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Jim Kenyon: Vietnam Veteran Doesn’t Want War Forgotten

  • Since late November, Ron Taber has stapled hundreds of his small signs to utility poles along Route 5 from Hartland, Vt., to Bradford, Vt. He’s covered some 40 miles — all late at night.

  • Valley News columnist Jim Kenyon in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 15, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

He travels Vermont’s Route 5 under the cover of darkness, armed with a staple gun and laminated signs the size of a postcard. When he comes to a wooden utility pole close to the road, he stops.

He staples one, sometimes two, of his homemade signs — featuring the black silhouette of a man with his shaved head bowed — to nearly every pole. In the sign’s background, there’s a guard tower and barbed wire. “Windsor” is emblazoned across the top. At the bottom: “Remember Henry.”

This is a story that will probably raise more questions than it answers. Still it’s worth telling.

Since late November, Ron Taber has left his mark on hundreds of utility poles along Route 5. He started in Hartland, then worked his way north to Hartford, Norwich, Thetford and Fairlee. He even has signs in Bradford. He’s covered some 40 miles — all late at night.

“I was out there one night when it was 23 degrees below zero,” he told me. “People might think I’m some crazy old man. Not true. I’m just not the kind of person who gives up.”

A Vermont Agency of Transportation snowplow driver who recently came across him at 3 in the morning, asked if he had permission to put up the signs.

“What are they going to do?” Taber responded. “Send me back to Vietnam?”

Taber was a 19-year-old kid from California when he arrived in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines in June 1969. He was among the lucky ones to eventually make it home — meaning he wasn’t among the war’s 58,000 U.S. military deaths.

After the war, Taber moved to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In 1981, he relocated to Windsor.

Connecting Taber to the Route 5 signs, which I first heard about from a reader in Thetford, took a bit of sleuthing. Valley News web editor Maggie Cassidy, a pro at poking around the internet, zeroed in on the “Windsor” reference.

Cassidy’s search led her to YouTube videos of a Buddhist from Windsor who goes by the name of Joaquin Alboroto. The videos show Alboroto chanting outside the Windsor police station in the middle of the night. (That’s a story for another day.)

Cassidy surmised that the Buddhist in the videos was likely the same guy putting up the signs. (I told you she was smart.)

Last week, I stopped by the Windsor town offices hoping to find out more about Alboroto.

His real name is Ron Taber, said Police Chief Bill Sampson, who was familiar with his late-night chanting sessions outside the police station. “He wasn’t doing anything criminal,” Sampson said.

Taber, 68, is a land surveyor by trade. A few years ago, he volunteered countless hours surveying the town’s Paradise Park, a recreational area known for its hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, Town Manager Tom Marsh said.

Marsh and Sampson weren’t familiar with the signs, but they told me the street that Taber (aka Alboroto) lived on. I knocked on the door. No answer. Later I called. Taber picked up.

Why the signs?

“Some younger generations don’t really know what happened (in Vietnam),” he said. “They think we came back fine.”

Taber made a point of not putting up the signs in Windsor. The town, in general, has neglected Vietnam veterans, and even treated some unfairly, he said. He mentioned Ernie Simuro, who I’ve written about in recent years.

Windsor police arrested Simuro in 2010 on charges of sexually abusing his learning-disabled grandson. It took nearly a year for the charges to be dropped. And seven years for Simuro to receive a $625,000 out-of-court settlement in his federal lawsuit against Windsor police for initiating his false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Even after the case was dismissed, Simuro didn’t feel comfortable living in Windsor, opting to leave the Upper Valley behind.

But who is Henry?

Henry Buckwold was a Vietnam veteran who lived in his neighborhood, Taber explained. They weren’t in Vietnam together and didn’t meet until Taber moved to Windsor.

Buckwold, who grew up in Canaan, was drafted into the Army out of high school. He earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam. He died last February of lung disease at age 68.

I called Buckwold’s son, Tom, of Plainfield. His father didn’t talk much about his war experiences.

“My dad wasn’t one to glorify his being in Vietnam,” he said.

The younger Buckwold told me that he has “no problem” with the signs, but he’s not sure why Taber decided to honor his father. “He wasn’t a POW.”

During our phone conversation, Taber indicated that he’s not ready to hang up his staple gun. He mentioned a Buddhist meditation retreat in Barnet, Vt., 25 miles north of Bradford on Route 5.

“ ‘Remember Henry,’ ” he said, “is going to continue on.”

Like I said, more questions than answers.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.