Greatest fear comes true: Family remembers Bogue Chitto man who gave his life in Vietnam

Published 8:50 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

“I woke up first. When I answered the door I knew what happened,” Geneva Arnold said about the morning her family first received the news that her brother, Joel Fuller, had been killed in the Vietnam War.

It was the morning of Nov. 6, 1966, when Geneva Fuller, now Geneva Arnold, met the bearer of bad news, much like many families around the country at the time, at her family’s front door. She said once she realized who the man was and why he was there, she went and woke her parents.



“He had the feeling he wouldn’t be coming back,” Arnold said. “In fact, he told several people in the family.”

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She said her brother never said anything about it to her because they were so close she knew he wouldn’t want her to know that.

Born in Feb. 2, 1945, Joel was 21 when he was killed on Nov. 3, 1966. Joel’s older brother, Rome, said he was in Baton Rouge on a job when he received news of his brother’s death.

“I had my doubts that he even knew the real purpose of why he was going,” Rome said. “It was hard. He was so young. He never knew what life was like.”

Rome said Joel was drafted into the military like many young men at the time.

“He thought it was his responsibility,” he said.

“He was willing to go for his country,” Arnold said.

She said she rode along with her father and youngest brother to take Joel to the airport when he left for the war. Plenty of other families were having similar experiences at the time. The last time Rome saw his brother was the day before Joel left for Vietnam. Joel was on leave after completing six months of what is now known as basic training.

While Joel was out of the country, Rome said he corresponded with his brother a few times via letters as Joel was only in Vietnam for about six weeks before his death.

“My wife made him candy in hopes that it’d be there by Christmas,” Rome said.

Since Joel was killed in early November, he never received the candy.

Both Rome and Arnold said their family was very close and said that it was hard to highlight a specific memory they each had of their brother.

“He was quiet and well-mannered. He just was a young man when they called him; he’d just graduated,” Arnold said.

She and Rome said Joel grew up like everyone else in Bogue Chitto at the time: playing softball and basketball in the yard and going swimming in the Bogue Chitto River.

Rome and Arnold show their appreciation for their brother and others like him who lost their lives while the country was at war by attending the yearly Memorial Day Ceremony in Brookhaven.

“I realize just how blessed we are to live in the United States with the freedom we have,” Rome said.

He said he appreciates all the sacrifices veterans have made, a lot of them with their lives, for the opportunity for freedom that we all share.

Joel Fuller was part of the 196th Infantry Brigade. For his service in the military, Joel received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Vietnam Military Merit Medal. His body is buried in the Bogue Chitto Cemetery.

This year’s Memorial Day event in Brookhaven is hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legions organizations and will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the Lincoln County/Brookhaven Government Complex in Brookhaven.