Vietnam War: A life-defining moment
Roy Pinheiro defines everything in his life as happening either before or after his brother — Army Sgt. Jeffrey A. Pinheiro — was killed by small arms fire in Vietnam 43 years ago.
Jeffrey Antone Pinheiro, 20, Dartmouth High School Class of 1966, was killed Feb. 11, 1968, in Darlac, South Vietnam. It has become a life defining moment for the 52-year-old Pinheiro, who works in the Dartmouth Public Works Department.
He mentioned, for example, that someone asked him if remembers a certain TV show and his response was: "Yes, I do. That came out after Jeffrey was gone."
Roy was 9 when Jeffrey, the oldest of seven children, was killed and he has a clear recollection of the circumstances when he learned his big brother was dead.
He was in third grade and had just returned home from the former Potter School when he saw his mother, Stella Pinheiro, standing at the top of the stairs and not looking very well.
He asked his mother if she was all right before one of his sisters, Linda Lopes, broke the news to him.
He shakes his head at the task that befell Lopes, who was only 17 at the time.
Roy said he and his wife, Susan, will visit his brother's grave at the Padanaram Cemetery this weekend, plant flowers and pay their respects.
Three years ago this Memorial Day, the town dedicated a monument for his brother at Slade's Corner, not far from where the family lives on Division Road.
Roy passes it everyday on his way to work and occasionally sees Linda and her husband, Joe Lopes, planting flowers or pulling weeds.
He said when he sees the monument his thoughts go back to their childhood and he remembers how "cool" it was to have an older brother like Jeff.
He said Jeff liked cars and enjoyed hanging out at the old Frates' Dairy on Dartmouth Street, which is now a real estate office, but didn't like having his kid brother around when he was with his friends.
Roy said the nation has learned much from the scorn shown to returning Vietnam veterans.
"Now they have learned you can hate the war, but don't hate the soldiers," he said. "Now they (Vietnam veterans) are finally getting the respect they are due."
And when he sees Vietnam veterans marching in a parade?
"I just look at them and say, 'Thank you.' "