Saturday, February 19, 2011

The First And The Last

Other than the families of these two brave Americans, I wonder how many people know the names of the first and the last Americans to die in Viet Nam.

The first American to die was Spec. 4 Tom Davis of Livingston, Tenn. He was killed December 22, 1961 near Duc Hoa while serving as an adviser.

The last American to die was Lt. Col. William Nolde of Mount Pleasant, Mich. He was killed at An Loc during an artillery barrage 11 hours before the cease fire.

Joyce Nolde, lays a rose on the casket of her husband in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. Taps sound as Lt. Col. William Nolde is laid to rest. Left behind was his wife Joyce and his five children ranging in age from 12 to 19.

"I will remember the names of these men for the rest of my life."
That was my thought as I read this small article in the Honolulu Advertiser giving tribute to the first and the last Americans to die in Viet Nam while serving our country.

The troops came home, the POWs were released and many of the MIAs remained missing. Life returned to normal and I eventually didn't remember their names.

There was something that I never forgot though. It was the great sacrifice that was made by these two men and the countless brave Americans who died between the first and the last casualties of the war in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam touched everyone's lives in some way. How could it not, when every evening it was right there being played out over and over again in our living rooms on the news. As tragic as it was it was happening to other people and I was just sort of a witness to history. 

The day came though, that Viet Nam got right in my face and became up close and personal to me. I was shopping that day and the store that I was in was playing the local radio station over the loud speakers. At that time the D. J.s at the radio stations read a daily updated list of the names of local men and women that had died in Viet Nam. I heard the name Dean Pope come out of those speakers and hang there in the air. My heart fell to my feet. Dean was a friend and the husband of one of my best friends. He had received his orders shortly after their wedding day. Before leaving though, Dean and Liz had enough time to conceive a baby resulting in a beautiful baby boy that was born while Dean was fighting in Viet Nam. He didn't have much time left on his tour of duty when his life was taken. Never would he hold his son in his arms. Never would he be there beside Liz to help her raise their son. 

There were many stories like this that played out across this country every single day that the War in Viet Nam waged on.. 

Where were you when Viet Nam first became personal for you? 


Lois Evensen said...

Such a thoughtful post.

My brothers and cousin were in the service during Viet Nam. My oldest brothers flew missions over the country; my cousin was fighting on the ground.

Lynn at Cottage and Creek said...

Very thought provoking post, Jo. How tragic for your friend to lose her husband with a baby on the way. Thanks for the reminder of all the men and women who have sacrificed so much in the name of freedom. And thanks for visiting Cottage and Creek. I always enjoy your comments.

Anonymous said...

this was thought provoking and informative. thanks for visiting and leaving a comment over at mine.

Joy said...

Several of my brother's friends went to Vietnam, three of them died, but the day Vietnam became personal to me was the day I got on the school bus and sat next to my friend who was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby--he was in Vietnam. I was debating on whether or not to order a senior ring, and as I sat down, my friend said to me, "Larry's dead". She and the boyfriend had been trying to get married by mail, and it never happened. I saw her baby boy after he was born, she named him after his father. That day, I realized how silly and trivial a senior ring was--never ordered one and never regretted it. That was 1971.