Vietnam veteran, former Scout leader, have clues about camp’s marker

December 6, 2012
A Vietnam veteran originally from Washington County was able to shed some light on this memorial marker to a fallen comrade at the now-closed Camp Timberlake near Marianna. - Photo courtesy of Kriss Svidro

A Christmas package and letters-from-home service project in which area Girl Scouts participated in the 1960s may provide some clues about a mysterious marker in Washington County.

A Vietnam War veteran who hails from Washington County, and who read the Observer-Reporter online edition from his home in New Mexico, was able to shed some light on the memorial marker at the recently closed Camp Timberlake near Marianna that had been operated by the Girl Scouts.

Robert G. Rasel Sr. of Farmington, N.M., which is in the “Four Corners” area, knew Marine Cpl. David Eugene Hevle of Yankton, S.D., whose name was chiseled on a chunk of granite behind the camp lodge.

“I served with Dave in Vietnam in Chu Lai,” Rasel said in a phone conversation. “We got ready to come home, but the whole party got extended six months by (Robert) McNamara, who was secretary of defense then.”

Rasel served the additional six months, and was then really ready to return stateside, even though he recalls the military paying “huge bonuses to those who would extend.”

But not Hevle, whose name is pronounced “HEV-lee.”

“He wanted to extend another six months so when he got home he could buy a new GTO,” Rasel recalled.

It was during this extended tour of duty that Hevle’s amphibian tractor hit a mine and exploded April 8, 1967.

Girl Scout volunteer Kriss Svidro noticed the memorial stone, which resembles one that would be found on a grave. She was able to find the correct spelling of his name, but not his connection to Timberlake.

Rasel’s sister in this area alerted him to the story, telling him, “You need to read it because I think you know something about it.”

Rasel thought of a former Girl Scout leader, Sarah Ames of West Bethlehem Township, as a possible source of information. He recalled that Girl Scouts, as a service project, wanted to write to servicemen and send them packages at Christmas.

“I gave them a bunch of addresses,” Rasel said.

Ames, 75, said her troop members did not correspond with Hevle, but after checking some mail she kept, she said the Christmas packages were “appreciated, I’ll tell you.”

The troops baked cookies and gathered hard candies, chewing gum, toothpaste, and other hygiene and personal items for the Christmas packages.

Ames did not know there was a memorial marker at Timberlake to a soldier killed in the Vietnam War, but she was able to piece together some facts. A troop of Junior Girl Scouts, led by Mary Margaret Lash Hull and Mary Margaret Edgar Bercosky, were also part of the service project.

Hull died in 2009 at age 76 and Bercosky died in 2007 at age 77.

She speculated that Hevle was a soldier that their troop chose to send a package to, and then he was killed.

“They were very, very good at what they did,” Ames recalled. “That Scout troop was like their life. I could see them doing that memorial.”

Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania is selling the 32-acre camp, where Scouts staged a closing ceremony in October, for $399,000, and it’s not known what might become of the marker.

Rasel, however, was pleased to learn of the tribute.

“I am happy that the paper recognized Dave,” Rasel said. “It makes me feel good. We got a whole lot of bad publicity.”

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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