"Dear SP4 William Ervin Fennell, Sir,
"As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country."
"As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.
"May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. . . .
"With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir."
With these words penned on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial website, Curt Carter showed his appreciation for a soldier whom he never met, William E. Fennell, Class of 1966, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
SP4 Fennell gave his life for his country on August 21, 1968, only two years after he left STA. Along with his wife, he left behind a baby daughter who 16 years ago wrote a remembrance and added a photo on the website: "My father, Willy, as his friends call him, a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a brother and a soldier. You will always be remembered. Your loving daughter, Kelly (Kelly M. Beatty)."
Serving as a gunner on the 135th Assault Helicopter Company in the Province of Phouc Tuy in the former South Vietnam, Fennell prepared for physical military combat while playing on the Raider football team. On 9/17/13, Carl Santoro wrote the following on the website: "Bill, [I] think of you often, I remember the times we played football for St. Thomas Aquinas. You were the toughest defensive nose guard in the county."
Another classmate, Dick Fitzgibbons, remembers Fennell with the words he posted on the website on Memorial Day, 2013. "At a time when most of us were in college, Bill was serving his country and paying the ultimate sacrifice for that service. I think about him often. He once drew a cartoon of me that was a hoot. He was a talented artist and all around character."
Today, Specialist William E. Fennell lies in rest in Lauderdale Memorial Park Cemetery. His gravestone identifies him as a recipient of a Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Clusters for his bravery and sacrifices. Officers of the Military Affairs Club recently tended his grave and restored it to a fitting memorial for an outstanding American who represented his family, his school, and his country in the most sublime manner possible. May you rest in peace, William Fennell. Fennell's name appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., Panel 47W, line 18.