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Pittsburgh Bridge to be Renamed for Vietnam War Hero

“I’m very excited; it’s what I wanted and I’m getting it,” said Clara Prom Burns, reacting to news that the 31st Bridge in Pittsburgh will be renamed to honor her brother.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation Thursday to designate that span over the Allegheny River as the “William Raymond Prom Memorial Bridge,” the first bridge in Pittsburgh named for a Vietnam War hero.

At age 19, Billy Prom enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1967 and was sent to Vietnam the following June. Prom was promoted to lance corporal in September of that year and became a machine gun squad leader. In February 1969, his platoon was ambushed by North Vietnamese forces and the 20-year-old Prom was killed while protecting five marines, including his severely wounded lieutenant.

Burns, who was 15 when her brother was born, still vividly recalls getting word of her brother’s death. 

“Whenever they came in the morning, my mother and dad were in bed, and my dad said ‘It’s the marines.’”  My brother said ,‘Oh, we knew right away what happened,’ and then my mother called and told me an it was just, it was horrible,” Burns said.

Fourteen months later, Burns accompanied her parents to Washington, where they were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.

Burns said there needs to be public acknowledgement for what military heroes have done for the country, and the renaming of the bridge does that. 

“They’ll (the public) know that they did something good for Billy for what he did for us,” she said.

The bridge links the Strip District and Troy Hill — not far from Reserve Township where he grew up, played baseball and fished the Allegheny River. A meeting will be held in the near future to set the date for the dedication ceremony.

In March, she donated her brother’s uniform and Medal of Honor to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum for its Hall of Valor exhibit. Burns, who said her Mount Troy home is filled with photos and other reminders of her brother, said it was a bit difficult to part with the Medal of Honor.

“I figure I’m 80 years old," she said. "I know where it (the medal) is, and it’s going to be in good hands."