Local Heroes

Within our local community there is a history of honor and service to the nation.  For generations young men and women have served as Marines and in other branches of the service.  Some have given their lives in this service.  This section of our web site pays tribute to some of those who have paid the ultimate price.


Local Marines Listed on the Charlottesville Dogwood Vietnam Memorial

The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial lists the names of 24 local servicemen who died in Vietnam while serving their country; nine of these are Marines.  During consecutive annual ceremonies in 2012,  2013 and 2014 one of our members, Colonel James O'Kelley, talked about the Marines behind the names.  With pictures and details of their lives and personalities, he helped to make the reality of their sacrifice more vivid to those who had gathered to honor them.  Copies of his presentations are provided below:



April 27, 2012 Presentation



47th REDEDICATION OF THE DOGWOOD VIETNAM

MEMORIAL 

Charlottesville/Albemarle Virginia

COLONEL JAMES T OKELLEY JR

4/27/2012



Good morning ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for coming here this morning to honor the memories of these young men who died in the service of their country.

Some of you may know that the Charlottesville/Albemarle Dogwood Vietnam Memorial is the oldest memorial to servicemen killed in Vietnam in America. It was first dedicated on April 26, 1966.

Jim Shisler was the man who had the vision, organized, found funding, and built this monument to fallen local servicemen. My understanding is that the death of a young Army specialist from Earlysville-Champ Jackson Lawson, Jr.-in the la Orang Valley in 1965 precipitated the idea to honor local heroes who had fallen in battle. Jim still maintains the site and the idea with a fervent commitment-he and Bruce were out here this past Tuesday cleaning up and setting things up for today's ceremony. THANK YOU gentlemen!

The 21 names became 23 in 1999 with the addition of Lance Corporal Thomas Grinnell (USMC) and Col Oscar Mauterer (USAF). Today I want to share with you the stories and photographs of four of the 23 young men memorialized in stone here.

My wife, Jan, and I came here after church on Sunday March 18 to copy down the names and visit this hallowed ground. It struck me later that I saw 23 names carved in stone and small American flags placed by each name but that I knew nothing more about these men's lives and sacrifice. I decided that their stories needed to be told to this new generation (my grandsons Bailey 7and Blake 2 are here today with me) and we need to be able to connect a picture and a name with a story. The job soon became daunting when I realized after several weeks that it was difficult to find information, much less pictures,of the twelve US Army, eight US Marine Corps, and three US Air Force men inscribed herein.

I finally decided to concentrate on the eight Marines and had to reduce that to four. I hope that we can continue to collect the photographs and stories of the other 19 men in the next few years. I now have the honor to talk to you about four young Marines who were killed in action in Vietnam between 1966 and 1970.

Jim Carpenter of Gitchell's Studio and his staff did an outstanding job of putting together the collage of photographs of the four young Marines whose story I want to tell you today. Each of you will be given a copy so that you can follow along. When you are finished if you choose not to take the collage with you please return them so that I can give the extras to the family members who are here with us today. But the photographs are yours to keep and reflect upon if you so desire.



The first Marine is Lance Corporal Thomas Dennison Grinnell, III, a radio operator with the 26th Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division.

Bryan McKenzie, a feature writer at the Charlottesville Daily Pragress newspaper, helped me by giving me a copy of an article he wrate on April 24, 1999 when Lance Corporal Grinnell's name was

added to the stones here.

Lance Corporal Grinnell was born in Jacksonville, Florida on October 6, 1945. His family moved to Charlottesville soon thereafter and he attended Holy Comforter School and Lane High School. He finished the 12th grade in Richmond and entered the United States Marine Corps in March 1964.

My wife and I visited his gravesite in Monticello Memory Gardens recently and found him buried between his mother and father. His father was a Marine pilot in WWII and Korea and was killed in action in Korea in 1952. We also saw another nearby headstone for an uncle who was a Marine and was killed in action in WWII. So joining the Marines must have been an honor and a family tradition for young Tam.

