Norman Louis Nesterak
Killed in Action in Vietnam, 3 September 1969
Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY
PROLOGUE: MANY PEOPLE have helped contribute to this memorial for Norman Louis Nesterak. The efforts of his classmates and his widow Brenda have been compiled here in a letter to his son, who was barely six months old at the time of his father’s death.
Dear Norm Jr.,
Your father was killed on 3 Sep. 1969 as the result of a helicopter crash secondary to hostile ground fire. This occurred outside of Quan Loi, Viet Nam, and everyone on the helicopter perished. He was a captain in the Army, newly assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, and had been in the country a very short time. Your father had just completed an assignment as a company commander with
the 78th Engineer Battalion in Germany, where you were born in March 1969. Prior to that assignment, he graduated from the Army Ranger School in Ft. Benning, GA, followed by the Engineer Basic Course at Ft. Belvoir, VA.
Your father and mother Brenda married in Coaldale, PA, on 10 Jun 1967, only three days after his graduation from West Point. They were childhood sweethearts. Brenda grew up around the corner from your father in Coaldale, and they began dating in high school. Your mother and father continued to date all through his four years at West Point, as Coaldale, in eastern Pennsylvania, was not far from West Point.
While at West Point, your father graduated as a “star man.” This is an honor given to the academic top five percent of each class. He was a star man every year, graduating 12th in his class of 583.
Your father’s eastern Pennsylvania roots brought him up Catholic. He sang in the Catholic Choir while at West Point, where he was the lead First Tenor. He enjoyed the Catholic Choir trips to New York City, where he would sing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It seemed that most of the time Brenda also was there, either in New York or at West Point. She and your father always belonged together. While in New York City, his favorite hangout was either Mama Leone’s or Tad’s Steakhouse, where he could get a steak and a big baked potato for $3.95. Norm always showed up at St. Patrick’s on time, which was a continuation of his Catholic upbringing. He had been an altar boy at his hometown Lithuanian Catholic Church, where he went to mass every day.
Your father’s academic standing was very high his entire four years at West Point. He helped tremendous number of his classmates with their academics, a direct reflection from his hometown upbringing. His father began a home schooling business after he stopped working in the local coal mines. He helped his father with his home schooling tutorial programs and even tutored some of the home schooled students of his father’s clientele. This tutoring, assistance, and willingness to participate in all activities followed him for the rest of his life. Your father was always one with a quick smile and would always listen to his classmates and their questions. He had a way of explaining very complex things, to those of us who were “Goats,” in a way that we would understand. He never stood out in a crowd but was always there to help.
Coaldale is a small town, where he was born in 1945. He graduated from high school in Coaldale fi rst in his class of 30. He maintained his small town roots throughout his life. His high school sport activities were football and being the basketball team trainer. He wanted to participate in sports at all times. In Coaldale, he learned dedication and service to others that he exemplified throughout his life. He came from coal miner’s roots in a small town to enter the Academy and married his high school sweetheart shortly after graduation. Two words best describe your father-dedication and service.
Love, Mom and classmates
I have beheld the agonies of War through
many a weary season; seen enough to make
me hold that scarcely any goal is worth the
reaching by so red a road.