Colorado honors a Vietnam casualty

DENVER – Telluride is famous for a lot – film, skiing, bluegrass – but it’s never been known as a military town.

In fact, residents know of only one veteran from San Miguel County who died in the Vietnam War – Pfc. Paul Haining of Placerville.

On Friday, the state House of Representatives voted to name the Colorado Highway 145 bridge over Leopard Creek in his honor.

Haining was 20 when he enlisted in the Army in 1970. He died the same year in a land-mine explosion in Phuoc Long Province.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, sponsored the resolution that renames the bridge. He called the recognition of Haining “long overdue.”

“It’s amazing that we have citizens who will give their lives for our freedom,” Coram said.

Brian Ahern, commander of the American Legion post in Telluride, brought the idea to Coram.

Ahern said San Miguel County has just one other known combat casualty – Austin Hiett, who died in World War I. Telluride’s American Legion post is named in his honor.

“It’s significant for us, because it’s a small town, and to have a couple of heroes who have given their lives, we want to commemorate that,” said Ahern, who ran as a Democrat for Coram’s House district in 2006.

The bridge will be dedicated in May, and Ahern said he is hoping Gov. John Hickenlooper can attend the ceremony.

jhanel@durangoherald.com