Lance Corporal Grinnell was a radio operator and as you can see from his picture he carried himself with pride and confidence. That smile tells me he loved what he was doing and he loved being a US Marine. Being a radio operator made him an instant target at all times thanks to the radio's antenna.

Lance Corporal Grinnell was killed on September 3, 1966 when the jeep he was riding in ran over a landmine (today we call them IEDs) near DaNang, RVN. His body was brought back to Charlottesville and after a Requiem Mass at Holy Comforter Church he was buried next to his father and near his uncle. He had been in Vietnam twelve and a half months and was due to rotate back home in 13 days! His Mother died in 1972 (I expect from a broken heart) and is buried next to him.

Branchlands School, now a daycare center, dedicated a plaque to Lance Corporal Grinnell, their first alumnus to be killed in action.

REST IN PEACE LANCE CORPORAL GRINNELL AND THANK YOU FOR YOU SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY AND OUR CORPS.



The second Marine is Lance Corporal Howell Frank Blakey, a rifleman with Combined Action Platoon 1-3-8 of the Third Marine Division.

Pauline Blakey, Howell's younger sister, provided the picture and information for me to tell his story. She is here with us today.

Lance Corporal Blakey was born on November 28, 1948 at the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was raised on Old Free Union Road in Free Union. When he was 14 and his sister 9 their father died and Howell became the man of the household. I expect his childhood came to an abrupt end. He graduated from Jackson P. Burley High School in June 1967. He then attended Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia where he was majoring in business and agriculture. His sister said that he always wanted to be a farmer.

Lance Corporal Blakey loved music, singing, and football. As you can see from his photograph he was a devoted son, big brother, and fellow Marine. A second picture that Pauline shared with me shows him with his unit where he is confidently gathered with his nine brother Marines and a Vietnamese
soldier and their German Shepherds scout dog.

A Marine had to volunteer and be handpicked for the independent duty as a member of a Combined Action Platoon. These Marines ate, slept, worked with, and protected a Vietnamese village. The Combined Action Program was the US Marine Corp's civic action program designed to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous Vietnamese and it was very effective in pacifying and protecting South Vietnamese villages in our Tactical Areas of Operation.

Lance Corporal Blakey was killed in action by small arms fire when his three man patrol was ambushed near his village. He stayed behind and took the Viet Cong under fire and ordered the two other Marines to go for help. When the relief force returned they found him dead.

Lance Corporal Blakey's sister gave me and my wife permission to visit his gravesite at their home. He is buried in his backyard next to his Mother who died in 2002. We visited that grave after church a few Sundays ago and placed some flowers and an American Flag there in his honor. It is a peaceful and comforting place to rest.

REST IN PEACE LANCE CORPORAL BLAKEY AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY AND TO OUR CORPS.


The third Marine is First Lieutenant Charles King Butler, a CH-46 helicopter pilot, with HMM 364 Squadron, Marine Air Group 16, First Marine Air Wing.

Joe Fields of Hill and Wood Funeral Home found an obituary of First Lieutenant Butler that helped me put his story together.

First Lieutenant Butler was born on March 30, 1945 in Charlottesville and raised on Rugby Road. He graduated from Lane High School in 1963 and attended First United Methodist Church. He
graduated from East Carolina University in 1967 where he was a member of the Air Force Reserve
Officer Training Corps and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. He was married to Mary L. Johnson Butler of Morganton, NC.

First Lieutenant Butler had won the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight on August 25, 1969 and again on October 5, 1969. His
citations can be found online at the Vietnam Virtual Wall (VirtuaIWall.org). The first DFC dealt with an emergency medical evacuation (medevac) of a seriously wounded Marine under intense enemy fire directed at his helicopter. The second DFC was awarded for delivering emergency reinforcements and ammunition to Marines who were heavily engaged in combat with a large North Vietnamese Army force on four different occasions under intense automatic weapons fire and then returning to the same landing zone (LZ) after dark to extract three wounded Marines cut off from their unit and surrounded by the NVA.

