In Pennsylvania, people gathered to honor a Vietnam Marine

From left, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Rich Homa, Commissioner Bob Harvie, Commissioner Diane Marseglia, Dennis Best, Middletown Township Supervisor Bernadette Hannah and Ed Preston pose for a group photo Saturday, March 18, 2023, near signaling on the newly dedicated Cpl. David John Ortals, USMC Memorial Bridge. (Bucks County Government)

(Tribune News Service) – David Ortals is long gone, a Marine corporal who died in Vietnam in 1970.

But the residents of Bucks County, Pennsylvania have not forgotten.

On Saturday, they gathered to remember his life and honor his service, to imagine what he could have been and done if he had returned from Southeast Asia, and to etch his name permanently into the landscape. local.

What in the morning was County Bridge No. 15 had become by afternoon, at the end of an official dedication ceremony, the CPL David John Ortals, USMC Memorial Bridge.

“As long as his name is spoken, he will never be forgotten,” Ed Preston, head of the Pennsylvania Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, told about 70 people who gathered on two newly constructed asphalt, concrete and steel lanes. marked and named.

The bridge over Frosty Hollow Road crosses Mill Creek in Middletown Township, Levittown. In these rippling waters of the creek, the Ortals siblings splashed and played like children.

Rick Homa was there Saturday, gray-haired at age 74, traveling from Georgia to participate. He and Ortals enlisted in the Marines together, being close friends since they were freshmen.

“He was more of a brother,” Homa said.

Dennis Best was there too, a childhood friend of the Ortals children, a Marine sergeant who lost his legs in Vietnam, now vice president of the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“Dave was a big guy in my life,” he said.

About 2,100 miles away in Arizona, Ortals’ mother, Winifred, followed the ceremony on a live webcast. She turned 100 on Saturday, having carried the loss of her son for more than half of her life.

“Very difficult,” she said in a phone interview.

She remembers seeing coffins being carried out of airplanes during those war years, the sadness and apprehension of that. “I thought to myself, ‘One day it could be David,'” she said, “without ever imagining it could be.”

On Saturday, the crowd of friends, supporters and veterans loudly cheered her on, shouting, “Happy Birthday!”

In Peoria, Arizona, near Phoenix, Navy veterans arrived at her home to present her with an American flag.

Her son was 22 when he died in an accident at a Da Nang air base in May 1970, according to National Archives records and the Coffelt database of Vietnam casualties. He is buried in California, where he lived in Fullerton with his wife, Donna Awaa. They married shortly before he left for Vietnam.

As a teenager, Ortals attended Bishop Egan High School, then transferred to and graduated from Neshaminy High School, after playing college basketball at both locations. He was 19 when he enlisted in 1967, arrived in Southeast Asia in 1969, and served as a mechanic with the 1st Marine Air Wing.

On Saturday, Homa recalled how they made an odd pair together, Ortals a towering 6ft 4in and him a foot shorter. How they once went muskrat hunting. How his friend once convinced him he should be the one to retrieve a basketball in the yard from a threatening dog – and how Homa went to the hospital to be treated for bite wounds.

They had no particular reason to enlist in the Marines, Homa said. It was the time of conscription, and young men could choose their branch of service or be drafted into the army. It was the choice.

Bucks County lost 136 service members during the war, 132 dead and four missing, said Preston, who is working with county officials to have local bridges and roads named after them.

The deceased are among more than 58,200 men — and women — whose names are inscribed on a black granite wall in Washington.

Ortals name is on panel 10W, line 83.

The end of what was then America’s longest war came on April 30, 1975, when the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to the Communist North and the last American forces were evacuated by helicopter to ships in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, two dozen American flags flapped in a steady breeze, held alongside the scarlet and gold flag of the Marines. Veterans hugged and waved, and people reminisced about the good old days, when fathers who served in World War II sent their children to serve in Vietnam.

“It may be a small gesture compared to what they have sacrificed,” said county commissioners chairman Bob Harvie Jr., but “we as a county are proud of to remember and honor those who have given their all in the service of their community and their country.”

Winifred Ortals marked the day with her daughter and son – Marilyn Mulville, who lives nearby, and John Ortals, from Indiana. The siblings have reached the adulthood that their brother never had.

“We were pretty close,” said Mulville, who was 13 when his brother died. “We used to tag each other and say, ‘I got you last! and run away. He was amazing, a handsome guy.

His brother John said the same.

“We miss him every day,” he said. “I’m sad that I never knew him as an adult. He would have been a good thing in society, and that’s true for many of the men and women in the service who never returned.

(c) 2023 The Philadelphia Investigator

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *