By Mayor Charlene Lovett
Over 46 years ago, this community lost Warrant Officer (WO) Richard T. Derosier and First Lieutenant (1LT) Formichelli during the Vietnam War. Though their lives were cut short prematurely, they each left a living legacy. This Memorial Day, May 29th, we will have the opportunity to honor these men and the families that they left behind. I hope you will join me at this special ceremony in Broad Street Park which will begin around 11am after the conclusion of the parade which starts at 10am. Here is their story:
Richard Derosier was born July 10th in 1940, and attended Stevens High School. While there he decided to join the Army. After serving several years as an artilleryman and completing one tour in Vietnam, he decided to go to flight school to learn how to fly helicopters. During flight training he became close friends with Conrad Wheeler and George Bloodworth. After graduating from flight school, the three were assigned to Vietnam. In October 1969, WO Derosier was the trail helicopter during a scouting mission in which WO Wheeler was the lead. While engaging the enemy, Wheeler’s helicopter was hit and burst into flames, killing both him and his observer. One of the tragedies of war is the inevitable loss of friends, and the need to continue the mission despite the loss. Towards the end of his second tour in Vietnam and after flying 130 combat missions, WO Derosier transferred to his Troop’s maintenance division where he became a maintenance test pilot. Not long after this, he was asked to perform a maintenance test on a helicopter that had mechanical issues. During that test flight, the helicopter crashed, killing WO Derosier and the other individual on board. When he died on January 3rd in 1970, he was not yet 30 years old. He left behind a wife and two young daughters, Bonnie and Wendy.
Both girls later married, had children and now have grandchildren. Wendy’s son, Chris, decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Army. He was deployed to Iraq and injured by an Improvised Explosive Device in 2006. As a result of the blast, he sustained multiple injuries and lost sight in one eye. Since that time, he has undergone multiple surgeries and traveled the long road to recovery. Though he permanently lost sight in one eye, he is now back home with his family in Newport, NH.
Joe Formichelli did not grow up in Claremont but moved here from New York with his family at the age of 12. Both his older brother, John, and he graduated from Stevens High School in 1958 and 1962 respectively. Joe then went to Jacksonville University where he met his future wife, Barbara. Soon after completing his degree, he and Barbara married. Joe joined the Army in 1968, serving three years as an infantry officer with one tour in Vietnam. While leading a platoon against a Viet Cong position, he was hit by an AK-47 round that split his helmet in two. Though the round did not hit him, the force of the impact threw him to the ground. Given he was 6’7”, the impact must have been horrific and, according to his fellow soldiers, he suffered severe headaches throughout the rest of his tour. Not too long after rotating back to the States, he died at the age of 27 from a massive brain aneurysm which military medical doctors attribute to the incident in Vietnam. Joe left behind his wife, Barbara, who was then 7 months pregnant with their son.
She named their son Joe. Later, she remarried and had three more sons. Her son Joe decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Army. He became a member of the Special Forces, often deploying to combat zones and engaging in dangerous missions. This year, he is retiring after 22 years of serving his nation.
Both of these men died in the prime of their lives while serving our nation. They both chose military professions with some of the highest mortality rates in Vietnam. Both were highly decorated. Both left behind families who bore the pain of heartbreaking loss. Both families carried on the tradition of military service risking, once again, the possibility of great sacrifice. This Memorial Day we stand with these families and the veterans who served with them, and acknowledge all who have paid the ultimate price.
Charlene Lovett is the Mayor of Claremont and welcomes your feedback. Please email questions, comments or concerns to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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