First Lieutenant Butler was killed on December 28, 1969 while returning from a night IFR (Instrument Flight Recognition) flight in heavy weather. The radios and instruments were not functioning correctly and the CH-46 flew into Hai Van Pass and hit a mountain killing all ten Marines aboard the helicopter.

One of First Lieutenant Butler's neighbors, Rick Saunders, left a note on the virtual wall on May 17, 2007 thanking his "big brother Chippy" for helping him on Christmas mornings when he would come by and help Rick set up the electric train sets Santa had brought.

When I look at the picture of First Lieutenant Butler I see a Marine aviator with those characteristic pilot's sunglasses sitting in a lawn chair beside his "hootch" probably drinking a beverage and waiting for the next life and death mission. We "grunts" owe our lives to those guys many times over! First Lieutenant Butler is buried in Olive Branch United Methodist Church cemetery near Gasburg, Virginia.

REST IN PEACE FIRST LIEUTENANT BUTLER AND THANK YOU FOR  YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY AND OUR CORPS.


The fourth Marine is Warrant Officer Robert Edward Marshall, a weapons repair officer with the First Battalion, First Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division.

Several members of the Marshall family have helped me put together Warrant Officer Marshall's story including his brothers Fulton and Harry and his nephew Shane FInd his wife Stephanie. Some of the family are here with us today.

Warrant Officer Marshall was born on April 20, 1940 in Charlottesville and he grew up on Montrose Avenue. He attended Lane High School and completed his education in the Marine Corps. He had been in Vietnam five months when he was killed in an ammunition dump explosion in Quang Tri Province on November 25, 1968. A Bronze Star with Combat V (for valor) device award states that "Warrant Officer Marshall battled a fire which had broken out in an area near where ammunition was being unloaded. Ignoring his burns, Marshall stayed after the blaze was extinguished to remove overheated ammunition. He lost his life when some of that ordnance exploded.

Warrant Officer Marshall was married to Mary Jane Gregory Marshall and they had three young daughters -Bobbie Jane 8, Sandra Dee 7, and Susan Elaine 2. His immediate family now lives in High Point, NC.

Warrant Officer Marshall is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

As you can see from his photograph in his Dress Blue Uniform Warrant Officer Marshall was a handsome, squared away, and proud United States Marine.

REST IN PEACE WARRANT OFFICER MARSHALL AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY AND OUR CORPS.




April 19, 2013 Presentation



48th REDEDICATION OF

THE DOGWOOD VIETNAM

MEMORIAL

Charlottesville/Albemarle Virginia

 

COLONEL JAMES T. OKELLEY JR

APRIL 2O, 2013

 

 

 

 FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FOUGHT FOR IT

FREEDOM

HAS A SWEETNESS THE PROTECTED

WILL NEVER KNOW

 


Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for coming here this morning to honor the memories of these young men who died in the service of our country.

Let me begin by asking each of you to take a deep breath, what we often call a cleansing breath,  and let it out slowly.  Remember that the young men who sacrificed their lives for us and who we honor today can not do that anymore.

Last year, my wife, Jan, and I came here after church on Sunday March 18 to copy down the names and visit this hallowed ground.  It struck me later that I saw 23 names carved in stone and small American flags placed by each name but that I knew nothing more about these men’s lives and their sacrifice.  I decided that their stories needed to be told to this new generation and we need to be able to connect a picture and a name with a story.  The job soon became daunting when I realized after several weeks that it was difficult to find information, much less pictures, of the 12 US Army, 8 US Marines, and 3 US Air Force men inscribed herein.

I finally decided to concentrate on the 8 Marines and had to reduce that to four the first year and 4 this year.  I hope that we can continue to collect the photographs and stories of the other 15 men in the next few years.  I now have the honor to talk to you about four more young Marines who were killed in action in Vietnam between 1967 and 1970.

