The Story of Tommy Hill, Killed in Vietnam:

In a black and white photograph taken when he was just a little boy, Tommy Hill of New Castle, Alabama, gives the camera a big smile.  He is dressed in his favorite outfit – a soldier’s uniform.  A few years after that picture was taken, he wrote a letter to West Point requesting information on how to apply when he grew up.  He had his future all planned out. 

He lived the life of a lot of small-town kids in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He loved the outdoors and sports, and he especially enjoyed playing Little League Baseball for the Giants.  At Tarrant High School, Tommy made the football team.  His mother recalls, “He wasn’t the best player, but he always played like he was.”  Tommy was a good student, never a troublemaker.  After he graduated from high school, he attended the University of Alabama and married his sweetheart, Nancy.  They were expecting a baby when he left for Vietnam.  Though his West Point dreams had been overshadowed by the responsibilities of family life, when he was called to serve the country he had always loved, Tommy answered without hesitation.  For a while, the future he had planned was back on track.  After basic training, Tommy returned home for a few days before shipping to Vietnam.  Of those few days, Clara Hill recalls the day the family drove him to the airport.  She recalled looking up at a plane taking off and thinking, “I don’t think my son is coming back.”

He lived the life of a lot of small-town kids in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He loved the outdoors and sports, and he especially enjoyed playing Little League Baseball for the Giants.  At Tarrant High School, Tommy made the football team.  His mother recalls, “He wasn’t the best player, but he always played like he was.”  Tommy was a good student, never a troublemaker.  After he graduated from high school, he attended the University of Alabama and married his sweetheart, Nancy.  They were expecting a baby when he left for Vietnam.  Though his West Point dreams had been overshadowed by the responsibilities of family life, when he was called to serve the country he had always loved, Tommy answered without hesitation.  For a while, the future he had planned was back on track.  After basic training, Tommy returned home for a few days before shipping to Vietnam.  Of those few days, Clara Hill recalls the day the family drove him to the airport.  She recalled looking up at a plane taking off and thinking, “I don’t think my son is coming back.”

 

One day, when Clara was working her shift at a local factory, she was summoned to the supervisor’s office.  Her premonition at the airfield returned to her and she feared the worst.  “It was like I just knew,” she says.  “I shut off my machine and just ran down the hall where I met the supervisor.  I remember saying, “oh my, is Tommy dead?’  I looked in his eyes and I just knew.”  Private First Class Thomas Hill who had been in Vietnam for less than six weeks, had been killed.  He was twenty-one years old, and the father of a son he would never know. 

 

Just 40 days in the country, Tommy had died of multiple fragment wounds to the chest and abdomen.  In Vietnam vernacular, he had “bought the farm.” 

 

Twenty-one-year old Tommy Hill had become one of the 58,000 Americans, 1204 Alabamians and 115 Hills killed in a little country at the southeast corner of China.  After thirty years of searching for anyone who knew him in the war and trying to uncover information about the circumstances surrounding his death, Clara Hill was contacted by a man from Chicago, Chuck Schreyer, who was Tommy’s squad sergeant.  In him she found the answers to some of her many questions.  They met and visited Tommy’s grave.    Chuck Schleyer told Clara that her son “seemed to be the nicest person in the squad.  He didn’t swear, he didn’t smoke; he paid attention; he did what he was supposed to do; and he didn’t complain.”  To Clara this was not a surprise.  Tommy had always taken the role of soldier very seriously.

 

Thomas (Tommy) Hill’s name is on the Hall of Honor Walls at the Alabama Veterans Memorial Park for Vietnam deaths under Jefferson County.

Show More