Photo by: SGT Keven Parry, U.S. Army Photo
On May 15, 2010, a memorial was dedicated to LTC Joe Kiernan and LTC Rod Smith at Milford Lake’s Army recreation area, west of Fort Riley.
Under cloudy skies and intermittent rain, the Rear detachment of the First Engineer Battalion gathered to hear COL Eric Wesley, CO of the First Heavy Brigade Combat Team praise the memory of LTC Kiernan, the First Engineer Battalion Commander, and LTC Smith, the Battalion XO [who was about to take command of the battalion], and who were both killed in a tragic helicopter crash on June 3, 1967, in Vietnam. COL Wesley spoke about the legacy of leadership and achievement of both officers, and exhorted soldiers to honor that legacy by striving for excellence.
LTC [Ret] Larry Blair, who served as Charlie Company Commander under Kiernan and Smith, spoke of the lives and careers of both, and related tales of their innovative and dynamic leadership in Vietnam. Not only did the “DIEHARD” engineers conduct the usual missions of road, bridge, airfield , and vertical construction, mine and boobytrap clearing, and demolitions, but the First Engineers were the first to take bulldozers into the jungle with the infantry; float its own “Kiernan’s Navy”—pontoon rafts with searchlights and quad 50-caliber machine guns; and send engineer teams down 100-foot ladders under hovering CH-47 helicopters to cut landing zones in the jungle. Blair praised the leadership and example of LTC Kiernan and Smith, and recalled the stunning effect on morale when they were killed.
A monument and bronze plaque were unveiled at the entrance to the marina area, as a permanent tribute.
LTC Larry Blair (Retired), COL Eric Wesley, Chaplin Daniel Isfan
“the Greatest Engineer Battalion Ever Formed”