Jim Carpenter of Gitchell’s Studio and his staff did an outstanding  job of putting together the collage of photographs of the four young Marines whose story I want to tell you about today.  Each of you will be given a copy so that you can follow along.  When  you are finished if you choose not to take the collage with you please return them so that I can give the extras to the family members who are here with us today.  But the photographs are yours to keep and reflect upon if you so desire.  Jerry Pusey, a former Marine, helped me immensely by digging into the catacombs of the Daily Progress, etc.  at the Main Library and came up with many facts that helped me tell these lifestories.

 

GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS/BROTHERS  (John 15:11 NIV )

 


The first Marine is Private First Class Douglas Delano Wallace, an 0311 Infantryman, with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division of the III Amphibious Force.  (Is anyone here representing him or his family?)

Doug was born 24 April 1948 in Charlottesville. He would have been 65 years old next Wednesday.  He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred D. Wallace of 127 East Street.  During his school years he lived with his aunt Estelle Wallace Johnson and her husband the Reverend James B. Johnson of 1219 Golden Avenue.  He attended Burley High School for one year and later transferred to  Lane High School, where he played trombone in the school band.  He graduated from Lane High School in 1966.

On his 18th birthday he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and received his basic training at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C.  Private Wallace received additional training at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C. and was sent to Vietnam in January 1967.  He was killed in action by artillery, rocket and mortar fire on 29 April 1967 in Tua Thien province near Hue/Phu Bai.

Doug was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.  He was also survived by his two younger brothers, Donald Edward and Dwight Davis Wallace and his 76 year old father who served as a First Lieutenant in World War II. I was unable to find any of them.

Rest in peace PFC Wallace, and thank you for your service to our Country, and to our Corps. 

 

The second Marine is Private First Class Howard Eslie Hollar, an 0311 machine gunner with H&S Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division of the III Marine Amphibious Force.  (Is anyone here representing him or his family?)

Howard was born on 6 February 1948 in Raleigh, N.C.  Shortly afterwards his family moved to Hickory, NC and later in 1957 moved to Charlottesville, Va.  He grew up at 769 Monticello Ave.   He graduated from Lane High School in 1967.  (Dale Breeden, a classmate and friend, loaned me her copy of the Lane High School Yearbook where we found Howard’s picture.)

Howard worked at the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In Restaurant while in high school.  When her graduated, he joined the Marines.  He had eight months left in the Marine Corps when he was sent to Vietnam to reinforce the Khe Sahn Combat Base that was under siege by a large North Vietnamese Army Force.  The C-130 transport aircraft in which he was riding was hit by gunfire and crashed into a mountain at Khe Sahn.  Howard was one of the 47 Marines and air crewmen who died on 6 March 1968.

"PFC Howard Eslie Hollar, died during the Battle of Khe Sahn.  He was on an incoming C-130K Provider, call sign “Bookie-762”, cleared by a MATCU 62 controller to land in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions.  When the Controller scanned the field to verify the strip was clear,  a RVNAF Birddog (O1E) dropped out of the  clouds as if to land.  The Birddog apparently had no radios on board and wouldn’t accept a wave off.  The controller waved off the C-130 which pulled up to go around again.  The Birddog flew down runway; the controller got the ID number and saw a green beret colonel in the back seat of the plane.  Meanwhile the C-130 took ground fire as it climbed out on its turn and crashed into the side of a mountain. Forty four passengers and three crew, all Marines,  were killed.  PFC Hollar’s body was recovered and he is buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis Mo.  His name is on Panel 43E, Line 022. (As an aside, the next day the same Birddog again flew down the runway, this time the controller had a shotgun on hand and fired several rounds, damaging the RVNAF plane, which flew away.  (NOTE: The RVNAF pilots generally ditched their radios to allow the aircraft to carry more weight over a longer range.)"

