Welsh to honor its only Vietnam War casualty - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Welsh to honor its only Vietnam War casualty

Source: KPLC-TV Source: KPLC-TV

The community of Welsh is honoring one of its fallen soldiers in a special way.In the mid 1960's Donald Charles Gillett was what many would consider an all-American boy. He went to Welsh High School with Karen Trahan, now a retired teacher.

"He was just a fun loving guy," recalled Trahan. "I can see this grin on his face all the time. But he knew when to be serious and when to have fun, because he was in many positions of leadership."

Gillett's cousin Tommy, remembers Charlie's parents offering to send him to Canada to avoid going to Vietnam.

"Charlie wouldn't have anything to do with it," said Gillett. "He was going. He'd made up his mind. He was going to serve his country. That's what he did. That was Charlie. He was a hero from way back."

Charlie Gillett died after exiting a helicopter in the jungles of Vietnam. He body was identified by fellow Welsh High classmate Wayne Phenice, who was also serving in Vietnam at the time.

"To bring his body back home and present the flag to his mother, Phoebe and his father Darrell Gillett," said Wayne Phenice. "For me to present the flag and say the words that so long rehearsed, they just didn't come out very easy. That was one of the hardest things to do in my entire life." 

Now the town of Welsh has dedicated two markers on the I-10 on-ramps, designating the Donald C. Gillett Memorial Interchange.

"I think now that each time they turn onto I-10 you will see a sign in honor of him," said Carolyn Louviere, Welsh mayor, "That, I think, is the least we can do."

"He was a citizen of Welsh and he was our hometown hero," said Army veteran Kyle Todd.

Trahan says a poem Charlie sent home to his parents the day before he died says it all.

"So dear God, when this comes to past, I'll go back and say, I am home at last."

The highway markers honoring Gillett will be dedicated in a ceremony on Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 2 p.m. at the Welsh Community Center.

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