In Memoriam

| May 24, 2013

Before 2004, Memorial Day was just a time to relax, mess around and barbeque.  Before 2004, it was something of a celebration to mark the beginning of summer and the end of school.  Before 2004, I knew intellectually that a lot of people had died for this country, but it had never connected with me.  Before 2004 I would never have understood how worth fighting for this country is.  In 2004, I saw war.  I saw death.  I saw mutilation.  I saw good men turned into hamburger.  But I also saw the kind of strength that you won’t see on the news.  I saw men who were clearly scared silly “put their shit on” day after day and run up and down IED strewn roads.  I saw men and women go out for hours upon hours of patrols and return with while lines in their uniforms from the salt they had sweated out.  I watched soldiers refuse to give up on a people that had been ruled by fear as long as most living could remember.

I returned home to a country that did indeed honor my service, though not uniformly.  I returned to a country that was at war, but said war was not outwardly evident.  I returned to a country blessed with generations of freedom from oppression and tyranny, and the fruits such a life could provide.  How many children here never need fear a government that will target them because they pray to the wrong God (or don’t pray at all)?  Our children are free to love and be loved by whom they chose.  They are free to chose their own path in life.  Despite the fact that there are hardly any civilians that know what a CMB is, and despite the fact that our education system is so dismal many high school children couldn’t even place where Iraq was on a map, I came away with the certainty that America was an idea worth fighting for.  America is an idea worth dying for.  Lest anyone tell you otherwise America is, at its core an IDEA.

We have planted the seed of this idea in a region that couldn’t be more inhospitable.  Like a gnat in a blast furnace we tried to bring Pax Americana to the worlds most horrendously dangerous and unstable region.  We have paid a price in dearest blood so that others might live beneath the shade of the Tree of Liberty.  We have tried to do this before, in Kuwait, in Panama, in Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Europe. . . the whole world is almost literally covered with dead Americans who at one point or another raised their right hands and sore to defend the highest ideal of our society.  We weren’t always successful, or even right.  Despite this, we are an honorable people, who are always willing to extend the hand of friendship to our one time enemies.

To me the Star Spangled Banner will literally bring tears to my eyes.  The words have meaning.  I have seen the rocket’s red glare.  I have felt the bombs bursting in air, and despite it all the Flag was still there.  This symbol for a land too vast for one person to take in, a people so diverse, yet unified, still fills my heart with pride and my eyes with tears when it waves proudly over scenes of devastation like those in Oklahoma.  When it drapes the coffin of a young man or woman that gave their last full measure of devotion.  This nation has some of the bravest sons of bitches you can imagine, and it has been truly an honor to put my boots in their footsteps.  That so many young talented, truly great men and women would lay it all on the line for their country truly says something about this country, and I can say without shame or reservation that I truly Love this country.  With every fiber of my being I love America.

This Memorial Day weekend will be a long weekend for me in many ways.  I will have to face some of my deepest held fears among which that I failed as a medic, that there was some bit of training I had neglected that might have saved a life.  I will face the fear that the country I so love has forgotten me, and my kinsmen.  I will face my fear that I should have died out there, that I failed as a soldier to meet the enemy and deliver unto him the unequivocal ass kicking he so deserved.   I will face the fear that there are brothers and sisters in arms right now that I should be helping but am not, and we may lose them because they didn’t have a battle buddy when they needed one.  I will face the fear that I will one day need a battle buddy when my past gets the better of me.  I will face the ultimate fear that I am weak in spirit and in mind that I should be so easily overcome by so relatively little when compered to great men and women who go forth and do great things minus limbs or with sever deformity.

I know many other veterans will look at pictures of the headstones in Arlington.  I know that many other veterans will have a quiet moment where they raise a glass to absent companions.  I know many other veterans feel as I do, and will relate to almost every single word I have written.  I remind you, look around.  There is such goodness in our people.  Your battle buddies are not gone.  The spirit of their courage, of their devotion lives on all around you.  Their insatiable humor, or their devotion to duty, or whatever aspect of your brothers or sisters that you miss can be found infused in the People.  We the People may have lost some truly outstanding individuals, but because of those sacrifices our nation has not known some of the horrors war can bestow on a people.  Because some brave American souls held the line the world is a safer place.  For that reason if no other I will rest a little easier this Memorial Day weekend.


In memory of:

SPC Daniel J McConnell, 27 Duluth MN 16 November 2004

SPC David P Mahlenbrock, 20 Maple Shade NJ 3 December 2004

SPC Andre Craig Jr., 24 New Haven CT 25 June 2007

PFC James J Harrelson, 19 Dadeville AL 17 July 2007

SFC James D Doster, 37 Pine Bluff AR 29 September 2007

veteran Neil D Holmes, 32 Suicide on 26 May 2011

Category: Politics

Comments (47)

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  1. SJ says:

    Awesome essay. Hooah.