Howard was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.  He is buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.

Rest in peace PFC Hollar, and thank you for your service to our Country and to our Corps.

 

The third Marine is Lance Corporal Walter Ross, Jr., an 0311 infantryman with L Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, First Marine Division,  III Marine Amphibious Force.  (Is anyone here representing him or his family?)

Walter was born 8 January 1949 in Fluvanna County where he lived with his family until they moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1957.  They lived in the city for ten years and moved back to Fluvanna County in 1967 "so they could be raised in the country" according to Walter’s Mother, Helen, who is here today with two of his brothers and a sister.  Walter was one of five boys and two girls.  He graduated from Fluvanna High School in 1968.  His mother says she remembers him as a very quiet young man.

Walter was drafted into the United States Marine Corps in 1968 and was trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C. and at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C.  He arrived in Vietnam 14 October 1969 and died from small arms fire on 9 July 1970 in Quang Nam province, near Da Nang.  His mother remembers a letter that he sent her when he had only nine days left in country, in which he said he had befriended two young Vietnamese orphans that he wanted to bring home with him.

Walter was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” Device for Valor, the Purple Heart Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.  He is buried in the Cloverdale Baptist Church Cemetery in Bremo Bluff, Fluvanna County.

Rest in peace LCpl Ross and thank you for you service to our Country and to our Corps.

 

The Fourth Marine is Second Lieutenant Carl Reed Gibson, an 0801 artillery Forward Observer with the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division,  III Marine Amphibious Force.  (Is anyone here representing him or his family?)

Carl was born 31 May 1945 in Washington D.C., the son of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Carl Gibson.  Dr. Gibson was Director of Instruction in the Albemarle County School System in the late 50’s and early 60’s and was head of the Department of Education at George Mason College in Fairfax at the time of his son’s death.

Carl graduated from Radford High School in 1963 and entered the University of Virginia where he was a member of the soccer team, circulation manager of the Cavalier Daily newspaper, and on the Dean’s List academically.  He was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, majored in Foreign Affairs, and attended UVa on a Navy ROTC Scholarship.  When he graduated in 1967 he was commander of the Navy ROTC Drill Team and the Drum and Bugle Corps,  which he was credited with organizing and training according to Major M. E. Morris, the 1967 Marine Officer Instructor at UVa.  Gibson was rated the top man in the battalion in ability and performance, and at his commissioning ceremony on 3 June 1967 he was presented a special leadership award –a Marine Officer’s Sword- in “recognition of his demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities and his many contributions which helped foster esprit de corps in the midshipman battalion.”  After graduation 2Lt Gibson was sent to The Basic School at Quantico, Va and later to Artillery Officers School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Carl married Sallie Anne Guerrant of Falcon Drive, Charlottesville on March 12 1967.  She was a second year student at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton.  Carl’s friend and fellow Marine Option ROTC Cadet, Bill Ager of Ashland, Va,  remembers Carl as a “very sharp student, popular, and squared away-a great asset to the greater UVa community.”  He recalls Carl had a British Racing Green MGB-GT!  Bill also remembered that UVa only graduated three Marine Option Cadets in 1967 - Carl, Bill and David Eckenrode, who also was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.

Carl arrived in Vietnam on 18 April 1968 and was assigned as an FO (Forward Observer) with the 12th Marines in support of BLT (Battalion Landing Team) 2/4.  "The Battle of Dai Do was known as Tet II and involved three Regiments/major elements of the 320th NVA Division which was trying to overrun the major supply bases at Dong Ha and Quang Tri.  Success would have undermined the entire DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) defenses" according to the Commanding Officer of BLT 2/4,  then Lt. Col William Weise.  "Second Lieutenent Gibson participated and died in the Battle of Dai Do as an artillery FO providing much needed artillery fire support for the Marine infantrymen."  Carl is buried in the UVa Confederate Cemetery on Grounds at UVa in Charlottesville (at Alderman and McCormick).

