FAYETTEVILLE--People deal with tragedy in different ways. After Lt. Hugh William Wellons was killed in Vietnam in 1966, his family left a crate of his personal effects relatively undisturbed for over 40 years. The Army shipped his crate home after his death. Hugh’s sister, Caroline Parsons, agreed to let staff from the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex examine the crated objects. She also began to offer more information about his life and how the family dealt with his loss.
“The museum staff felt that this story could serve as a stirring reminder of the meaning of Memorial Day,” says David Reid, administrator of the museum. Hugh’s Crate, the title of this small but meaningful memorial display, will open in the museum lobby on Saturday, May 1. The display will be up through May 30.
Hugh’s mother, Caroline Baker Wellons, and grandmother, Almenia McQueen, were both born in the Cumberland County homeplace where Caroline and Jon Parsons reside today. After Hugh graduated from Parkton High School and attended the Citadel and Mars Hill College, his family relocated to Florence, S.C. He entered the Army in 1963 at Fort Jackson, S.C., and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. He went to Vietnam in early 1966 as a first lieutenant serving as Assistant Battalion Advisor, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
On Oct. 13, 1966, while on an operation in Quang Ngai Province, Lt. Wellons’ unit came under fire, and he was killed. Because of his actions during that engagement, Lt. Wellons was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, in addition to the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Hugh’s Crate offers a look at how we remember those who die while serving their country. The crate itself serves as a time capsule of personal possessions of a soldier in Vietnam in October 1966. The exhibit also features items from family, friends and fellow soldiers. There is a poem written by his sister and letters from soldiers thanking the family for a memorial fund to assist with a chapel in Vietnam that Hugh had helped establish. Also included is the framed commendation that accompanied the award of Lt. Wellons’ Silver Star. The display reminds us of the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.
As part of “31 Days of Glory,” the museum is exhibiting Hugh’s Crate for a second year. "31 Days of Glory" is a month of events in Fayetteville honoring those who serve and have served in our armed forces. To learn more about the events, go to www.31daysofglory.com.
For more information about the museum, call (910) 486-1330 or visit the Web site at www.museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov. The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex, located on the corner of Bradford and Arsenal avenues in Fayetteville, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The museum is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, an agency of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (www.ncculture.com).
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