Whitesville Air Force veteran died in 1973
Wife, Bonnie Hallett, remembers her late husband,
Larry was the son of Leland and Alberta (Cornell) Hallett. He was born and raised in Whitesville. One of six children he excelled in school and graduated Valedictorian of his class.
He received a prestigious scholarship to MIT and completed one year of education there before enlisting in the US Air Force to serve during the Vietnam War. He served four years and did one tour of Vietnam. Discharged in 1968, he returned to Allegany County.
The nightmares and flashbacks didn’t start right away, mostly he just felt detached and distant from people. He met his future wife and they were married November 22, 1968. He was hired by Rochester Gas and Electric and they moved to Rochester, NY. He received training and became a lineman for the company.
The nightmares and flashback began soon after. His son was born in July of 1969 and the nightmares worsened. Like many Vietnam veterans he began to drink to “calm his nerves”. The VA wasn’t terribly helpful and there wasn’t a recognition of, or treatment for, PTSD back then. He tried private counseling, and anti anxiety drugs, but alcohol became his drug of choice.
His daughter was born in August of 1970 and the flashbacks intensified. Despite the demons he fought daily he loved and provided for his family. Over the next year and a half the drinking increased, the counseling didn’t help. He joined AA and was hopeful only to face the daily struggle of sobriety on top of the PTSD. He was sober for 19 months before returning to the only drug that dulled his pain – alcohol.
In August of 1973, under the influence of alcohol and in the midst of a flashback, he set up a blockade, loaded all his guns and prepared for attack. The flashback was so powerful he couldn’t see the children and I, all he saw was “the enemy”. I grabbed our children, one under each arm, and ran to the neighbors. When the shooting stopped, he was dead by suicide.
Writing these words now still make me cry. I think of him scared and alone, I still wonder why did this have to happen. Why?
It’s been 49 years and I still can’t answer that question! As his wife and surviving advocate I have never stopped trying to find a way to honor him. I knew his death wasn’t shameful. I knew it wasn’t cowardice. I knew that although he didn’t die in the field, he died because of the field and the service he gave our country. This year his name will finally be added to the In Memory Project. I pray that will at last bring our family peace.
In the intervening years, Larry’s children have grown into wonderful, mature adults. He missed their growing up, their graduations, their marriages, and the births of their children. He now has 5 grandchildren that I know he would have loved with all his heart.
This is a story about my Lar, and I am grateful to be be able to tell it. But I also know that 22 veterans die every single day by suicide. I want our country to do better. I want our service men and women to be honored. We owe these wonderful Veterans our lives and they deserve better care. I don’t want another family to face the nightmare we have lived.
Memorial Day is a day to remember – to remember those who sacrificed all.