ELKINS, W.Va.-Staff Sergeant Thomas Hess was killed on May 3rd, 1970 while serving in Vietnam. Hess ran down a hill to remove an American soldier’s body, so the area would be clear for a napalm strike to protect his fellow soldiers. While running back up after moving the body, Hess was shot by enemies. This allowed the rest of his platoon to live.
“He was my hero, still is. Sacrificed his life over there so that 29 of us are still alive today because of what Tommy did and he was my mentor, my coach and basically my big brother over there. We took care of each other the best we could,” said Pete Agriostathes, who served with Hess during the war.
Hess was born and raised in Elkins and it was important to all those who knew him to make sure he was memorialized for his courageous act during service.
“He was a good friend. Lived about a mile from here. I went to high school with him. He was well respected. And he gave his life-the story we told was that he gave his life to save about 30 army people on that hill in Vietnam. That’s a huge sacrifice,” said master of ceremonies Roger Ware.
Agriostathes made it a goal to come to Elkins and see his friend’s hometown 49 years ago when Hess lost his life and says he is proud to have finally achieved it.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but this rates right there at the top as the most satisfying event in my lifetime to get Tommy’s name on that bridge,” said Agriostathes.
West Virginia Delegate Bill Hartman co-sponsored the bill that allowed the bridge’s renaming after speaking with Hess’ friends about how much he meant to them.
“It was just a matter of making sure we prevailed and got the thing through the legislature on the next to the last day of the regular session this past spring,” said Hartman.
Those at the ceremony say it is important to remember all those who have made sacrifices while serving their country.