Words worth re­peat­ing in honor of vet­er­ans

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Ch­eryl Ke­hoe Rodgers Colum­nist

The orig­i­nal ver­sion of this col­umn was pub­lished April 30, 2015, the 40th an­niver­sary of the Fall of Saigon. And while The Times Her­ald doesn’t typ­i­cally re­run pre­vi­ously pub­lished col­umns or ar­ti­cles, this is an ex­cep­tion.

Be­cause the names of the 22 young men – boys re­ally – who never re­turned from that war should never, ever be for­got­ten.

And the count­less young men who were in­jured, or who re­turned home phys­i­cally whole but emo­tion­ally and men­tally scarred, should never, ever be for­got­ten.

As I had writ­ten in the orig­i­nal col­umn, I didn’t know any­one per­son­ally af­fected by that war at the time of their deaths - but I do now. And even though it was al­most a half of a cen­tury ago, the pain and loss felt by the fam­ily of

Cpl. Daniel Brady and all fam­i­lies who give the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for our coun­try - are still real, still raw. Yes, time helps you cope with loss, but it doesn’t al­low you to forget. And nor should we.

And I know other fam­i­lies who have lost sons and daugh­ters – Sgt. Ashly Moyer in Iraq and Petty Of­fi­cer Jake Mo­let­zsky that will never heal – not com­pletely. The loss is too great.

So our hope is that by re­pub­lish­ing the names of these young men who gave the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice that we honor all those men and women who fought, died, or re­turned home for­ever im­pacted by war.

To all vet­er­ans – and their fam­i­lies – we thank you.

••• I don’t much re­mem­ber any­thing from Viet­nam — my fam­ily was spared any di­rect in­volve­ment. But 22 men and boys from Nor­ris­town were killed in the war, and the peo­ple in this town, whether they knew these heroes or not, were af­fected.

My mom knew of a few boys who were ei­ther drafted or en­listed, and she prayed ev­ery day for their safe re­turn.

And ev­ery night, my mom and grand­mother watched the news, some­times my grand­mother wrapped her rosary beads around her hands, as scenes from Viet­nam in­vaded our liv­ing room. To me, they were just flash­ing images from a world far, far re­moved from Nor­ris­town — not re­al­iz­ing that for some of my neigh­bors it was way too close to home.

I wish now I had paid more at­ten­tion. I wish I had paid at­ten­tion to the heartaches and the chaos and the night­mare that was the Viet­nam War. Later, through movies and books and news­pa­pers, I learned about that war. And about the dif­fi­cul­ties vet­er­ans faced try­ing to re­turn to their lives.

And I learned about men who didn’t re­turn.

In March 1984, Times Her­ald staff writer Peter King sub­mit­ted a six-part se­ries the news­pa­per ran on the 22 men (some re­ally just boys) who gave their lives for their coun­try dur­ing their ser­vice in South Viet­nam.

This was King’s in­tro­duc­tion: We call wives who have lost hus­bands wid­ows, and hus­bands who have lost wives wid­ow­ers. We say chil­dren who have lost par­ents are or­phans.

But there is no word in the English lan­guage for par­ents who have lost a son.

Like­wise, there is no word in English to ex­press the spe­cial, ter­ri­ble grief these men and women feel…”

In 1984 The Times Her­ald ded­i­cated its first sev­eral pages to these heroes and the fam­ily they left be­hind. The se­ries led up the ded­i­ca­tion of the Viet­nam mon­u­ment in the Pub­lic Square at Main and Swede streets. Peter King did a re­mark­able job in­ter­view­ing the fam­i­lies of Cpl. Michael A. Baronowski; Spc. Wal­ter Bar­tasch; Cpl. Daniel Brady; Spc. An­thony J. Cabot; Spc. Wal­lace S. Carter; Pfc. Robert M. Chil­dress; Pfc. Nils A. Dren­nen; Pfc. John R. Fo­ley; Spc. Ni­cholas J. Ful­mer; Lt. Richard L. Gi­ambrone; Pfc. Stephen A. Guardino; Sgt. Den­nis W. Hippo; Sgt. Joseph R. Hud­son Jr.; Spc. Wil­lie L. Jones Jr.; Cpl. David B. LeFever; Pfc. Gregory Lit­tle­john; Pfc. Jimmy L. McMor­ris; Pfc. Wil­liam Reese; Pfc. Fred L. Ri­card Jr.; Maj. Robert F. Ronca; Pfc. John E. Scheetz and Pfc. James A. Wat­son Jr.

