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An Odyssey to bring home his Dad’s story

Richard A. Fitts, Jr. is working on a documentary about his dad, a Vietnam soldier who was MIA for 20 years.

Personal Photograph used with permission via Ms. Harrington

Personal Photograph used with permission via Ms. Harrington

Alison Santosuosso, Staff Writer

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In January 1966, Richard A. Fitts Sr. entered the Army. Little did his family know at the time that just two years later, he would disappear. For twenty years, Fitts was classified as MIA with no sign of his whereabouts. It wouldn’t be until late 1989 that Fitts’ family would receive the remains of their late family member.

Without any idea how his father died, Richard A. Fitts Jr. set out to find answers. Throughout the years, Fitts Jr. has talked with soldiers who knew his dad in hopes to find out more about him. He later found out that his father was on a secret mission in Laos when the helicopter he was in went down. There were no survivors. In January 1990, part of his father’s remains were buried at the Mount Vernon Cemetery in Abington, as well as in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Just two years old when his father left for the military, the now 50-year-old Fitts Jr. has gathered enough information to make a documentary. To provide the background music, four upperclassmen percussionists from Abington High School were invited to take part in an opportunity of a lifetime.

On October 4, Ms. Joyce Harrington, the music teacher at Abington’s co-located middle and high school, set up a meeting for the four percussionists from the AHS concert band to visit with Fitts Jr.

We got to be part of something that could be pretty epic going down the road.”

— Joe Genest

The students, Joe Genest ’18, Andrew Kulikowski ’18, Mark Cellini ’18, and Chris Jean ’19 recorded some of the tracks for Fitts Jr.’s documentary. Genest said it was “fascinating.” He also said that it was a “great privilege to participate in this” and he gave thanks to Ms. Harrington and Mr. Fitts. One of the other percussionists, senior Andrew Kulikowski, who recorded background music in the form of military style marching snare, said that “doing the music for the documentary was a memorable experience” and he enjoyed “the fact that the documentary had personal relevance.”

While doing the recording, Fitts Jr. shared with the four students how veterans from around the country are helping him put together the pieces of his father’s story. Genest said that, “I thought it was really neat” to learn about Fitts’ story. Genest also said that he “didn’t 100% know how special it was going into it because it was so local. We got to be part of something that could be pretty epic going down the road.”

Like Genest, Kulikowski thought Fitts Jr.’s story was “surprising to hear.” Kulikowski said that both he and the other students involved “had no background knowledge, and hearing such an immersive and personal story was a surprise.” He also added “we initially thought we would just record the music and leave, and getting a story out of it was both humbling and welcome.”

These four young people were able to be part of an amazing experience. Information is yet to be announced about the release date of the documentary. Fitts Jr. created a GoFundMe page to fund his documentary at https://www.gofundme.com/2mtj3uxe.

 

 

 

Personal Photo of Ms. Harrington used with permission

Personal Photo of Ms. Harrington used with permission

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “An Odyssey to bring home his Dad’s story”

  1. Susan Crowley on December 1st, 2017 8:49 AM

    What a wonderful experience. I lived on Hancock St. Where the Fitts home was. I remember seeing the American flag and MIA sign everyday as I drove by and thinking how hard that must be on the family. Nice article!

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An Odyssey to bring home his Dad’s story