SGT LUIS ANGEL HILERIO-PADILLA
12/22/1948 – 11/13/1969
Killed In Action in Vietnam
Luis was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico to father Leoncio Hilerio (1910-1971) and mother Monserrate Padilla (1913-2000) two days before Christmas 1948. They came to live in Yonkers, NY in 1952 when Luis was 4 years old, leaving two grandmothers and the rest of a large extended family there. Leoncio was a veteran of 16 years of Army service who had seen action in World War II and Korea. Joining the Army to serve his country just came natural for Luis. Their family knew the value of hard work with Dad working in the US Post Office in Yonkers. While home on leave, in August, before going to Vietnam, Luis and his fiancé Delia Rivera of the Bronx, made future plans for their marriage. That would have to wait. The last letter received by the family was dated Nov. 8. The young Ranger assured his family “everything is fine – I wish I were home.” He inquired about the health of the family and told them “this is going to be a sad Christmas.” “Delia writes me almost every day, that’s good.” he told his mother. “Don’t worry too much, remember I’m always thinking about you,” he wrote.
On November 13, 1969, mother Monserrate boarded a plane for a visit to family in PR – an unexpected gift from her son Luis. Unknown to all, that same time, Luis and his team were about to engage a numerically superior enemy in the jungles of Vietnam.
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 remains were returned to his ancestral Puerto Rico and he is interred in the Cementerio Municipal in Cabo Rojo. His name is inscribed and honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 16W, Line 69 in Washington, DC by an eternally grateful nation.