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Patriotic tradition revived to honor Vietnam War hero

The traditional Memorial Day holiday -- May 30 -- has been chosen for a program to honor Air Force Capt. Dennis E. Morgan, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Morgan was 26 when he lost his life while flying with an elite group called the Ravens. He will be the principal honoree at a ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the LaSalle Branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library, 8728 Buffalo Ave.

Historians with a special interest in the former Village of LaSalle, now a neighborhood of Niagara Falls, will unveil an array of photographs and personal memorabilia of Morgan's life in the reading room on the second floor of the library. The tribute will remain on display through June.

Duane M. Curtis, commander of LaSalle Post 1142, American Legion, 8643 Buffalo Ave., will present a biographical sketch of Morgan during Wednesday's free public program. Military veterans especially are urged to attend. Refreshments will be served.

Morgan was killed April 29, 1971, wile his unit was flying extremely dangerous missions as forward air controllers in small propeller-driven planes in Laos, according to local historians planning the program. His unit's job was to hunt down the enemy along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

He was the son of Howard and Janet Morgan of 92nd Street in LaSalle, and the program sponsors feel that he never received adequate public recognition for sacrificing his life in warfare.

Teresa Lasher Winslow, a professional historian who lives in the LaSalle neighborhood, said: "There are so many ceremonies on the Memorial Day that now is observed on the last Monday in May that we thought it would be more appropriate to honor Capt. Morgan individually in a special ceremony on the nation's originally official Memorial Day on May 30 -- this Wednesday.

"The tribute will honor not only Capt. Morgan's deeds, but the ultimate sacrifice paid by his and every other family of a fallen hero. There were 33 known casualties of the Vietnam War from Niagara Falls; five of those lived in the LaSalle section."

Those in addition to Morgan were George Brookside, 91st Street; August H. Monhof, 103rd Street; Paul E. Russ, 99th Street; and Richard D. Welch, Pine Avenue (Niagara Falls Boulevard).

Morgan's Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight."

Sponsors of the LaSalle program are the History Committee of LaSalle PRIDE Inc., Friends of Local History and the Niagara Falls Public Library.

email: rbaldwin@buffnews.com