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Officer's death prompted memories of military days

Letter No. 168 | March 21, 1998

Hi Jon,

Here's a personal episode I thought interesting enough to share with readers of the Nanty Glo web site. I am a Nanty Glo native, now retired from the Federal Government, and reside in Alexandria, Virginia. I read the Washington Post daily, and the March 18 obituary section of the newspaper drew my attention. It listed the death of William R. Hensley of nearby Fairfax, Virginia, at age 67. It stated that he was a retired Army Colonel, having retired in 1986 after 30 years of service, and also had a career as a loan officer for a mortgage company.

What was so significant about this Army officer? After all, a lot of military personnel retire and get jobs around the Washington DC area. The significance to me was that Colonel Hensley was the Commanding Officer (then a first Lieutenant) of my Army basic training company at Fort Knox, Kentucky, when I was inducted into the Army in August 1954. How could anyone who served under Colonel Hensley forget him? A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, he graduated as a ROTC officer and was fervidly dedicated to a military career. He was a strict and disciplined Army officer who demanded unquestionable obedience from those who served under him. (By analogy, I am reminded of George C. Scott's role as General Patton when he remarks, “I want my troops to fear me more than the enemy!”)

That was certainly Colonel Hensley's philosophy. Apparently this philosophy of stern leadership and survival tactics served him and his troops well, because years later he commanded an assault helicopter company during the Vietnam War. We well remember from the late sixties television the dangers and perils these American airborne troops faced in fighting the Viet Cong. He was also in Laos in the mid-1960s when the turmoil in Southeast Asia was just starting to erupt.

His awards include many service medals, which he so richly deserved. Another sign of his strong influence and dedication to the military service is that three of his six children are Army officers.

Interment is planned at Arlington National with full military honors at the end of March. We should all express our thanks to all military personnel like Colonel Hensley. They are the courageous ones committed to serving and protecting our country in a time of crisis.

Best regards,
Frank Charney

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