A Tribute To A Friend On Veteran's Day

Friday, November 11, 2005
It was a beautiful late Spring Thursday in Kentucky in 1966. I was a basic training company commander at Fort Knox in my first command. My Executive Officer, Howie McCarthy, and I were halfway through the training cycle. He had orders to Vietnam, and it was his last day as my XO. He was 21 years old, and, like me, a Pennsylvanian.
We had spent the preceding six weeks getting brand new recruits in shape and ready to be soldiers. It was not easy, as these kids were almost all draftees, except those who "volunteered" in lieu of a jail sentence. Howie and I were both reserve officers, though, and brought a sense of humor to the endeavor, so we became friends. Since I had completed law school before I went on active duty, I was a little over four years older than he and was a First Lieutenant. He was a brand new Second Lieutenant, but was an excellent officer and a great help in running the Company.
I had invited him to dinner and a movie in Louisville. We also were going to Seng Jewelers that afternoon to pick out rings for our fiancees, as each of us had decided to "pop the question over the following weekend -- he while on his 30 day leave before deploying to Vietnam and I during my brother's wedding weekend where I was serving as best man.
Everything went as planned. We bought our ring sets, took in Paul Newman in Harper, had cocktails, wine and dinner at a great restaurant that is probably long gone, and drove back to the bachelor's officers quarters at Newgarden Apartments, now a transient military facility.
The next day we said our good lucks and good byes and I never saw him again.
Six weeks later my First Sergeant Laughead announced that Howie had been killed in action on his first combat operation when he encountered a hot LZ. Two weeks later, I received my orders to Vietnam. I eventually served as a JAG officer from May, 1967 to May, 1968.
I thought about Howie every day I served in Vietnam and many days since. When the Vietnam Memorial opened in November, 1982, I found his name on the wall, said an appropriate prayer in his memory, and looked up his information.
This morning, in honor of Veterans' Day, I checked out the latest Vietnam sites, and again found his infomation. Here is what I found:

2LT - O1 - Army - Reserve
22 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Jul 20, 1944
Length of service 2 years.
His tour of duty began on Jun 30, 1966
Casualty was on Aug 02, 1966
Hostile, died while missing
Body was recovered
Panel 09E - - Line 99
The site where I found this information is a wonderful tribute to those who gave their lives in our service. It has the information on each indiviual honored on the Wall. There is a place to leave a personal message. Please visit it. Look up your friends and loved ones who died in Vietnam and leave your personal tribute as you see fit.
That will be a tribute to Howie and his comrades in arms who now rest in Peace.

And a great way to use the internet on this Veteran's Day.


Syl said...

Wonderful tribute and a great honor to his memory. Thanks for posting this.

Rick Ballard said...

Thank you, Vnjagvet. I have visited the wall in person in tribute to Cpl. Charles Pursell and now I can leave a message for his parents.

While I live he will not be forgotten.

markg8 said...

Yep well done vnjagvet. The best post I've read on this board.

On NPR today they had WW2 vets talking about the last year of the Pacific War. One recollection stood out for me. A carrier pilot talked about flying combat support missions over an island, I think Saipan or Iwo Jima. As he'd make his run he'd see marines pinned down on the slope below stuck in the mud hanging onto the side of the hill for dear life. Afterward he'd fly back to the carrier, eat something, get a night's sleep, shower and shave and attack the targets again the next day. And there below him 100 or so yards further up the hill he'd see the same marines still there, still trying to take the same objective a bloody yard at a time.

terrye said...

That was a wonderful post.

We get older, but they stay young forever don't they?

Peter UK said...

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

For the Fallen L Binyon 1914

mrp said...

That we live in a great and wonderful country is due to the sacrifices made by young warriors like Lt. McCarthy.

Thank you for the post, vnjagvet.