  2. 68W58 says:

    In memory of:

    SSG Eric Steffeney

    SGT Paul Thomasson

    SSG Asbury Hawn
    SGT Shannon Taylor
    SPC Gary Reece Jr.

    RIP-see you in Fiddler’s Green.

  3. My list is long. “Fiddler’s Green” indeed.

  4. Cacti35 says:

    Well said Doc, thank you very much for your service!
    Hand Salute!

  5. OEF_Veteran says:

    Thanks Doc

  6. Maggie Goff says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  7. Valkyrie says:

    It is men and women like you that make me proud to be an American. It’s people like you that allow me to sleep well at night knowing my kids will inherent a free country. And it’s folks like you that will always be there to insure that when the wolf knocks at our door, we’re able to answer it. Thank you so very much for all you’ve done and sacrificed for all of us. For some of us it was not in vain!

    In Memory:
    SSGT Larry Thomas Harrison

  8. dfgdsfgsd says:


  9. Bobo says:

    1SG Kevin Dupont, DOW BAMC 19 JUN 2009, the best PSG that a 2LT could ask for.

  10. fm2176 says:

    At home, I still have the lists of nearly every internment and inurnment my casket teams conducted in Arlington National Cemetery. While all-too-often those names were just that at the time–names on a paper signifying the remains of those we honored–there have been many brave men who have gone far too early who touched our lives in a more personal manner. Some I served alongside, led, and/or encouraged to reenlist as the Army was a “good way of life”; one survived two deployments and a combat wound to be taken by cancer at the very beginning of a new chapter in his career; some I knew only in passing, yet I still wept when opening the VFW Magazine and reading the name.

    SGT Troy Jenkins:

    SGT Joseph Minucci:

    SSG Christopher Hake:

    CPL Joseph Hernandez:

    SSG Adam Dickmyer:

    WO1 William McCotter:

    Those are only a few of the men I try to honor every day. Beautifully composed post, Doc.

  11. T-Bird Henry says:


    Many thanks for these words. I’m a lifelong Civilian and sometimes find myself hating Memorial Day because it represents two things:

    1.) Just another three day holiday and start of the summer season.

    and 2) The fact that some stuffed shirt politiican will puff out his chest, talk about brave sacrifice and loss, etc. and make it seem like the price is and has been paid.

    Well Memorial Day is more than that. It really should be a day to not just “pay our respects” to the fallen but to re-dedicate ourselves to the concepts and principles for which they sacrificed and died for. In all ways, like sitting on school boards, or attending board meetings, going on jury duty, volunteering to help in your community, in other words being a CITIZEN, not just another person or subject of the state. Anyone who has served the Republic has earned and won the title “Citizen” more than the rest of us for they paid for it with the best years of their lives, if nothing else (we all know that many, many paid a far higher and more terrible price) and deserves our respect and thanks. We who live with the blessings of peace and freedom owe a supreme debt to those who have given it to us and have a supreme responsibility to be good stewards of that Republic for future generations. May God bless and keep you sir, as well as all who have served this great nation. My prayer is that we may be worthy of it all.

    In memory of:
    SM1c Francis V. Bryant
    PFC Jacob Jr.(Buddy) Veltman
    PFC Gerald Nummerdor

  12. Tony says:

    Thank you for this. It was truly heartfelt and made me reflect on the changing attitudes I have had since joining the Army.

  13. Ex-PH2 says:

    In memory of:

    William H. Rogers, 33rd Army Supply/1st Wisconsin Regiment-Cavalry

    GEN George C. Rogers, 15th Illinois Regiment – Cavalry

    Jonathan Chapman, Co. A, 1st Wisconsin Regiment – Cavalry/KIA

    LCPL Steven R. Bangert, machine gunner – B CO, 1ST BN, 4TH MARINES, 3RD MARDIV, III MAF – United States Marine Corps KIA Operation Prairie March 02, 1967

    I’ll see you some day.

  14. Old Trooper says:

    Damn, Doc, you raised the bar, once again, with this post. Good on ya; and thanks.

    In memory of:

    Mark A. Rademacher / Sergeant / 1st Bn. 75th Rangers Operation Urgent Fury

  15. Smitty says:

    Doc, that was beautifully written. Memorial day has been a holiday i hide from for a long time. my tour in iraq was the sme time as yours, i came back in march 05. i have known every sentiment that you describe, but your way of putting it in words is truely amazeing.

    Sgt Bret Swank

    Sgt Andrew Brown

  16. OWB says:

    Well done, Doc.

  17. Beretverde says:

    CWO Robert Dowling- 197th Armed Helicopter Company-RVN 12 Jan. 1966.

