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:
HOWARD C MC CARTHY JR
2LT - O1 - Army - Reserve
22 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Jul 20, 1944
From GLENOLDEN, PENNSYLVANIA
Length of service 2 years.
His tour of duty began on Jun 30, 1966
Casualty was on Aug 02, 1966
Hostile, died while missing
GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
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.
And a great way to use the internet on this Veteran's Day.