Meet a Veteran: Norwich man flew on surveillance planes in Vietnam

By On June 08, 2018

Meet a Veteran: Norwich man flew on surveillance planes in Vietnam

Friday

Jun 8, 2018 at 8:33 PM Jun 8, 2018 at 8:44 PM

By Kristina Tedeschi Wayne

In the service: After spending his childhood in Gales Ferry and graduating from Norwich Free Academy in 1965, Steve Holmberg enlisted in the U.S. Navy amidst the impending draft during the Vietnam era. He started his service on Jan.11, 1967, completing boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, before being sent to Naval Air Station Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. Holmberg became part of the patrol squadron VP-9, also known as the Golden Eagles, and worked primarily on operations and communications aboard P-3 Orions, a type of maritime surveillance aircraft. Holmberg was deployed to Adak, Alaska, the former Agana, Guam, and, in 1969, to Cam Ranh, Vietnam. While participating in exercises in the South China Sea with the Southeast As ia Treaty Organization - a now-defunct military alliance between eight countries, including the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom - the USS Frank E. Evans and the HMAS Melbourne of the Royal Australian Navy collided in the early morning hours of June 3, 1969. Later that day, Holmberg recalled, he learned the USS Frank E. Evans had been cut in two as a result of the crash. More than 70 men were killed. Years later, by chance, Holmberg met a fellow veteran in Norwich who had been aboard the Evans that day, and the two have kept in touch. "We didn’t meet until all these years later," he said. "Out of all the things that happened while I was in Vietnam, that’s the one that sticks out the most."

After the service: Holmberg returned home to Gales Ferry in 1970, and worked different jobs over the next several years, he said, including as a blackjack dealer at Mohegan Sun and later, at a warehouse there, for 16 years. Holmberg, now 71 and a Norwich residen t, retired in 2012. Every week, he attends the veterans coffeehouse, hosted by the Thames Valley Council for Community Action, "for the camaraderie," and is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 270. Holmberg is also joining the Disabled American Veterans, he said. In 2010, Holmberg was diagnosed with throat cancer and required a tracheostomy. He now speaks with the help of an electrolarynx, a handheld device that translates vibrations into speech.

Holmberg’s father, Edwin Holmberg, served in the National Guard in the 1920s, and his uncle, Gib Fontaine, served in the U.S Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II. On special occasions, Holmberg keeps a laminated photograph of Fontaine in his shirt pocket.

Quotable: "Every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day when I go out, I put him in my pocket and he comes with me," he said.

Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam

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