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West Fork Vermillion River bridge in Howard dedicated to veteran on Veteran's Day

The bridge was dedicated to Captain Tommy Callies, a pilot who went missing in-action during his deployment in the Vietnam War.

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Veterans pictured reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the bridge dedication ceremony for Capt. Tommy L. Callies, a pilot who was killed in-action during his deployment in Vietnam.
Cassie Williams / Mitchell Republic
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HOWARD, S.D. — The bridge that goes over the West Fork of the Vermillion River was dedicated to a pilot named Tommy L. Callies on Veteran's Day during a ceremony held at the Howard Junior Senior High School on Nov. 11, 2022.

Veterans from all across the area showed up in support for their fallen soldiers. They were honored with multiple songs from the Howard Junior Senior High School chorus and band. Callies and other fallen soldiers were also honored with a 21-gun salute and a chair with a POW/MIA flag (Prisoners of War/Missing in Action) to represent the fallen who should be in attendance but are unable to.

Callies was a captain in the Air Force who was killed in-action during his time in Vietnam. He was native to Howard, and graduated top of his class from the high school. Following his high school graduation, Callies entered the United States Air Force and graduated from the Air Force Academy in shortly after 1965.

On August 1, 1969, Captain Tommy Callies went missing during a strike mission just 25 miles southwest of the city of Quang Ngai after the plane that he was piloting, an F-4E Phantom II, was shot down by enemy fire. After dropping its ordnance over the target area, the Phantom was seen crashing into a small hill just beyond the target. His back-seater, First Lieutenant Douglas Bard, was also determined missing in-action.

Observers of the crash were confident that both Callies and Bard were killed on impact, but both were listed as missing in-action. However, no ground or aerial searches were ever successfully conducted due to enemy forces in the area and the aircraft and its crew remain unaccounted for 53 years later.

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According to family members, about one year after his disappearance, Callies' status was changed to killed in-action.

The bridge dedication comes after the iniative set by Gov. Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Departments of Military, Transportation and Veterans Affairs to honor the combat veterans who died serving their country.

This is one of two bridge dedications set for Nov. 11, 2022, with the other being for U.S. Navy Seaman Second-Class Wayne A. Bridge in Wagner, S.D.

Bridge served during World War II on the USS Indianoplis, which was attacked by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, while steaming between Guam and Leyte. The vessel, along with 880 of over 1,2000 crew members, were lost in the Pacific Ocean. Bridge was among those reported killed in-action.

In a press release, Greg Whitlock, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, said, "Whenever and wherever this nation has called, in times of darkness and danger, as well as in times of peace and prosperity, veterans have been there and have proudly carried the torch of liberty for all to see."

Whitlock continued to say that, "Though the fallen are no longer with us, their memories live on in the hearts of their loved and our state. Naming our South Dakota bridges in honor of our fallen gives us an opportunity of remembrance, reflection and respect — for honoring the men and women who gave their lives in service to this nation. They cherished liberty and loved freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life."

Cassie Williams joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2022. To get in contact with Cassie about potential stories, feel free to email her at cwilliams@mitchellrepublic.com.
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