By Neil Johnson
Aug 19, 2018
“He was a Vietnam vet and one of the guys whose mind never came home from the war,” John Eccles said. “Two minutes in a firefight can change your life.”
A troubled man
Eccles, 68, was a Vietnam War veteran. While still a teenager, he served in the 27th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army, a group of fighters nicknamed the “Wolfhounds,” his family said. He fought in Cù Chi in South Vietnam in 1968, fending off surprise attacks from a vast network of enemy, underground tunnels dug by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong armies.
Dan Eccles’ body was pulled from the Rock River near the Centerway Dam, just downstream from a spot on the river bank where he was known to crawl into the weeds to sleep at night.
Eccles’ world, such as it was, spanned a quarter-mile, unpaved trail along the west side of the Rock River near downtown Janesville. The heavily wooded section of the Ice Age Trail runs north of Centerway, along the tangled railroad hillside just east of Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center.
In that area across the river from Traxler Park where the Rock Aqua Jays perform, observers say they had seen Eccles and still see other homeless men in the woods and along the trails. Some are drunk and dirty. Others sleep on old couch cushions and mattresses in plain view. Some take to the bushes and stay under blue tarps or in tents.
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