Rest in peace Second Lieutenant Gibson and thank you for your service to our Country and to our Corps.


April 27, 2014 Presentation

all four soldiers 2014 (1)

 

49th REDEDICATION OF THE DOGWOOD VIETNAM

MEMORIAL 

Charlottesville/Albemarle Virginia

COLONEL JAMES T OKELLEY JR

4/24/2014


Sergeant Allen Edward Firth, USMC, was a 0311 rifleman and platoon sergeant with the second platoon of H company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force in Quang Tri province, Vietnam.

Allen was born 16 December 1941 in Brooklyn, NY.  His father worked for Sperry Marine and was transferred to Charlottesville in 1957.  The family lived in Hessian Hills and Allen graduated from Albemarle High School in 1959.  During his high school years Allen was active in scouting and music.

After graduation from Albemarle High School  Allen’s family moved to Greene county and Allen attended the University of Virginia  while also working for Stromberg-Carlson.  On 23 November 1963, the day after president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Allen chose to leave UVA and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

Allen completed boot camp at Parris Island, SC and Advanced Infantry Training at Camp Lejeune, NC in 1964.  He was then sent to sea service school in Portsmouth, VA and upon graduation assigned to the USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), the oldest aircraft carrier in the fleet at that time.  Private First Class Firth served on the Lake Champlain from July 1964 until April 1966. Upon returning to Camp Lejeune now Corporal Firth was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic.  He was promoted to Sergeant (squad leader) and subsequently sent to the Marine Corps Cold Weather Training Center in Bridgeport, California.  Upon graduation he was then sent to a NATO cold weather exercise in Norway where he spent most of his time on snow skis patrolling near the Norwegian fjords.

He returned from Norway and was ordered to the hot and steamy jungles of Vietnam!

He arrived in Vietnam on 22 July 1967 and was assigned to the second platoon, H company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.  He was further assigned as the platoon sergeant of a fifty one man Combined Action Platoon (CAP).  These Marines were part of the Marine Corp’s community action program and they lived with, ate with, slept with and sometimes died with the villagers they were assigned to protect.  Sergeant Firth devoted his time to the physical welfare and morale of his platoon and working with the Vietnamese people –especially the children—who were struggling to protect their families and property from the Viet Cong communist guerillas and the North Vietnamese regular army invaders.  In his letters home he asked his sister Susan, who is here with us today, to set up some female pen pals for his Marines who did not get letters from home.  He also asked his family and former employer to send school supplies that the Vietnamese children could use—both Stromberg Carlson and Sperry Marine helped.

On 18 October 1967 a scheduled combat patrol supporting Operation Medina was short one Marine.  Sergeant Firth volunteered to go.  The patrol was ambushed and the squad Sergeant Firth was with was cut off from the main body of the patrol.  Sergeant Firth was killed while carrying a wounded Marine to safety.

The H Company commander,  Captain  T. V. Barrett,  in a letter to Allen’s parents said “ Allen’s quiet manner, eagerness to help, and devotion to duty won him the respect of all who knew him…your son is keenly missed…and we all have suffered a great loss.”

Sergeant Firth was awarded the Purple Heart medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnamese Service Medal, the Vietnamese Unit Gallantry Cross, the Vietnam Civil Action Unit Citation, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Sergeant Allen Edward Firth was the only KIA casualty from Greene County during the Vietnam war.  His name is enshrined on the Vietnam War Memorial in front of the Greene County courthouse in Stanardsville.  The Greene County Museum named a tower in honor of Sergeant Firth.  And now Sergeant Allen Edward Firth will be the twenty-fourth name added to the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial here in Charlottesville.

Rest in peace Sergeant Firth and thank you for you service and sacrifice for our country and the United States Marine Corps.


