Editor's note: Bob Hunteman does not want area residents to forget about Bill Burkett. He was not listed in the Vietnam War dead from Ripley and Franklin counties in the Aug. 28 article titled "Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica coming to Milan."
The public may view The Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, at Baylor Trucking headquarters, 9269 E. State Road 48, Milan, free of charge 24 hours a day now through Sunday, Sept. 9, at 3 p.m. Burkett's name can be found on Panel 27W, Line 93.
Bill Burkett was born Feb. 21, 1943, in Aurora. He was killed in action in Vietnam April 16, 1969, while serving as an Air Force pilot.
While stationed in Laredo, Texas, for flight training, William Burkett did not let the hot days keep him from playing golf, the sport he loved. At 5 a.m. he would join wife Shirley on the links before the heat of the day arrived. Like many of the men who served our country during the Vietnam War, the former Aurora resident enjoyed life's simple pleasures. "Bill was a funny guy – loved a good joke and a cold bottle of beer," said his widow, Shirley Mingee, Bloomington. He also was a proud father of son Kevin for eight months until Burkett was killed.
Though he initially attended Aurora High School, Burkett's family moved to Milan his junior year. He graduated from Milan High School in 1961, said Mingee.
His job was to direct bombers to a strike site and then go back and assess the damage. He was flying on a Forward Air Controller mission from Long Thanh, Vietnam, when his plane went down. It later was confirmed the plane was hit by hostile fire. "I do not know if he was killed before the crash or not. This has always been upsetting to me, not knowing and not really wanting to know," she explained.
His loss was devastating to the family. Their father woke up the morning Burkett died, saying he knew somehow his son had been killed, said sister Sue Bessler, Milan. "I still can see the blue car turning into the driveway and knowing immediately something was terribly wrong," said Mingee.