Houser honored during veterans memorial ceremony

Sep. 2—(Amended: Corrects Larry Mulls' first name.)

RUSHVILLE — The 58,200 members of the U.S. military who lost their lives in Vietnam were remembered and honored Thursday evening during the opening ceremony for the American Veterans Traveling Tribute on display at the Rush County Fairgrounds through the noon Sunday.

The event also recognized Vietnam veteran and former Rushville Consolidated High School teacher Craig Houser and his Apache 12 crew members, who were shot down over Cambodia while flying a scouting mission during that war. Houser, who was seriously injured, managed to make his way to safety after four days in enemy territory; his crew mates weren't so lucky.

The visit by the AVTT, which features an 80% scale model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on permanent display in our nation's capitol, was sponsored by the Benevolent Group of Rushville, and Larry Mull, a member of that group, made a brief opening statement that included words of welcome to the crowd gathered for the event. He also noted that "hundreds and hundreds" of students from area schools had already visited the traveling memorial since it arrived Wednesday afternoon.

The Rush County Veterans Honor Guard and RCHS Roarin' Regiment officially kicked off the ceremony with a presentation of colors and a rendition of the National Anthem, and members of each branch of the military were recognized.

Mayor Mike Pavey read a proclamation designating Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 as Rushville Freedom Tribute Days, which was followed by former Rushville resident and businessman Dave Matney who recalled highlights of a similar event held 23 years ago that was known as Salute 2000.

Jim Darnell, a former colleague of Houser's at RCHS, shared the history of and information about the "Battlefield Cross," which consists of a downward facing rifle, military boots, a helmet and dog tags. Darnell noted this symbol of a fallen comrade on the battlefield dates back to the Civil War.

He then introduced Houser, who arrived in Vietnam in August of 1970 and was assigned to the Apache (Alpha) Troop of the legendary 1st Squadron of the 9th Calvary Regiment of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. He volunteered for Scouts and became Apache 12. He spent the rest of his tour flying scouting missions in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was shot down in Cambodia and was Missing in Action or four days. He had been burned and blinded in the crash and came down with malaria because of his exposure in the jungle during his four days of escape and evasion. He returned to the United States at the end of his tour and left the Army in 1971. He joined the Indiana National Guard in 1978 and spent another 24 years flying Hueys for a total of 34 years of service. For 33 years, students at Rushville Consolidated High School had the opportunity to learn from this American hero.

"I look at the roughly 58,000 names on that wall (referencing the model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial behind him) and it almost takes my breath away," Houser said, adding that he was honored that he and his crewmates were being recognized and honored as part of the AVTT's visit.

In recapping his escape from the Cambodian jungle, he said he didn't know how he made it out, but that there were a lot of prayers involved. He then added, "But this isn't about me, it's about the people whose names are on that wall."

Houser noted that of the 58,200 military deaths that occurred in Vietnam, 40,000 of them were 22 years of age or younger, 33,000 were just 18, and some were even younger than that.

In closing, Houser again said he was very honored by the recognition and that the people whose names were on the wall would be too.

Members of the RCHS FFA then placed wreaths in front of the podium, which was followed by members of Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 Indiana performing the Missing Man Table & Honors Ceremony, which incorporates the official covers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, plus a civilian cap, placed prominently on a tabletop to symbolize those who were or are Prisoners Of War, Missing In Action, or Killed In Action But Not Returned.

Rolling Thunder's primary purpose is to publicize POW-MIA issues, to educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all past wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War or Missing In Action. They are committed to helping American veterans from all wars.

The RCHS Choir and marching band each performed appropriate selections to conclude the program.

The AVTT, which includes several large informational panels with information about all of the United State's major military involvements as well as a host of informational stations in the RushShelby Energy Community Building, is available to the public at no charge 24 hours a day during its visit to Rushville.

Contact Kevin Green at or 812-651-0885.