April 24, 2015 Presentation



50th REDEDICATION OF THE DOGWOOD VIETNAM

MEMORIAL 

Charlottesville/Albemarle Virginia

COLONEL JAMES T OKELLEY JR

4/24/2015


                          SPECIALIST FOUR CHAMP JACKSON LAWSON, JR 

 

CHAMP JACKSON LAWSON, JR WAS BORN 7 JUNE 1947 IN MARTHA JEFFERSON HOSPITAL IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA.  HE WAS ONE OF TWO CHILDREN BORN TO CHAMP AND BETTY LAWSON OF EARLYSVILLE, VIRGINIA.  HIS OLDER SISTER PEGGY AND HER HUSBAND BILL WHARAM HAVE GRACIOUSLY SHARED THEIR FAMILY MEMENTOS AND MEMORIES REGARDING CJ.

THE LAWSONS LIVE ON REAS FORD ROAD AND CJ ATTENDED BROADUS WOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND ALBEMARLE HIGH SCHOOL. HE GREW UP WORKING IN HIS PARENTS HILLTOP GROCERY STORE ON HYDRAULIC ROAD IN CHARLOTTESVILLE. THE FAMILY ATTENDED CHESNUT GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH.

CJ WAS AN OUTDOORSMAN WHO ENJOYED HUNTING AND HORSEBACK RIDING.  HIS FAMILY SAYS HE WAS HAPPIEST WHEN HE PACKED A LUNCH IN HIS SADDLEBAG, GOT ON HIS HORSE KATE, AND RODE ALL DAY THROUGH THE HILLS, VALLEYS AND DEEP WOODS OF EARLYSVILLE WITH HIS FRIENDS AND HIS DOG TEX.  HE WAS ALSO FASCINATED BY NATIVE AMERICANS AND BY JOHNNY APPLESEED BOOKS.  AS YOU CAN SEE FROM HIS PICTURE HE HAD A GREAT SMILE AND A GREAT LOVE FOR HIS LIFE, HIS FAMILY AND HIS FRIENDS.

CJ LEFT ALBEMARLE HIGH SCHOOL AFTER HIS JUNIOR YEAR.  HE JOINED THE ARMY ON 8 JUNE 1964 ONE DAY AFTER HIS 17TH BIRTHDAY.  HIS MOTHER BETTY SAID “HE WAS JUST BECOMING A MAN AND WAS ANXIOUS TO LEARN NEW SKILLS AND GET ON WITH HIS LIFE.”

CJ WAS ORDERED TO FORT GORDON, GA FOR BASIC TRAINING.  HE WAS THEN ASSIGNED TO FORT RUCKER, AL WHERE HE WAS TRAINED AS A HELICOPTER MECHANIC AND CREW MEMBER IN THE ARMY AVIATION SERVICE.  HE DID WELL IN HIS COURSEWORK AND ENJOYED FLYING IN HELICOPTERS.

ON 1 JANUARY 1965 CJ MARRIED JANE CRITZER OF CROZET, VA. THEY LIVED TOGETHER WHILE HE WAS STATIONED IN ALABAMA.  THE HAPPY COUPLE WERE EXPECTING THEIR FIRST CHILD WHEN CJ RECEIVED ORDERS TO SOUTH VIETNAM ON 15 JULY 1965. 

AFTER TAKING A TRAIN FROM FORT RUCKER TO MAYPORT, FL, CJ AND HIS UNIT EMBARKED ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS BOXER AND SPENT 28 DAYS AT SEA.  ALL THEIR HELICOPTERS WERE ABOARD AND THEY WERE ASSIGNED TO “TIGHT QUARTERS.”  THEY SAILED ACROSS THE ATLANTIC AND THROUGH THE MEDITERRANEAN AND THE SUEZ CANAL ARRIVING OFF THE COAST OF SOUTH VIETNAM ON 15 AUGUST 1965.

