Terry Lee Henderson, U.S. Navy

Remembering a friend – close friend Rick Mascaro returned to Westfield’s Memorial Park and gave a speech entitled “Bittersweet Heroes.” He spoke of Terry Henderson, how he was full of life, full of energy and full of the idealism that so often accompanies youth.

He recalled the horse chestnut fights he and Henderson would get into at the corner of Spring and Academy streets, their old haunts, and how good a shot Henderson was with a horse chestnut! Mascaro told the company gathered how sweet Henderson was, and how wonderful a friend he was to those who were lucky enough to know him. He was loved by his classmates, and though he loved them in return, he also loved his Stratocaster Fender guitar, maybe better than anyone. He played in several rock bands around Westfield. He was a softspoken man who enjoyed life to the fullest.

Henderson was also a good son and a good brother. He adored his mother and his country. When he was tragically lost at sea that fateful day in 1969, a bright and promising life was cut short.

Mascaro’s speech also honored all the other local men and women who so proudly served their country, paying the ultimate price for our freedom. Mascaro said that though no one wants to give up their lives and leave their loved ones behind, the men and women of the United States military acknowledge the possibility of death as a part of war. They know that, often, wars are won by taking more lives than their enemy takes.

Henderson’s mother, Mary Ann, is 85 years old. Not a day goes by for her that she doesn’t think of the son she lost in the Vietnam War. It is the same for everyone who has lost a loved one at war; there is a daily acknowledgement of the grief that has become part and parcel of life. Her mind will wander to that small country in southeast Asia – a country we went to war for, and one that claimed the lives of 58,260 Americans before the last shot was fired. Another 58,000 lives were changed or affected by the Vietnam War, the lives of soldiers who lost parts of themselves, bits of their lives that they cannot reclaim, sunken into those far-away rice paddies and lost in the jungle.

Some Vietnam veterans consider themselves lucky. There are those of us who lived to see our families, who were well enough to marry and see children or grandchildren. Some may even see great-grandchildren. But for Terry Henderson, there was no marriage, no children or grandchildren. Henderson, who talked of going to college, never got to step foot on a college campus or sit through class in a lecture hall, surrounded by eager fellow students. He never got to choose a major and pursue a career.

It’s sad to write about a fellow Vietnam veteran whose life was so cruelly snuffed out. No one will ever know how far in life Henderson would have gotten if he would have survived that day at sea. We can only remember him now, look at old photos and hear stories about him from friends and family.

What we do know is that Terry Lee Henderson was a wonderful young man. He enjoyed life and made good friends. He loved his mother and his country. He served the United States honorably, and his life was taken in the course of that service. And in remembering him, we must also remember that he is a hero.

I am sorry I could not personally thank him for his service, but I honor him and his memory here today. God bless his mother, Mary Ann, who has had to endure life for the last 44 years without her son. I am so sorry for her loss.

Terry Lee Henderson is our Hero of the Week.