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July 14, 2013

Fire victims remembered

(Continued)

DECORATED VETERAN

Walter “Tink” Hotaling, 67, had a story of his own. 

“He went into the Army and was a gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam,” said his uncle Denver Lee, 76, of San Antonio, Texas.

Hotaling was awarded the Bronze Star, Army Air Medal, the 6th Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal and the Sharpshooter’s Badge. 

He went on more than 100 combat missions while stationed in Pleiku, Vietnam. 

Within weeks of his return from the war, Hotaling suffered a head injury in a car accident on an icy bridge. After that, “he needed someone to take care of him for the rest of his life,” Lee said.

When his mother, Charlene, went to live at Clinton County Nursing Home, he moved to the Swieszes’ adult home.

“The people at the place would take him down and have coffee at the VFW. Every time, he saw the American flag, he’d about pound his chest,” Lee recalled.

“I’m retired Army, and he would salute me. We had fun.”

No matter how bad his condition was, Lee said, Hotaling “had a good time. And that was his life.”

Email Suzanne Moore at:smoore@pressrepublican.com

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