PFC EDDIE DEAN CARPENTER
June 26, 1950 – November 13, 1969
Killed in Action in Vietnam
Eddie was born in Breathitt County, Kentucky to father Herbert Carpenter Sr. (1917 – 1983) and mother Julia M “Ellie” Trent Carpenter (1915 – 1999). It was a large family of 13 children and raised in a very rural area of Kentucky. His father Herb, served in the US Army during WWII and was discharged in 1945 returning to his family and life as a laborer building roads for the County. It was not only roads. Herb and Ellie built strong children, their son Eddie being an example. Eddie graduated from Franklin-Simpson High School in Franklin KY in 1968 and found the adventure of Army service an urge too strong to resist.
It was to be a “milk run”. TL Luis Hillerio-Padilla of Yonkers, NY and ATL Eddie Carpenter of Lexington, KY were both seasoned veterans who had pulled several missions together. New to the team was PFC David Burdock of Joplin, MO, PFC Angel Jiminez of PR and PFC Albrico. This 5-man team was to be a radio relay in the mountainous Plei Mrong area of the Central Highlands. If we were professional football players instead of Rangers, we might have referred to this as a bye week. But, as we all came to realize, there were no byes in the jungles of Vietnam, the Highlands always held dangerous surprise. Getting an early start, Team R-30 was inserted at 09:10 and moved North to locate a suitable RR position. Within the hour, the team discovered a fresh and often used trail, wide and invisible through the single canopy. The team moved parallel to the trail for another 30M before Carpenter, who was walking point, confronted two VC in dark clothing armed with AK-47s – it was now 10:40. In the initial volley Carpenter was mortally wounded, one VC was killed, and the other wounded but their now arriving comrades entered the fight. Hilerio was immediately critically wounded but continued to engage the enemy and call in resources on the radio. A Chi-com grenade further wounded Hilerio in addition to Dave Burdock. PFC Albrico relieved Hilerio of the radio and brought additional firepower to bear. Using grenades and small arms fire, Burdock, Jiminez and Albrico held the enemy at bay. At 11:10, after 30 minutes of an active gunfight, the gunships reported on station. They made numerous passes to “brush back” the bad guys. First Sgt Keller and PSG Gates arrived with the slicks to assist in the extraction. The wounded Rangers were evacuated with their equipment remaining behind. Shortly after all the choppers were away, the gunships tore the area up. Artillery was called in to further decimate the stragglers and the Corsairs followed. Later a reactionary platoon from 2/8th Infantry recovered the packs and radios left behind. Seven hours later, at 18:15, the C.O. received notification that Luis Hillerio had succumbed to his wounds. Eddie Dean Carpenter died at the age of 18 and Luis Hilerio-Padilla at the age of 21.
Fifty years has passed in the blink of an eye. We have carried their memories and maintained their fellowship in our hearts for all this time without burden. They, as well as all the brothers we lost, continue to inspire us today as certain as they did when they were causing havoc to our enemy in the violent Central Highlands. His name is inscribed and honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 16W, Line 69 in Washington, DC by an eternally grateful nation.