Captain John (Jack) T. Heelan, Jr. was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1940. He attended LaSalle Academy, graduating in 1958. During high school he worked to assist his family. He attended the University of Rhode Island and graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1964. He was a member of Theta Chi fraternity, where he served as President for two years. While at URI, Jack was a member of ROTC for four years.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1964 and reported to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. LT Heelan completed Infantry School and Airborne School and was assigned to the First Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas, as a Rifle Platoon Leader in the 16th Infantry. In February 1965, he was assigned to the US Army Command Pacific in Vietnam as a Platoon Leader and as the S-3 Air, 1st Infantry Division. In Vietnam, LT Heelan participated in numerous combat patrols, search and destroy missions, and air assaults. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in October 1965 and for his Vietnam service received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor. On 19 October 1965, his platoon was participating in the search of Cau Dinh village. As they approached the western edge of the village, they spotted Viet Cong attempting to enter the village. When the enemy became aware of the third platoon’s presence, an intense fire fight erupted. LT Heelan braved the Viet Cong fire by maneuvering his platoon against the insurgents. When the platoon began to receive Viet Cong fire on their flank, LT Heelan stood up in the hail of insurgent fire, pinpointing the enemy location. He redeployed his platoon and successfully assaulted the Viet Cong positions. As the S-3 Air, he directed the battalion’s operations center where he coordinated battalion troop lift, medical evacuation, and resupply. He was released from active duty in April 1966 to the Army Reserve unit 443rd Civil Affairs Company for three years and promoted to Captain.
Jack joined IBM Data Processing Division and spent ten years selling and marketing computers. He received numerous regional and branch manager awards. He went on to work for several IBM business partners as a Vice President of Sales and Marketing. After a successful career he retired in 2002.
Shortly after he was released from active duty, he married the former Judith L. Stephenson. They moved to Jamestown to raise their family in the house where Jack still resides. Jack and Judy were married for 42 years until her passing in 2011. They have two children, Stephanie and John. Judy remained involved at the University of Rhode Island where she received her B.S, M.S. and PhD. Judy was also a professor at the Brown Medical School.
Jack served in various capacities in the Jamestown community including his position as Chairman of the Planning Board and he was elected to the Town Council in 1981. Jack still meets with his Theta Chi brothers on a quarterly basis. They have been administrators of a scholarship at the University of Rhode Island for over 20 years.
Captain Heelan was a leader who possessed strong moral character and integrity and was proud of his time in the service. He went on to lead a full life in business, as a leader in the community and to raise his proud family. Captain Heelan’s outstanding devotion to duty and personal bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his family, the University of Rhode Island, and the United States.