Topton Eagle Scout Project honors the ultimate sacrifice

Patriot photos by Roxanne Richardson A Topton Eagle Scout project by Noah Coco was a sign L/CPL Larry D. Hoch USMC Memorial Road along Topton Road in front of the Kutztown Area School District Administration Office.
Patriot photos by Roxanne Richardson Reading Motorcycle Club, Rolling Thunder, came out to show its support. The club has members who are former Marines and have known the Hoch family for years. Larry Hochs younger brother, Preston, was a member of the club. The club is a big supporter of the POW/MIA.

A Topton Eagle Scout project by Noah Coco honors former Eagle Scout, the late Lance Corporal Larry D. Hoch, for heroic actions in the Vietnam War.

Coco installed a sign L/CPL Larry D. Hoch USMC Memorial Road along Topton Road in front of the Kutztown Area School District Administration Office.

Larrys life deserves to be remembered and honored and appropriately memorialized as we are doing today, said Congressman Charlie Dent. Recognizing Larrys life by attaching his name to a part of the community he grew up in is a fine and most fitting tribute. I certainly commend all those who worked so hard to honor Larrys life and service by this very thoughtful and special gesture.

Dent said everyone who travels down Larry Hochs Road will have a moment to reflect on the young man from Topton. He was a wrestler who became an Eagle Scout, who was a leader, who served his country and he became a hero.

Lance Corporal Larry Hoch, we remember you and we thank you and God bless America, said Dent.

Dent presented a certificate of recognition to Judy Romig, Hochs sister.

This is tough. Its 44 years and its still tough. Theres not a day I dont think about him, said Romig. I was 10 years old the day my mom got the news and the only thing I can remember is the screaming in her voice. She was outside on the porch and I was in the kitchen. When I saw those two Marines walking in on the sidewalk, I myself, at 10 years old, knew it was bad.

As tears fell and her voice quavered, Romig said, Thank you all for remembering after 44 years. Hes still in our hearts; thank you.

Coco hadnt realized the magnitude of his project until he began the actual research.

I feel honored and privileged to take on such a project and now, almost two years since its conception, I am again honored and privileged to present my completed project to an audience that understands and appreciates the sacrifice of Lance Corporal Larry D. Hoch, said Coco.

Its been an amazing journey for him. He showed so much dedication and commitment to this. Its been amazing to watch him learn from the process and reach out to the different areas of the community for funding and for approvals and direction and guidance and just to see him bring this to fruition and really see how many lives its touched has just been a wonderful experience for our whole family, said Terri Coco, Noahs mother.

Coco said the hardest part was working around the regulations and getting the permits. Coco thanked all those who had a part in the project including, but not limited to, his family, Master of Ceremonies and Eagle Scout Advisor, Dave Ehrig, Christopher Paff, zoning officer and code enforcement, Gary Wetzel, E.J. Breneman, L.P., Kutztown Area School District Administration, The American Legion specifically Ray A. Master Post 217, fellow scouts and troop masters.

Guest speaker, Colonel Richard T. Bew, deputy legislative assistant to the commandant of the United States Marine Corps, congratulated Coco on a job well done. He volunteered to speak because of having experienced a very similar situation during an attack at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan a year ago during a night referred to as a low-light night. His marine, LtCol Chris Otis Raible gave his life leading a counter-attack against 15 insurgents who had breached the airfield perimeter and took out eight USMC Harrier Jets. Raible was a native of Huntington.

In a battle separated only by a little bit of time and geography, another Marine unit, a platoon, also came under attack and L/CPL Larry Hoch was manning the sector the enemy came for. Larry went into this fight, though, already wounded, said Bew.

Bew said there had been an attack two days prior on May 3, 1969; they had been heavily engaged by an enemy unit.

As captured in his citation for a Silver Star [awarded three years ago by the late Sen. Michael OPake], one of our nations highest awards, Larry, quote, seized the initiative, unhesitatingly, initiated an aggressive assault killing two and forcing the remainder of the enemy into retreat. Though seriously wounded in this fight, L/CPL Hoch refused to be medically evacuated; instead he chose to stay with his Marines. Two days later, May 5, 1969, L/CPLs platoon was preparing a night defensive position. His marines came under attack, said Bew.

Just like Raible, Hoch disregarded his own safety and boldly moved controlling and directing the fire of his Marines. As the enemy withdrew, they launched one last mortar fire to cover their retreat. Hochs assistant squad leader was exposed to the enemy fire. Bew quoted another excerpt from the citation.

L/CPL threw himself across his companion to shield him from mortar fragments. While engaged in this task, L/CPL Hoch was mortally wounded by the explosion of a mortar round which impacted near the two men. His heroic and timely actions inspired all who observed him and saved the life of a fellow Marine. By his courage, selfless devotion to duty L/CPL Hoch upheld the highest traditions in the Marine Corps. in the United States Naval Service.

Bew said that moment in time defines a man. It cant be faked, it can never be redone and it can never be taken away from someone like Larry. That is why these men mean so much to us. They are the embodiment of complete, utter, total self-sacrifice. They are more than war stories. They are our source of national identity. They are our source of strength and they are our standard.

Bew tells these stories because of those who serve or honor those who do deserve a connection to it. Its not some distant mythos and it shouldnt be confined to just history books. Its here for us to talk about today so it gets passed down.

For Larry, semper fidelis, said Bew.

That was more than the ultimate sacrifice. That was just the showing of the kind of character that we sorely need in our community, but dont often find. I think, Judy and family, this is probably why you feel, still even today, the loss because you knew what he was and what he could have been in the future too for all of us, said State Senator Judy Schwank.

Schwank said it makes her understand how important it is that we do everything we can to serve our veterans, to assist them in coming back, to helping them get jobs, get them medical care, get the social services, everything that we can to assist them in reentering our society here in America is critically important.

Judy [Romig] and I were young kids when he passed away. Larry was actually my two older brothers scout leader at the Topton Troop at that point in time, said Beverly Godshall. Its a small town; we were very connected. I knew, as a little girl, when the marine Corp walked into our little church in Topton, that the war became real and now here we are all these years later.

Schwank said we can honor our veterans with ceremonies like this one and by volunteering to take disabled veterans, for example, to the veterans hospital, delivering meals-on-wheels to an elderly veteran or helping to take care of a young servicemans wife who remained at home with a family and could use a helping hand once in a while.

To learn more about L/CPL Hoch and LtCol Chris Otis Raible, go to

http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=40399

http://www.blackfive.net/main/2012/10/a-tribute-to-ltc-raible.html

To find out more how you can help, go to http://www.co.berks.pa.us/va.