Sergeant Richard Quinn Drive was recently named after the only Woodstocker to die in Vietnam, Richard Floyd Quinn — medic for Delta Company, 1st Battalion/8th Cavalry- 1st Air Cavalry Division (AM).
This past Memorial Day, when Hillcrest Avenue was changed to Sgt. Richard Quinn Drive, Sergeant Donald Ketcham drove here from Michigan to participate in the ceremony. “Ketcham” was point squad leader of the point platoon on July 12, 1970, and witnessed Quinn’s death, from only 20 yards away. During a ferocious firefight, “Doc” Quinn had attempted to save his fellow medic, a conscientious objector from California, “Doc” Thomas Kloss. (Neither medic survived. Quinn was 21; Kloss had just turned 19.)
When Quinn was hit, the last surviving medic, Tommy Hunt was waved forward to help Quinn who, at that point, was crying out for help. As Hunt was consoling and bandaging Quinn, they were both struck by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). Quinn died instantly. Severely wounded, Hunt was eventually carried off the field. They both later received the country’s second highest medal, the Distinguished Service Cross — Quinn, posthumously.
At the Woodstock ceremony, Sergeant Ketcham, after explaining in detail Quinn’s last moments, added: “This street naming is really important to so many people. No one else in Delta Company has ever been acknowledged, for anything. So this means a lot to all the veterans of our company who are now scattered all over the country, but are aware of this event. Many of these men were treated by Quinn, in the field. ‘Doc’ was one of us; a vital member of our team. This town should be proud of Quinn. He saved a lot of lives.”
The town’s historian, Richard Heppner, who was actively supportive of this project, mc’d the proceedings. Quinn’s younger brother George (with daughter Bernadette) and sister Susan welcomed everyone and thanked the town for officially renaming the street after their brother — for recognizing Richard’s sacrifice. George also thanked Town Supervisor Bill McKenna for presenting the Quinn family with the plaque — the Town Resolution — that renamed the street on behalf of the Town Board and the people of Woodstock.
Richard Quinn’s friend and mentor, Fred Strassberg (who, in the 1960s owned the News Shop in town) flew in from Australia, needing to share his vivid memories of Richard as a teenager. Terry Breitenstein, Commander of the Woodstock American Legion Post 1026 reminisced about what turmoil the country was in 1969, when Quinn was drafted; how no one wanted to go to Vietnam, but were caught up in the maelstrom of war.
On behalf of Quinn’s childhood friends, I gave a closing speech, noting how so many people had never made peace with Richard’s death, each of them for different reasons. I hoped that this commemoration had eased some of the suffering that many had carried with them for nearly 50 years. The final lines read: “The town’s Resolution states that this street will be ‘forever known’ as Sgt. Richard Quinn Drive. I do believe that Richard would be grateful that collectively so many of his friends have assisted George in doing what Richard asked of him — to keep his name alive. None of us ever forgot you, Richard. We never will.”