Lloyd Waters: Remembering the brave, 'Lest we forget'

May 27, 2012|By LLOYD WATERS

Last weekend, I found myself on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, in a Dunkin’ Donuts having my morning coffee with my wife. Just across the street were Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

As I waited for my coffee at the ordering station, my wife offered my chair to an elderly couple and their daughter from Oklahoma. The father was a Navy man from the Korean War; the daughter was taking them to D.C. to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

I shared with him my descriptions of the war memorials and the D.C. area, we chatted for a while and I wished them safe travels.

As my wife and I toured Philadelphia, the meaning of freedom surrounded us.

As I thought about this Korean War veteran, I remembered the sacrifices of so many young men and women during the Vietnam War.

An Army buddy of mine, a Vietnam veteran from Philadelphia, sent me an email that reminded me of some of those statistics that should create pause for us this Memorial Day “lest we forget.”

When I think of my visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and my search for the names of young soldiers like Orville Lee Knight (Panel 27W, Line 039), Harry Ecton (Panel 36E, Line 7) and others, I am always humbled by the sacrifices of those 58,267 men and women whose names appear on that polished black wall.

I also have many fond memories of those with whom I served at Long Binh.

As I reviewed my friend’s email, he provided many details of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that presented many solemn memories.

• The first known casualty in Vietnam was Richard B. Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass.

• 39,996 victims whose names appear on the wall were 22 years old or younger.

• 8,283 victims were 19 years old.

• Twelve soldiers whose names appear on the wall were 17 years old.

• Five soldiers listed on the wall were 16 years old.

• The youngest soldier whose name occupies a space on the wall was Pfc. Dan Bullock, who was 15 years old.

• 997 soldiers were killed on the first day of their tour in Vietnam.

• 1,448 soldiers were killed on the last scheduled day of their tour in Vietnam.

• Thirty-one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

• There were eight female fatalities, all nurses. Their names were Eleanor Alexander, Pamela Donovan, Carol Drazba, Annie Graham, Elizabeth Jones, Mary Klinger, Sharon Lane and Hedwig Orlowski.    

• There were 244 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, and the names of 153 of them appear on the wall.

• The town of Beallsville, Ohio, with a population of 475, lost six residents in the Vietnam War.

• West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita with 711 residents listed on the wall.

• The most deaths in a single day occurred Jan. 31, 1968, with 245.

As I am proud of my Native American ancestry, I found it interesting that there are 226 Native American names listed on the wall.

As I traveled around Philadelphia, I learned that 54 soldiers whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial attended Thomas Edison High School in the city.

On Memorial Day, I always like to pause to remember the brave sacrifices of our soldiers throughout American history. I suspect the elderly gentleman with his wife of 60 years and daughter from Oklahoma will pause to do the very same thing.

My daughter, Amy, and I will attend the annual Memorial Day services at the Sharpsburg square in remembrance of the brave. I hope you, too, take a moment to remember.

And as I think about the Vietnam War Memorial and those 58,267 names, I will reflect on those words of Joseph Drake:

“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.”

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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