Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 2:48 am | Overcast 64º


Harris Sherline: Reflections of the Vietnam Wall, in Honor of Memorial Day

The Memorial Day holiday seems to have morphed into just another day off for most Americans — family gatherings and outings, shopping, barbecue dinners, perhaps just a day of rest.

But here are some thoughts to consider while reflecting on Memorial Day:

» There are 58,267 names now listed on the polished black wall that commemorates the Vietnam War, including those added in 2010.

» The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date, and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it has been 37 years since the last casualties.

» Beginning at the apex on panel 1E and going out to the end of the east wall, appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E — May 25, 1968), then resuming at the end of the west wall, as the wall emerges from the earth (numbered 70W — continuing May 25, 1968) and ending with a date in 1975. Thus the war’s beginning and end meet. The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle’s open side and contained within the earth itself.

» The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass., listed by the Defense Department as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

» There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

» 39,996 on the Wall were just age 22 or younger.

» The largest age group, 8,283 were just 19 years old.

» 3,103 were 18 years old.

» 12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

» Five soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

» One soldier, Pfc. Dan Bullock, was 15 years old.

» 997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.

» 1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.

» 31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

» 31 sets of parents lost two of their sons.

» 54 soldiers on the Wall attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.

» Eight women are on the Wall, for nursing the wounded.

» 244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

» Beallsville, Ohio, with a population of 475, lost six of her sons.

» West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

» The Marines of Morenci — They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (population 5,058) had ever known and cheered.

» They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail and stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci’s mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day 1966. Only three returned home.

» The Buddies of Midvale — LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez and Tom Gonzales — were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah, on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

» The most casualty deaths for a single day was Jan. 31, 1968 — 245 deaths.

» The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 — 2,415 casualties were incurred. That’s 2,415 dead in a single month!

“We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.”George Orwell

— Harris Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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