  18. Sparks says:

    Thank you Jonn. Well written. I could not add a word to what you wrote. I still remember my fallen Brothers in Vietnam. And those who came back to a nation who thought Memorial day was a day of protest. Thank God the attitudes have changed. Thank you for your service Jonn. Happy and blessed Memorial Day to you my friend and Bother in arms.

  19. Twist says:

    Doc you brought a tear to my eye. I couldn’t say it any better myself.

    In memory of:

    Christopher Alcozer, 21, private first class, 2-1 Infantry
    James L. Bridges, 22, corporal, 2-1 Infantry
    Kraig D. Foyteck, 26, sergeant, 2-1 Infantry
    Jeremy Loveless, 25, specialist, 2-1 Infantry
    Joshua M. Pearce, 21, specialist, 2-1 Infantry
    John S. Vaughan, 23, second lieutenant, 2-1 Infantry
    Mark A. Wall, 27, staff sergeant, 2-1 Infantry

  20. Sparks says:

    In memory of my cousin CWO John M. “Mike” Sparks, Gunship Pilot, 48TH AHC, 223RD AVN BN, 11TH AVN GRP, 1 AVN BDE. MIA Operation Lam Son 719, March 19th, 1971. (Recongnized as largest airborne invasion of the war) Call Sign Joker 99. His remains are still in Laos.

  21. A Proud Infidel says:

    Good one Doc, well said!

    In Memoriam:

    SFC Dan Suplee
    SSG Joe Fuerst

  22. Sparks says:

    I just teared up because I typed too fast about someone so important. My cousin is “Jon” not John. Forgive me cousin and Brother. An old vet forgets sometimes and I hope all of you forgive my misspelling of someone so important. Although they changed his status from Missing to Died while Missing back in 1976, he is still carried with life, love and hope by me and all the family. God bless all you vets this Memorial Day. God bless all those still listed as MIA/POW. Maybe…someday we will get a full reckoning.

  23. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Arthur Francis Connolly, PVT, US Army, WW I,
    Co. B, 165th Regiment (69th New York) Infantry
    Rainbow Division (Forty-Second)
    Mustard gas inhalation

  24. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    None of us here at TAH needs Memorial Day to remember the Fallen, most especially their families, friends, and those with whom the Fallen served. We grieve the loss of so many fine people whose death came too soon in causes not always understood. What would they say to us if they could, I wonder. “Lift a glass for me,” perhaps. More likely, “Tell my family and friends I am with them and will always be.” I’m guessing that their words would have nothing to do with grief and everything to do with appreciating the life we have and the legacy of goodness they have left for us.

  25. UpNorth says:

    Well done, Doc.

    RIP Cpl Mark Pontius RVN 31 May 1970

  26. NHSparky says:

    Couldn’t have said it better had I tried.

    RIP…FN Peter Romano. And all who have given all.

  27. Sparks says:

    @25 Thank you 2/17 Air Cav.

  28. Stew says:

    Doc, thank you for reminding me that others feel the same way I do.

    I’m glad I don’t still think of Memorial Day as just a barbecue, a day on the lake, or the start of summer. Knowing what I know from serving with my brothers and sisters, and having lost what we’ve all lost, I wouldn’t choose the ignorance I had before over the depth of what I now understand.

    God bless America. God bless our heroes.

    RIP 1LT Amos C.R. Bock, KIA 23 OCT 06, Baghdad.

  29. bman says:

    If I could have done more, tried this or done that he would be alive today. It goes on forever. 91Bravo, Vietnam.

  30. Casey says:

    Thanks, Doc. Well written indeed.

  31. Mustang2LT says:

    RIP brother of mine, SGT Ricardo E. Diaz.
    The link below is to one of his favorite songs and one that I feel is relevant to those us who would like to honor the memories of those we have lost. In particular the chorus:
    “Well is it true it’s always happy hour here,
    And if it is I’d like to stay awhile,
    And as cliche as it may sound,
    I’d like to raise another round,
    And if your bottle’s empty,
    Help yourself to mine,
    Thank you for your time,
    And Here’s to Life”

  32. Common Sense says:

    Just beautiful Doc.

    In loving memory of my uncle, Captain Jon Edward Swanson, Troop B, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.

    Feb 26, 1971, age 28.

    Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor May 1, 2002, it would have been his 60th birthday. Remains recovered and buried in Arlington National Cemetery May 3, 2002.

    Three of the events most indelibly etched in my memory are when I came home from school and was told he was missing in action, his original memorial service in 1971 at Ft Logan National Cemetery, and the events of the week in which he received the MOH and we buried his remains at Arlington in 2002

    RIP Uncle Jon.

  33. streetsweeper says:

    Very well done, Doc Bailey. Hooah.

    In memory:

    Troopers of the US 7th Cavalry Regiment(Garryowen), Panel 3E.
    All men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty.


