Just like his life that took many turns, the road that bears his name, The Elgie G. Hanna Memorial Highway, winds unassumingly through the countryside past the VFW National Home where Hanna spent most of his childhood.
In celebration of Vietnam Veterans Day, we remember this hero and National Home Alumnae, Elgie G. Hanna, who was killed in action on March 20, 1968.
Hanna came to live at the VFW National Home in 1955 when he was only six years old. His father placed him and his two siblings in the Home after their mother became too ill to care for them.
Hanna enjoyed the beauty of the countryside and the love and care of the National Home staff while attending Eaton Rapids schools. A second tragedy struck the family when Hanna’s brother drowned at the age of 14 in the Grand River.
By 1967 Hanna had grown into a patriotic young man who, inspired by the service of those who made the National Home possible, enlisted in the Army after graduating from Eaton Rapids High School. He served as a Private First Class in the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, B Company.
His Vietnam tour began in February of 1968, and tragically only 33 days later, a sniper’s bullet extinguished his life while he patrolled near Quang Tri, Vietnam.
His death occurred during the longest, deadliest, and most controversial battle of the Vietnam War. The Battle of Khe Sahn, conducted in northwestern Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam, began in 1967 and extended throughout 1968. (Source)
The United States launched a massive aerial bombardment campaign called Operation Niagara where over 100,000 tons of bombs were delivered for destruction. Determined to hold Khe Sahn, the military left the city burned and barren causing the battle to become the major news headline from Vietnam in March of 1968. (Source)
An estimated 1,000 Americans lost their lives in this battle alongside Hanna, while the North Vietnamese experienced ten times the casualties. (Source)
The United States bestowed a posthumous Purple Heart on the brave Hanna who was laid to rest with full military honors in the VFW National Home’s plot at Rosehill Cemetery in Eaton Rapids. In 2009 a portion of state highway M-188 that passes by Hanna’s beloved boyhood home was designated to honor his name and heroic service.