As they say, times change, and so do news­pa­pers. Sadly, The Times Her­ald print edi­tion just doesn’t have the amount of space it did in 1984, so my orig­i­nal plan to re­run this se­ries in full was an im­pos­si­ble dream. But while our abil­ity to fully honor these men is lim­ited, our ad­mi­ra­tion is not. And it should be noted, our deep­est grat­i­tude is ex­tended to all mil­i­tary men and women for their ser­vice to the coun­try.

One Viet­nam vet­eran, who did re­turn, re­tired Marine Gun­nery Sgt. Robert M. Reed, was also fea­tured in the se­ries. It should be noted that this hero was awarded the Sil­ver Star, the Bronze Star, the Navy Cross, the Army Com­men­da­tion with Com­bat V, the Navy Achieve­ment with Com­bat V and 12 Pur­ple Hearts.

If you would like to revisit King’s se­ries in its en­tirety, the Mont­gomery County-Nor­ris­town Pub­lic Li­brary (http://mnl.mclinc. org/) at Powell and Swede streets has edi­tions of The Times Her­ald on mi­cro­film. Lance Cpl. Michael Baronowski: A promis­ing jour­nal­ism stu­dent, Michael was 20 on Nov. 29, 1966, when he died of “a gun­shot wound to the chest while par­tic­i­pat­ing in an oper­a­tion against a hos­tile force near Quang Tri.” Spc. Wal­ter Bar­tasch: The Nor­ris­town High grad­u­ate was 21 when he was killed on the morn­ing of Oct. 5, 1969, near the Cam­bo­dian bor­der. His ship came un­der anti-air­craft fire, and ac­cord­ing to Wal­ter’s fa­ther, he manned the copter’s .50-cal­iber ma­chine gun af­ter the gun­ner was hit. He was awarded Cpl. Daniel W. Brady: The Jef­fer­son­ville na­tive was at­tend­ing night school at La Salle Col­lege in 1966 and hoped to be a his­tory teacher. He joined the Marines, and vol­un­teered for duty in Viet­nam. Danny was On­line: Check out the lot­tery Mas­ter’s blog HTTPS://KARLSLOTTERYBLOG.BLOGSPOT.COM

killed on July 2, 1967 in Khe Sanh, Hill 861. Lt. Richard Gi­ambrone: Dur­ing his last bat­tle, Richard, ac­cord­ing to his aunt, “used a ma­chine gun to get all his men out, and he was rid­dled,” on March 25, 1968. On March 31 he was pro­moted to first lieu­tenant, and he died the next day. Cpl. David B. LeFever: A Marine draftee, David saved the life of his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer and was awarded the Bronze Star, but on Sept. 6, 1967, when he was 21, he was killed by ei­ther mor­tar fire or ri­fle fire (his mother re­ceived con­flict­ing tele­grams). David, who grew up on Swede Street, had five months re­main­ing on his tour. Pfc. Gregory Lit­tle­john: Greg was 17 years old when he left Nor­ris­town High School to en­list. He was an Army para­trooper, and on Dec. 7, 1967, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter to his mother writ­ten by his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, “Gregory ex­posed him­self to the deadly en­emy fire to cover the other mem­bers of his squad while they moved to safety … Death came quickly and he did not suf­fer.” Greg Lit­tle­john was 20 years old.

DEPART­MENT OF DE­FENSE — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

In this April 23, 1975, photo pro­vided by the Depart­ment of De­fense, Viet­namese refugees crowd aboard the Mil­i­tary Sealift Com­mand ship Pioneer Con­tender to be evac­u­ated to ar­eas fur­ther south.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

In this April 30, 1975 file photo, a North Viet­namese tank rolls through the gates of the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Saigon, sig­ni­fy­ing the fall of South Viet­nam. The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to com­mu­nist troops from the north. the Bronze Star.

DFM FILE PHOTO

View of names on the Viet­nam Me­mo­rial on Main Street in Nor­ris­town Wed­nes­day, April 29, 2015. April 30 marks the 40 an­niver­sary of the fall of Saigon. here, Mom. I’m still liv­ing for now — you can tell by my hand­writ­ing — but I don’t know for how long.” Wil­lie led a mor­tar team, and on Sept. 5, 1967, he and seven of his men were am­bushed and all were killed. He was 20.

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