Borough, bikers to remember sacrifice of veterans

HOOKSTOWN, Pa.-The little borough of Hookstown paid a big price for its involvement in the Vietnam War, losing two sons who will be remembered on Memorial Day.

Army Spc. 4th Class Daniel M. “Mickey” Dawson and Army Cpl. William “Billy Lee” McLaughlin are memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and in the hearts of a dwindling number of surviving family members and friends.

On Monday, their sacrifice will be honored by Hookstown American Legion Post 952 and a group of bikers who participated in this year’s Rolling Thunder event at the Wall in Washington, D.C.

Ten bikers from Hookstown were scheduled to leave early this morning so that they can make it in time for the Rolling Thunder festivities on Saturday. Attached to their motorcycles are laminated pictures of Dawson and McLaughlin.

They also are carrying American flags that they will touch to the Wall where the men’s names appear and then bring back to Hookstown for a special presentation on Monday, said Mary Ann Whitehill, secretary of the Post 952 Auxiliary.

In Washington, D.C., the local motorcyclists will meet up with Hookstown native Paul Hobbs and hundreds of other bikers who made the cross-country Rolling Thunder trek.

“Everywhere they go, they pick up more bikers,” Whitehill said.

The Rolling Thunder participants, who expect to arrive in Washington, D.C., today, are currently running more than 500 strong, Hobbs said. They spent the last two nights in West Virginia-Wednesday in Hurricane, W.Va., and Thursday in Lewisburg, W.Va.

Hobbs, who also has Dawson and McLaughlin’s photos taped to his windshield, said the 10-day ride across the country has reinforced his belief in American patriotism.

“I was of the opinion that patriotism in our country was something that was fading away. But now I would say that opinion is what’s fading away,” he said.

Hobbs, commander of American Legion Post 202 in Columbia, Mo., left Missouri on May 8 and arrived in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., on May 12. On May 14, he and an estimated 323 bikers, most of them Vietnam veterans, departed for Washington, D.C.

“The welcomes we’ve received in these towns has been phenomenal. When we enter these towns, the streets are lined with flag-waving, cheering crowds,” he said.

The Hookstown bikers will return on Sunday and participate in Monday’s Memorial Day parade in Hookstown, as well as the service to follow at Post 952.

Hobbs, who grew up on the Hobbs dairy farm in Hookstown, will be special speaker and taps player on Monday. The American flags will be presented to the family members of Dawson and McLaughlin.

Dawson, a 1964 graduate of South Side High School, died on Dec. 15, 1969, in Phuoc Long, Vietnam. He was 23.

McLaughlin, 1966 graduate of South Side High School, died on Oct. 3, 1968, in Dinh Tuong, Vietnam. He was 20.