A Torrington native who was killed in combat during the Vietnam War was honored as veteran of the month by American Legion Post 44 of Bantam on Saturday.
Gerald Roberts Jr., who served in the Army, was recognized by Post 44 in a ceremony at Bantam Borough Hall. A flag presented to Roberts’ five siblings will fly over the All Wars Memorial in Bantam in his honor until Sept. 2.
Receiving the flag were his sisters, Joyce (Roberts) Fenn, Mary Roberts and Linda Sterling, and brothers Edward and Jack, all of Torrington. Roberts is also survived by his parents, Gerald and Nancy Roberts.
The ceremony concluded with Roberts’ siblings receiving on his behalf the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal. The medal was presented by Harry Conklin of Suffern, N.Y., who served with Roberts and was with him when he was killed on the battlefield on Aug. 31, 1967.
Conklin and Roberts met in Vietnam in the spring of 1967 while serving with the Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Division.
Conklin was discharged from service in 1968 and made no attempt to contact Roberts’ family. In 2004, he received an email from Roberts’ niece, Gerri Roberts, who was attempting to gather information about her uncle’s service in Vietnam.
Six years later, Conklin traveled to Torrington to visit the Roberts family.
Roberts was born June, 23, 1946, attended the Migeon Avenue School, and graduated from Torrington High School in 1966. After graduation, he went to work at Allied Grocers.
Roberts enlisted in the Army on Nov. 29, 1966. Following basic training, Roberts was sent to Vietnam in May of 1967 and was assigned to 1st Air Cavalry Division.
Roberts earned a Purple Heart when he received leg shrapnel wounds in June of 1967. After hospitalization, he returned to his unit.
The news of Roberts’ death resulted in shock and grief in Torrington, which had already lost four men in the war. The Gold Star Mothers the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Italian American War Veterans and the public rallied in support of the Roberts family.
Roberts posthumously received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star, The Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal. His name appears on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and his remains are interned at the New Saint Francis Cemetery in Torrington.