It was the type of homecoming that should have been.
While the return home from the war zone for many Vietnam veterans decades ago was marked with scorn, the return home for Sgt. 1st Class Billy Hill was just the opposite.
Hill, 21, died In Vietnam nearly 48 years ago when the helicopter he was on was hit by enemy fire. His remains went unidentified for decades until earlier this year, and his family decided to bury him at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen last week.
When the Herald broke the story that Hill would be buried at the local cemetery, the story quickly became the No. 1-read story on our website for the week.
The response from readers was widespread, with people offering online comments and condolences to the family. Others simply thanked Hill for his sacrifice.
I received several emails and phone calls from Vietnam veterans, many who just wanted to say they were going to Hill’s funeral.
When Hill’s remains landed at the Austin airport early last week, his family and dozens of Patriot Guard Riders were there to greet him. A procession of motorcycles and police escorted his body about 100 miles from Austin to Gatesville, where even more veterans greeted his return.
At his funeral Thursday, cemetery officials estimated more 1,000 people attended. For many who attended, it was their chance to welcome home a Vietnam veteran in a way many Vietnam veterans never had.
There was no doubt some closure for Hill’s family. His cousin Beverly Jacobs said they were able to finally bring their boy back to Texas.
However, Hill’s family members weren’t the only ones to get some closure as the sun shone brightly on the more than 6,000 headstones at the veterans cemetery.
The dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Vietnam veterans who were there got to see a brother come home with the full support of the community and various organizations that were represented.
With that support comes healing, even if it’s long overdue.
Healing can take a long time, and as a nation, we’re still healing from the Vietnam War in many ways.
With the story of Billy Hill, that healing took a few steps forward.
R.I.P., Sgt. 1st Class Billy Hill.