NORMAN R HETZEL - SGT
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- October 04, 1948
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- August 26, 1969
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Norman Ralph Hetzel was born on October 4, 1948, in Suffern, NY. He was the son of Christine (Tina) Hoebee Hetzel and Norman (Peter) Hetzel, and joined his older brother, Tim. His home of record is Mahwah, NJ.
Norm attended Mahwah Public Schools, and while in his senior year at Mahwah High School, participated in a Work Study Program, which taught him the welding trade. He graduated in 1966, and was employed by Ulrich Brothers Metal Works as a fabricator.
Norm was an excellent metalworker and mechanic, owning and rebuilding several cars while in high school. He eventually purchased and modified a 1963 Ford, which he raced at Island Dragway with some success. He assisted his many friends with their cars, and was also interested in motorcycles, owning a blue Triumph Bonneville. Norm was an exceptional bowler, and also loved music, his favorite song being "Devil with the Blue Dress On", by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
Hetzel was drafted into the US Army on August 2, 1968, and took his induction oath at the Selective Service office in Hackensack, NJ. He attended basic training in Fort Dix, NJ. He was assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd BCT (Basic Combat Training) Brigade. After graduation, he trained at Fort Polk, LA, attended Non-Commissioned Officer's School, was promoted to Sergeant, and was transferred to Fort Lewis, WA, for deployment to Vietnam.
He arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to Charlie Company, 4/31 Battalion, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division as a Squad Leader. His unit, at the time, was headquartered in the village of Chu Lai Jul.
Hetzel was killed in action on August 26, 1969, after serving only three weeks in country. He was injured during a patrol in hostile territory, and died as a result of multiple fragmentation wounds. At the time of his untimely death, he was 20 years old.
He was the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal, and Purple Heart.
Hetzel was interred in Union Cemetery, Ramsey, NJ, and was honored with a full military funeral in September 1969. His mother, Tina, who passed on several years later, is interred next to him.
At the time of his death, Mahwah Mayor John J. Brennan ordered all township flags flown at half staff. Norman was the third resident of Mahwah to become a casualty of the Vietnam War. A Mayoral Decree dedicated Hetzel Drive in his honor in the early 1990s.
The American Legion Post in Mahwah has been named in memory of Norman Hetzel and two other Mahwah casualties, Patrick Brems and Everett Meester.
Sources: Pat Lewis (cousin), Ralph Coviello (friend), American Legion Post 531, newspaper clippings and NJVVMF, Photo from VVMF.
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