Gold Star Family
I was honored to speak with Juanita Rinehart and her daughter, Mindy Lotz, mother and sister to Tim Rinehart, a Vietnam soldier, killed in action near Tay Ninh city, December 22, 1967.
Tim Rinehart was born to Howard and Juanita Rinehart, in Arlington, Ohio, on July 6th, 1948. He joined an older brother Steve. Tim graduated from Arlington High School in 1966. According to his family, Tim was lots of fun, was very popular among the young ladies at school and was very close to his older brother. Tim would play football in high school and worked at the local gas station as a mechanic, where he was a natural.
After graduation Tim would follow Steve into the military. Steve was in the Navy. Tim enlisted in the Army in March of 1967. He would train at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina and then go for advanced training at Ft. Knox in Kentucky. He would be assigned to the 34th Artillery Armored Division. Arriving at Long Bien in August Tim would join the 2/34th “Fighting Aces” tank unit, where he would serve as a gun loader.
(These are excerpts of letters Tim wrote home)
“A day in the jungle is like crawling on the ground for a week. Red ants all over, scorpions, which I got bit by one, cobras, bamboo which cuts, the sun which will melt you.”
“In the firefight our C.O. got hit, so did his gunner, loader, driver and the guy who commands his tank, but no KIA’s. During that night my gunner froze, and I had to hit him to get him out of my way.”
On December 22nd, 1967, Tim’s platoon was providing security for a mine detector team, just north of Tay Ninh City. Believing the area cleared of mines, Tim dismounted, just before his tank hit an anti-tank mine, killing him instantly.
On the 27th of December, Tim’s parents received a telegram at their family home located at 139 Wilch Street.
“The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret…”
PFC Rinehart’s body was brought home and laid to rest in the city cemetery with full military honors. He would be promoted posthumously to Corporal, receive the Purple Heart and awarded the Bronze Star.
Tim’s father, a WWII veteran, took his son’s death very hard. It was the first and only time they had ever seen him cry. Juanita has never forgotten her son. At the age of 94 she still has vivid memories of him. “I miss my son.” For 47 years she would lay a wreath at Tim’s grave every Christmas. For many years after Tim was killed, members of his unit would call Juanita and reminisce about him. He had many friends in his company. One soldier in particular was guilt ridden about Tim’s death as Tim had taken his place on that particular mission.
Tim’s father passed away in 1995. Juanita would continue to live in the same house she had raised her family until three years ago when she became a resident of an assisted living home in Arlington. Juanita had lived on that same street since the day she was born, a 90-year journey. She struggles now with her memory and hearing. Much of what memories that remain are held by Tim’s baby sister Mindy in an album.
Mindy was a “late in life” baby for the Rinehart’s, born in August of 1967, seventeen years after Tim. They would never meet as Tim was killed four months later in December. She only knows him through stories and pictures but works very hard to keep his legacy alive.