ALVIN C HINSON - SSGT
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- March 03, 1936
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- May 12, 1969
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Alvin C. Hinson was born on March 3, 1936. His home of record is Westville, NJ.
He served in the US Army and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSGT).
Hinson was killed in action on May 12, 1969 in Vietnam.
March 3, 1936-May 12, 1969
SSGT, Army Woodbury, NJ
As his platoon moved through unsecured territory, it came under intense hostile fire, sustained several serious casualties and became pinned down. Seeing that the wounded personnel were without aid, Sergeant Hinson, with complete disregard for his own safety, courageously moved through the hail of rounds, across open terrain to aid the injured soldiers. While giving aid to one of his men, Sergeant Hinson was mortally wounded.
On the 12th of May in 1969, Alvin Hinson forever became a hero of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. He had only been in Vietnam five weeks. He was doing what he did best; taking care of his men. After all, he was married to them, to the Army and to his country. For his actions under fire, Hinson was posthumously was awarded the Silver Star. His ex-wife, Katherine Hinson (nee Finsel), whose marriage to him lasted just under ten years, had two daughters with him but knew more than anyone that Alvin's first and only true love was the Army.
"We had a great marriage while it lasted," she says. "He was a good friend besides being a good husband and a good father. He was good to us when he was home but, I always felt he would have rather been on an operation with his troops somewhere. He was a soldier, period. Everything else came in a distant second."
Alvin Hinson was born and raised in Lancaster, South Carolina, situated between Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC. He left school in the tenth grade and enlisted into the Army in 1953. He stood 5' 8" and weighed about 160 pounds, had brown hair and hazel eyes. His service record indicates two reductions in rank for being AWOL in 1964 while stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. It took about three years for him to reach the rank of Sergeant again. His duty stations included Japan, Korea and Germany. He spent two years as a civilian in Deptford and Woodbury, NJ.
"Al and I met in January of 1955, while he was still in the service," Katherine says. "He wanted to settle down and start a family. We were married in September of that year and he got out of the Army in December of 1956."
"He went to work at the National Gas Company plant in Gloucester," she continues. "And later, he went to New York shipyard as a welder on board the USS Kittyhawk. Our first child, Elizabeth, was born in August of 1956. Our second, Peggy Sue, was born in March of 1958, three weeks before Elizabeth died in open heart surgery. It was really a tough time for us but we survived. I would not have if Al had not been around."
"Al was meticulous about everything he did," Katherine recalls. "He cleaned the floors in our apartment once, and actually spit-shined them when he was through. He had a lot of energy and worked hard at whatever he was doing. He loved western movies, especially John Wayne, and liked to go to Atco Raceway for the stock car races. He served on the election board in Deptford Township and loved to go roller skating. He even got his GED in the service. We were members of St. John's Lutheran Church in Woodbury and had many friends, both civilian and military."
"I remember very well when we first got married and living two doors from the firehouse in north Woodbury. When the alarm would go off in the middle of the night, Al would jump out of bed thinking it was an alert at the base. We had a wonderful neighbor downstairs who would stop Al before he got to the street."
"A friend of his once tried to commit suicide. His wife called us and within fifteen minutes, Al had him at the hospital. His wife stayed with us for the two weeks Al's friend was in the hospital. Al then insisted they stay with us for a week when he got out. He always had to help people anyway he could."
By May of 1965, their marriage had disintegrated and they divorced. Katherine and Peggy Sue stayed in Woodbury, and Alvin went off to his assignment in Germany.
She will never forget the day four years later when the notification officers arrived at their apartment. They were there to notify Peggy Sue of her father's death, but not Katherine, who was Peggy Sue's legal guardian, but no longer his wife.
"I thought it had to be a mistake," Katherine says. "The last we heard from him, he was in Germany. The officers assured us there was no mistake."
The tragic news became worse as the days after wore on. Katherine had long since become estranged from Alvin's family in South Carolina, and there had been little communication between them. Peggy Sue became an innocent victim.
"She was only eleven," Katherine says. "It was terrible for her, me and my mother. And since Peggy Sue was a minor, we had no say on the burial arrangements. Al's mother had his body shipped to South Carolina. She made no contact at all and we never found out when the funeral was. My daughter later tried to get the flag that covered his coffin but Al's mother said she wanted it. I really regret we had not been there to say goodbye. Maybe then I could accept that he really is gone. At least I found out that he had volunteered for Vietnam, so he must have believed in what we were doing there."
"He served his country proudly," Katherine remembers. "There are many good stories I could tell. We did a lot of wonderful things as a couple and as a family. But I would want him remembered as a soldier who gave his life for his country and his men."
The Silver Star citation continues:
Sergeant Hinson's extraordinary heroism in close combat with an armed hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 9th Infantry Division and the United States Army.
Excerpt from They Were Ours: Gloucester County's Loss in Vietnam
by John Campbell
Used with permission of author
Sources: John Campbell and NJVVMF.
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