"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff



Monday, September 29, 2014

A Promise Kept: by Allen J. Folk

Sgt. Bobby Ray Hatfield
Sgt. Bobby Ray Hatfield, USMC, was born on February 21, 1945, in Pineville, KY.  He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Joe G. Hatfield.

On December 26, 1945, thirty-one miners entered a coal mine in Four Mile, Kentucky.  There was a mine explosion and only eight men came out of the mine alive.  Bobby's dad was one of those eight survivors.

On January 7, 1946, the mine explosion was shown in every movie theater across the United States.  This video can be seen on YouTube.  It's called, "Saga of a Mining Town" (Part 1 of 2).

After the explosion, Mr. Joe Hatfield told his family that none of his children would ever work in a coal mine.

Sgt. Bobby Ray Hatfield graduated from Bell County High School and on Sundays, he taught Sunday school in the West Pineville Baptist Church.  He enjoyed fishing with his trusted friend, Richard Peace.

Later, Bobby moved to Detroit, Michigan, with his two sisters and brother-in-law and he worked for him repairing cars. From there, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. When Sgt. Hatfield got to Vietnam, he was attached to A-Co., 3rd Engr. Bn, 3rd Marine Div. at Base Camp Dong-Ha where he was a heavy equipment operator.

I landed in Vietnam on my birthday, July 8, 1967.  I was first attached to Supt-Co., 3rd Engr. Bn., in Phu-Bai and three weeks later, I transferred to C-Co at Dong-Ha, where my MOS was 3531, Motor Transport. That is when I met Sgt. Bobby Hatfield and we became instant friends.  For many days, Sgt. Hatfield taught me how to operate heavy equipment.

A short time later, Cpl. Brian C. Felder was also transferred to C-Co., and from then on, the three of us were always together.

Sgt. Hatfield was liked by the Company Commander and everyone else, all the way down.  I would always joke with him by asking him for his autograph.  When he asked me, "Why?" I would tell him that when I get home, I could say I met one of the Righteous Brothers.  As we all know, the Righteous Brothers were Bill Medly and Bobby Hatfield, who were known for their number one song, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.

Since he was from Kentucky, we also used to tease him by asking, "Who were the better shooters, the Hatfields, or the McCoys?" (HaHa!)  Of course, he always said the Hatfields were and then the fun would start.  (HaHa!)

On February 19, 1968, Sgt. Hatfield had only two days left before he was to go home.  I wanted to make sure that I had the chance to say goodbye to our best friend, so I stopped in at his hootch.  He was shining his shoes and when he saw me, he said, "I am going to make these Marine Corps shoes look like $40.00 store-bought shoes."

Suddenly, we came under attack.  A shell landed right outside the bunker and a piece of shrapnel came through the port hole, killing Sgt. Hatfield instantly.

After Brian Felder and I got home and discharged from the Corps, we kept in contact with one another.  We made a promise that when we could find where Sgt. Hatfield was buried, we would go there and pay our respects to him.

As the years went by, every time I could find his name, it would always come up that he was from Detroit MI.  I knew that wasn't correct.

In July of 2010, I asked my daughter to look for Sgt. Hatfield on her computer, since I didn't have one.  One day, she told me she had found his name posted on a Facebook Memorial Page, thanks to Sgt. Hatfield's nephew, Stephen Hatfield in Pineville, Kentucky.  I then made contact with Stephen Hatfield and called Brian to tell him I finally located Sgt. Hatfield's grave in Pineville, Kentucky.

Brian C. Felder and Allen J. Folk
Brian and I, along with our wives, planned a trip to Kentucky.  We agreed we would do this for Veteran's Day, November 11, 2010.

On that day, we had a memorial service at his grave site.  Rev. Shawn Allen from the West Pineville Baptist Church did the service at the grave.

[Photo:  Bobby's grave site, November 11, 2010, in the Pineville Cemetery, Pineville, Kentucky]

When we met the Hatfield family and Sgt. Hatfield's childhood fishing buddy, Richard Peace, our first question to his brother, Lee Hatfield, was, "Why Detroit MI?"

Lee then told me about their dad surviving the coal mine explosion and what he said to all of his children.

Since that time, we have a wreath placed on Sgt. Hatfield's grave twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

I know many combat veterans will always have that one special buddy they will never forget.  Sgt. Bobby Ray Hatfield was Brian's and mine.  We never gave up hope that we would find him.

That is a promise we kept ...

Cpl. Allen J. Folk
Newmanstown PA


Also by Allen J. Folk:

8th of November: My Part of the Story
The Real Men of Full Metal Jacket


“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.


5 comments:

  1. Good write Allen. Friends like we had & knew so well will never be forgotten no matter where or what we do in life. All we had was each other, a bond that will never ever be broken. God Speed to your friend & Bless you & yours always.

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  2. Really enjoyed reading this. We are hosting our Infantry Company from Vietnam for a reunion beginning 10/2 for 3 days here in Bowling Green, KY.

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  3. Being a "son of Kentucky" , thank you for this wonderful tribute to Sgt. Hatfield.

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  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute to my Great Uncle Bobby Ray Hatfield. I of course never had the pleasure of meeting him but, from what you have shared with us it seems he was one fine man. I want you to know that we appreciate what Brain and you do for my great-uncle during Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It is very nice to know Bobby had friends like you and Brian there with him in service and the day he lost his life. Thank you both for serving our country and for allowing us to be a part of your alls lives as well.

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