  34. Valkyrie says:

    Can someone do me a favor and tell me what all the letters and numbers by my cousin’s name mean? The reason I ask is 1) cause I don’t understand what they mean (I know I could Google-Fu) 2) But I’m hoping someone might know someone who was with him. See I can’s ask my family cause it’s still such a wound to them. He died 3 years before I was born but we’re all told about him. I come from a huge military family that’s had a member in almost every war we’ve been in. But no one will go into detail about Larry. We’re all told we lost a great man (my oldest brother joined the Army because of Larry) and his rank but that’s about it. I don’t want to upset anyone esp in my family but I’m trying to write a history of our family and I don’t think I could do it justice without starting off with Larry and understanding what he did. I’ve searched the internet for years but just found this last night on the Vietnam Virtual Wall. I’ve got a long way to go in my research (esp, since I just learned how and where to look) I hope to have it done by next year’s Memorial Day. Thanks for any and all help but most of all thank you for serving!

    Larry Thomas Harrison
    Staff Sergeant
    Army of the United States

  35. Ex-PH2 says:

    @36 – B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, US Army (not sure what the RV stands for, maybe Rangers V—)

  36. Valkyrie says:

    Ex- Thank you!

  37. fm2176 says:


    USARV is US Army Vietnam, a major command comprised primarily of support units, but some Googling shows that USARV is used after a lot of unit designations. Bravo Company 3-187 Infantry–the Rakkasans of the Pacific Theater in WWII (as part of the 11th Airborne Division), Japanese occupation duty in late-1945 (where they were first called “Rakkasan”), the Korean War (187th ARCT; the only US Airborne unit to fight in Korea), and Hamburger Hill (the 1987 movie even has the “B/3-187” markings on the 2 1/2 ton trucks)–was part of 3rd Brigade 101st Airborne, having been some of the first Air Assault troopers in the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) which was later reflagged into the basis of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

    I was in Charlie Company 3-187 ten years ago, and there is an annual Hamburger Hill reunion held at Fort Campbell each May, where scores of veterans of that battle and others (including Golden Rakkasans from Korea and even WWII) come to reunite. I cannot find SSG Harrison’s name on the list of the fallen at the Rakkasan Association website:, but the Association may be the place to start, and if you are not too terribly far from Fort Campbell, it may even be worth the trip to attend next year’s Reunion.

    Unfortunately I do not have the book over here, but back home I’ve got the Regimental History, complete with the names of all the fallen including those lost in the Vietnam War. Good luck in your search for information, and let us know if you need more assistance!

  38. Valkyrie says:

    Thank you so very much. According the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website he was killed 2-19-70 in THUA THIEN.
    These 2 websites are all I can seem to find right now. I’ve asked his sister for some info but my Aunt still has such a hard time with it that we can’t ask her and my other cousins were so young they don’t remember much about it. But you’ve given me a jumping off point and I really can’t thank you enough.

  39. Valkyrie says:

    FM2176 – No I’m no where near Fort Hood (I had to go look it up, hehe) so I won’t make it there. But it’s just like me to be late for everything last year the reunion was held here in Orlando. Would have been nice to attend one. Thanks again for your info.

  40. fm2176 says:


    Here are a few more sites with information, most of which is the same as that on the sites you already found:

    A little more research reveals that all three brigades of the 101st were conducting Operation Randolph Glen in Theu Thien province during the winter of 1969-1970. The AAR is here:

    Mention is also made in this document, which reflects 120 friendly KIA and 560 friendly WIA:

    Finally for now, this document talks of the prevalence of booby traps during the operation; this may be of importance due to the fact that your cousin is listed as being killed by an “other explosive device” at the site:

    Pg 93: “Instead of direct contact, these patrols and ambushes most frequently encountered booby traps rather than groups of enemy soldiers as evidenced by the 154 booby traps found and 37 detonated by U.S. and GVN troops in Phong Dien district over the course of Randolph Glen. When 3-187th Infantry patrols did find the enemy, more often than not, they were NVA patrols moving from their base camp areas to support the VCI in the villages.”

    I hope you are able to find out more info as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot about SSG Harrison online.

  41. Kinda old ET1 says:

    Wonderfully written.

    Sgt Mike Barner
    RM2 Kevin Yokum

    Fair winds and following seas.

  42. Valkyrie says:

    FM2176 – Thank you very much. I wasn’t aware of how he died. You’ve found more in one day then I’ve found in years. But I never knew his rank or group either. Thanks so very much, this means a lot to me and my brothers who did know him.

  43. Green Thumb says:

    To the boys…

    Love you, miss you and will never forget you.


  44. SteveS says:

    Thanks for writing this.
    To all the honored dead (and they are honored, make no mistake), your sacrifice is remembered.
    All gave some.
    Some gave all.