Veterans of only Illinois Army National Guard unit to deploy to Vietnam present plaque to military museum

IL guard

Vietnam veteran Bill Waters talks about the attack on Chu Lai on the second day the 126th Supply and Services Co. was in Vietnam. | Photo courtesy of Illinois Army National Guard

QUINCY — The Illinois State Military Museum’s Armed Forces Day Military Vehicle Show on May 18 included a special presentation by veterans of the Quincy-based 126th Supply and Services Co. at the museum in Springfield.

The unit was the only Illinois Army National Guard unit to deploy to Vietnam. The unit deployed in September 1968 and returned to a parade and celebration in Quincy in August 1969.

Veterans of the unit presented the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield with a plaque containing the names of the 183 soldiers who were activated in 1968 from “The Hallmark Company.” The unit was dubbed “The Hallmark Company” because “they cared enough to send the very best,” Bill Waters, who served with the unit in Vietnam, said in a press release.

Of the 183 names on the plaque, 144 deployed to Vietnam with the Army assigning 39 soldiers to stateside duty based on their military occupational skills. In Vietnam, another 16 to 18 soldiers were taken from the unit to fill needs in other parts of the theater. The core of the unit served in Chu Lai.

On their second night in Chu Lai, the base was attacked.

“That made us get very serious about our defenses very quickly,” said Jerry Rousch, a veteran of the unit. “We didn’t even have our weapons yet when we got hit. But we came together.”

As part of setting up better defenses, the unit traded two cases of beer for use of a bulldozer, which helped them bolster defensive barriers.

The military vehicle show included a Jeep restored to look like “Boogie,” the 126th Supply and Services Company Jeep driven by Dave “Boogieman” Neiswender. None of the 126th veterans could remember why Neiswender was nicknamed Boogieman. He is now retired and living in Florida.

Waters said the company was a slice of the Quincy community. It included a lawyer, construction workers, a barber, a salesman and many other professions.

The 126th veterans are proud that all those who left Quincy in September 1968 came home to their families.

“We survived, thank God,” Rousch said. “We saw a lot of unpleasant things, but we survived.”

The veterans from the unit remain close and meet at least once a month at a Quincy restaurant. They have also raised funds for veteran programs such as the Honor Flight.

“We are a good unit that wants to do good things for other people and help them,” Waters said.

The Illinois Army National Guard’s 126th Quartermaster Co., still based in Quincy, holds the lineage and honors of the 126th Supply and Services Co.

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