fowble Jr and PFC Jack E Beam and their fellow brigade members during the Vietnam Conflict,” Buchy said. “Please keep these men in mind when driving between Union City and Greenville on State Route 571.”
“We were inducted into the Army in 1965, and 51 years later it is my pleasure to introduce president Eichhorn. The brigade history originated in 1921.”
Buchy said 19 Darke County men were in the 196th in Vietnam and were there six months before Fowble’s occurred in Nov. 23, 1966, and Beam’s on Dec. 21, 1966.
“That’s indicative of the quality of men who gave their lives to help their comrades,” he said. “Let that never happen again.”
He then went on to thank many people for making the dedication possible.
“Keith Faber made sure the legislation was passed,” Buchy added.
“It’s a great day,” said Faber. “These are heroes who won’t have their faces on cereal boxes or tennis shoes. When you drive past the signs [the dedicated roadway signs], say a prayer for the men and women who serve and what they’re doing. We recognize all Ohioans who have their all. On the bill, the Ohio Senate and State House thank them and their families for their sacrifices.”
Copies of the Senate Bill were then presented to Donna Arnett and Fred Dean, representing their respective veterans organizations.
Speaking on behalf of the families involved were Brian Beam, great-great-nephew of Beam, and Joanne Simmons sister of Fowble.
“I never knew him, but I always want my family and four kids to know Jack when they’re growing up and going down 571,” Brian said.
Simmons told the audience she was 12 years old when her brother died in Vietnam.
Both families were presented copies of the signs that have been posted on 571.
McLear expressed his appreciation to Debbie Nisonger and the DAR for her work in making this dedication possible.
“Doug Black of Greenville was working on this when he passed away in July,” McLear said. “Debbie became the spearheader of this.”
The DAR then presented members of both families with special gifts, and they also received 196th pins to the others who served in the 196th. They included Rex Tipple, Bill Brown, Tony Kremer, Wayne McNutt, Ron Hahn, Dave Vanatta, Victor Bey, Alan DeCamp and McLear. Unable to attend were Donald Hoblit, Tom Mumaw, Jim Batten and John Bingham.
Four of the 196th are deceased and include Ronnie Boolman, John Herron, Joe Force and Doug Black.
“Out of the four, three of them had heart troubles,” McLear said.
According to McLear, the Darke countians comprising the 196th, were all drafted together, going to all the necessary trainings together, including basic and advanced, and were sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
“We had over 2,000 men total,” McLear said. “We left Boston on July 15, 1966, on two ships, the Darby and the Patch. We left for Vietnam on Aug. 26, 1966. When I came in 1967, they started splitting us up in January. The 196th was the last combat unit to leave Vietnam in 1972.”
According to him, there is a reunion of the 196th every other year. Next year, it will be in Louisville, Kentucky.
“We have been to Boston, Cincinnati, Buffalo and in Texas…all over,” he said.
Members of the Beam family there at the dedication were Jack’s brother, Steve and wife Pam; nephew, Rick and wife Kathy Beam and their sons and children Brian Beam and wife Katie and children Parker, Ellie, Emmett and Addie, and Matt Netzley with daughter Brooke; and a cousin, Sharon Partin, all of the local area.
Representatives of the Fowble family, in addition to his sister, Joanne were his aunt, Grace Barnes of Somerset, Ohio, cousins Renee Starky of Somerset, Stan Smith of Middletown and Becky Smith of Monroe, Ohio; and niece, Nikki Dodsworth of Greenville.
Private First Class Jack Evan Beam was one of 15,328 casualties from the state of Ohio during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam and 22 from all states who died Dec. 21, 1966.
Beam was from Union City, Ohio, born Oct. 15, 1945, and began his tour of duty with the U.S. Army on July 15, 1966, with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, B Company. He died in artillery rocket mortar through hostile action in South Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province.
Beam posthumously received the National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Vietnam Service Medal.
Fowble, born Sept. 22, 1945, in Greenville, died in Tay Ninh, Vietnam. He was killed by hostile ground, multiple fragmentation wounds in South Vietnam, and was said to be the last one killed that day.
He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fowble. The 1963 graduate of Greenville Senior High School entered the Army on Oct. 13, 1965. He was married, leaving behind his widow, Linda, among others. His burial was in Abbottsville Cemetery.
State Representative Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) applauded the signing of Senate Bill 182 into law by Governor Kasich.
The 196th served in Vietnam from July 15, 1966, through 29 June 29, 1972.
The Brigade was reactivated in September 1965 at Fort Devens Massachusetts, where it was originally scheduled to be sent to the Dominican Republic. Instead the Army rushed it to Vietnam, the Brigade departing on July 15 1966 via transport ships and arriving on Aug. 14, 1966 at Tây Ninh Combat Base. It began operations almost immediately in the western area of III Corps Tactical Zone. The 196th conducted Operation Cedar Falls, Gadsden, Lancaster, Junction City, Benton, and Attleboro (in War Zone C of Tay Ninh Province). Attleboro turned into a major action after a large enemy base camp was found on Oct. 19, 1966.
In February 1967, Gen. William Westmoreland ordered the formation of a division sized Army task force to reinforce American forces in I Corps Tactical Zone. The 196th was selected to form a part of the task force. Task Force Oregon became operational on April 20, 1967, when troops from the 196th landed at Chu Lai in I Corps. Over the next month, it was joined by the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division and the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (later redesignated the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division). On 25 April 1967 Task Force Oregon was redesignated the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) and an official change of colors ceremony was held on Oct. 26 1967. Later, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne and the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division were replaced by the 198th and 11th Light Infantry Brigades.
As part of the 23rd, the 196th participated in Operations Wheeler/Wallowa, Golden Fleece, Fayette Canyon, Frederick Hill, Lamar Plain, Elk Canyon I and Elk Canyon II. In early May 1968, the 2-1 Infantry of the 196th was flown in to assist at the Battle of Kham Duc. On Nov. 29 1971, the 196th became a separate temporary entity to safeguard this same area of operations.
In April 1971, the 196th moved to Da Nang to assist in port security duties, and finally left Vietnam on June 29, 1972, as the last combat brigade to leave in Vietnam. The brigade suffered 1,188 KIA, and 5,591 WIA in Vietnam.
Chaplain Fred Dean of the Greenville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7262 gave the invocation and closing prayer at the dedication ceremony, and the Union City, Indiana, American Legion Post 158 Color Guard presented the color and then retired them.
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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