Exactly 44 years after First Lieutenant Howard R. 'Bob' Crothers lost his life in Vietnam, his service and life were honored with the dedication of the U.S. Army 1LT Howard R. "Bob" Crothers Memorial Bridge in New Martinsville. The span carries state Route 2 over Fishing Creek.
New Martinsville Mayor Lucille Blum said Crothers was one of the sweetest young men she ever knew. "He was perfection. . . and we lost him," she said.
The affection for Crothers and the pain of his loss was evident in the dedication ceremony held at the New Martinsville Marina at the banks of Fishing Creek Tuesday morning.
From left, Lt. Col. Alan Tucker, Mayor Lucille Blum, De. Dave Pethtel, Sen. Larry Edgell, Sen. Jeff Kessler, and Edna Jane Hewitt stand by the newly revealed and dedicated sign for the U.S. Army 1Lt. Howard R. “Bob” Crothers Memorial Bridge.
Alan Tucker, Lt. Col., USAF, Ret., was the friend and fellow soldier who began the push for the naming of the bridge in Crothers' honor. He talked about how the special ceremony, honor, and general feeling of thankfulness that now exists for the nation's military. "We finally got it right," he said repeatedly.
After retiring from the service Tucker and his wife lived in Washington, D.C., for 15 years. At least once a year he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Each time, he would show any visitors there with him Crothers' name on panel 53E and tell them about his good friend who was gone too soon.
Crothers was killed on his very first mission when he and four of his men stepped on or tripped a booby trap. It happened on May 1, 1968 - the first day of the deadliest month of the war that finally ended on April 30, 1975.
Tucker enlisted the help of Penny Morris and Fred and Marsha Hindman last year to secure a permanent memorial for Lt. Crothers. They sought the guidance and assistance of Senator Larry Edgell (D-Wetzel) and Delegate Dave Pethtel (D-Wetzel), who also enlisted the help of Senator Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall). All three local representatives to Charleston were in attendance Tuesday.
They also received support from the New Martinsville City Council and Wetzel County Commissioners. All three members of the latter were also in attendance. Commission President Don Mason spoke on behalf of the group. "We feel it is an honor and a privilege to participate in this," said Mason. "Let it serve as a reminder to us, the ultimate price that he paid. . . let us never forget that they paid the ultimate sacrifice in preserving our liberty and freedom."
Likewise, Crothers' sister, Edna Jane Hewitt, said, "Liberty is a precious gift whose benefits we enjoy every, single waking second." Speaking of the tumultuous time of the Vietnam War and the harsh reactions returning soldiers endured, Hewitt said, the country has healed much since then. "Today we take that healing one step further," she declared.
Magnolia High School student Sean Maxwell played trumpet at the event. Also, David Morgan, United States Coast Guard, played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. VFW Post 6327 and American Legion Posts 28, 67, and 86 provided the colors and a gun salute.