Meet the first inductees into Hamilton’s new Veterans Hall of Fame

Sometimes when Kevin Henderson, 50, of Hamilton, thinks of his nephew, Marlin “Rocko” Rockhold, a 1998 graduate of Hamilton High School, he wonders what might have been had he not joined the Army and been killed in 2003 by a sniper in Baghdad.

He also wonders what Marlin’s life might have been like had the sniper missed him. Instead, he died at age 23.

“I think it’s great, because of the sacrifice that he made,” Henderson said about his nephew’s inclusion in the first-ever class of the new Hamilton Veterans Hall of Fame. “I feel like it’s full circle, him being honored like that.”

“I called him Marlin,” Henderson said. “His friends and siblings called him Rocko. He was the life of the party, quick of wit. All his buddies, they’d always talk about, ‘You’d better not mess with Marlin, because he’ll get on you, boy. He won’t stop.’ He was a good-natured, fun-loving guy.”

Henderson said he sometimes thinks about “the potential that was lost through that sniper. I was curious if he would have stayed in the military, or what he’d have done had he left the military, how his life would have been.”

He suspects Private First Class Rockhold, who played football in high school, would have stayed in Georgia, where he was stationed, with his new wife, DaVonna, and maybe made a career of the military.

Henderson, who served with the Army in Operation Desert Storm, thinks about the fact he suggested the military to his nephew, “because I knew the situation of Hamilton at the time, and there was no opportunities for young guys like that, employment-wise, and I told him, ‘Man, you ought to check out the military.’”

It had worked out for Henderson. But: “In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have given him that advice.”

Rockhold’s story is just one of 21, for that many people who were inducted Sunday into the first-ever class of the Hamilton Veterans Hall of Fame, during a ceremony at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts. American Legion Post 138 donated $10,000 as seed money to get the hall of fame started for its first few years.

Another story involves Joe Becker, who survived fighting in World War II’s Battle of Guadalcanal, and then went on to become the father of five, worked a 50-year career as a mail carrier, and also was married 50 years to Patty.

Daughter Tina Moore, of the Darrtown area, said her father, who died in 2003, was a very gentle man who she never saw angry or heard him raise is voice.

“Everybody that knew him loved him,” she said. He was so completely mild-mannered that she can’t imagine him in the military, she said.

“It’s not something that I would ever expect him to be capable of, but he went to the war because he knew that was his duty, and did his job, and never really spoke about it,” she said. “He didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to think about it afterwards, but he did it because he was a man of honor, and he knew that was what he was called to do, and he did his duty for his country.”

Here are the other inductees:

• Dr. Elizabeth E. Fink, who tried several times to enlist in the Army, where she hoped to serve as a nurse. She was refused several times locally because she was so small — about 4-foot-10 and 95 pounds. She eventually took a train as was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps.

• Joseph Marcum, who served in World War II, earning the rank of captain. He later became a giant in the insurance industry as he grew Ohio Casualty in Hamilton to become an industry leader.

• Nicholas Olivas, son of former Hamilton mayor and vice mayor Adolfo Olivas and Marian Olivas, killed in action in Afghanistan during 2012. He had enlisted in the Army after graduating from Fairfield High School in 2010.

• Russel L. Carr, who served in the military as a heavy truck driver and carbine sharpshooter in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He also participated in liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp.

• William A. Sackenheim, who parachuted into the D-Day battle and later was in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. He helped build the veterans’ memorial in Veterans Park. Working with mortar, he was able to estimate range very accurately, according to the Army.

• Army Staff Sgt. Fred E. Brown, killed in Vietnam while in combat as part of the 25th Infantry Division. While saving colleagues, threw himself on an enemy grenade, making the ultimate sacrifice to save some of his soldiers. Recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross.

• Vaden Fitton, served in the Army during the 1950s in Korea, earning a United Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and three Bronze Battle Stars.

• Ralph “Pat” Carruthers, served with the Marines eight years and after serving in the military became a generous philanthoropist was named a 2001 Hamilton Citizen of the Year with his wife, Donna.

• Micky Colligan, a World War II veteran for whom the Michael J. Colligan Fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation was named.

• Marvin Sizemore, a World War II Navy veteran who as a Japanese prisoner of war for three years was forced to work on the Burma/Thai railway, also known as the “death railway.” Of almost 1,800 POWs who worked on the railroad, more than 1,000 died. He later became an Oxford police officer.

• Jack Kirsch, a World War II veteran who was Hamilton city manager for eight years after 18 years as the city’s public works director.

• Bill Wilks, a 1949 Hamilton High School graduate who played basketball and football at Ohio State University and served in the military before starting Wilks Insurance Agency. He now owns about 45 buildings in Hamilton’s German Village neighborhood.

• Robert Watson, who was part of a group of Marines that received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2013 for their service. The Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans to serve as Marines.

• Grace H. (Klay) Hogan, who served as an Army WAC during World War II. The WACs were the first group of women to receive military service.

• Clarence F. Michael (formerly Michalsky), a German prisoner of war from December 1944 to April 1945. He earned three Bronze Service Stars.

• Harold Edwin Vaughn, a Ross High School graduate who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. After returning home, he built an auction and real estate business.

• John (Jack) Moser, who entered the Army two weeks before Japan surrendered, ending World War II. He served in Europe during the Cold War, most of the time in Vienna. He later became a lawyer in Hamilton and a Butler County Common Pleas judge.

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