A trip to Northern Illinois by a U.S. Army veteran resulted in an emotional tribute to a Benton man who died in the Vietnam War.
Joe Hare of Columbia, Ky., on Tuesday honored the memory of fellow Black Lions 28th U.S. Infantry member Kenneth W. Tate, who was killed in action on Sept. 6, 1967 — two days after his 21st birthday.
Hare and his wife, Pat, were joined by some of Tate’s family members and friends at his gravesite in the Masonic & Odd Fellows Cemetery.
“It’s not easy, is it?” Hare asked, his voice trembling. “I didn’t think I would do this bad.”
Tate was the first person from Franklin County to die in Vietnam.
“I’ve forgotten how many people came to his funeral,” said Tate’s stepsister, Alana Day, “but there were 140 cars at the funeral home.”
Day and Tate’s stepmother, Alene Tate, were among those gathered at the gravesite. Kenneth Tate also has two brothers, Randy and David Tate, and another stepsister, Teri Rice.
Hare said the visit was the culmination of two years of research to find former Black Lions members.
“For 40 years, I didn’t make any attempt to find anybody,” he said.
Then, in early 2007, he ran across the company’s Web site “by accident.” Soon, he had made contact with others with whom he had served.
“Right now, I’m headed to Monee for a Bravo Company reunion — and I told my wife, ‘If nothing happens, I’m going through Benton on my way up,’” Hare said.
He said he served with Tate for about three months before Tate transferred to Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols — highly dangerous special operations missions deep into enemy territory.
Hare learned of Tate’s death in Tay Ninh a few days after it happened.
He remembered Tate as a dependable soldier.
“I would have rather Kenny Tate had my back door than anyone else there,” Hare said.