UPON DEBARKATION ON 18 AUGUST 1965 CJ AND HIS UNIT WERE ASSIGNED TO A COMPANY, 4TH AVIATION BATTALION, OF THE FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION AT AN KHE IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.  HE WAS FURTHER ASSIGNED TO BE AN AIRCREW MEMBER ON A UH-1E HUEY WHICH WAS THE WORKHORSE OF THE FIRST CAV. CJ WORKED AS A DOOR GUNNER AND CREW CHIEF ON OVER 200 COMBAT MISSIONS.  HE WROTE THAT HE LOVED FLYING IN THAT AREA BECAUSE THE MOUNTAINS REMINDED HIM OF HIS HOME IN VIRGINIA.  AND WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU EXPECT TO FIND A KID WHO LOVED TO RIDE HORSES TO END UP BUT IN THE US CAVALRY!

ON 4 NOVEMBER 1965 DURING OPERATION LONG REACH NEAR AN KHE THE HUEY ON WHICH CJ WAS A CREWMAN WAS INVOLVED IN A MIDAIR COLLISION WITH ANOTHER HUEY.  ONE CHOPPER WAS LIFTING OFF AFTER REFUELING AND THE OTHER WAS COMING IN TO REFUEL.  THEY COLLIDED AND THERE WAS A LOUD EXPLOSION AND A LARGE BALL OF FIRE ACCORDING TO CJ’S FRIEND,  SPEC-4 KEN TAYLOR WHO HAS VISITED THE FAMILY OFTEN.  SIX MEN WERE KILLED IN THAT TRAGIC ACCIDENT INCLUDING SPEC-4 CJ LAWSON. KEN ALSO WROTE THE FOLLOWING POEM FOR CJ:


                                               THE MASTER PLAN

            WE ARE JUST MORTAL MAN, IT’S HARD FOR US TO UNDERSTAND.

            LOSING A FRIEND IN A FARAWAY LAND, WAS NEVER IN OUR PLAN.

            SO, TILL WE MEET AGAIN, WE MUST TRY TO UNDERSTAND,

           GOD ALONE IS IN COMMAND, AND ONLY HE CAN UNDERSTAND.

            I KNOW WHEN YOU GOT THERE, HE SHOOK YOUR HAND, AND SAID,

            “WELCOME HOME CHAMP, THIS, WAS IN MY PLAN,

            FOR YOU SEE, I HOLD THE MASTER PLAN.


SPECIALIST FOUR CJ LAWSON JR’S BODY WAS RECOVERED AND RETURNED HOME.  HE WAS THE FIRST SERVICEMAN KILLED IN SOUTH VIETNAM FROM THE CHARLOTTESVILLE AREA.  HIS FUNERAL SERVICE WAS HELD AT THE CHESNUT GROVE BAPTIST CHURCH ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON 13 NOVEMBER 1965.  LEADING THE MOURNERS WAS HIS EXPECTANT WIFE JANE. FOUR MONTHS LATER SHE GAVE BIRTH TO CHAMP JACKSON LAWSON III.  HE GREW UP IN CROZET AND NOW LIVES IN EARLYSVILLE AND HE HAS TWO SONS AND TWO GRANDCHILDREN.

SPEC-4 LAWSON WAS AWARDED THE AIR MEDAL, THE VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL, THE VIETNAM CAMPAIGN MEDAL AND THE NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL.  HE IS LISTED ON THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, DC AT PANEL 3E LINE 18 AND HERE AT THE OLDEST VIETNAM MEMORIAL IN THE USA.  HE IS BURIED IN HOLLY MEMORIAL GARDENS IN ALBEMARLE COUNTY VA.

REST IN PEACE SPECIALIST FOUR CHAMP JACKSON LAWSON JR AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE TO YOUR COMMUNITY AND YOUR COUNTRY.



                                      SPECIALIST FOUR RICHARD THOMAS CARTER

 

RICHARD THOMAS CARTER WAS BORN 10 DECEMBER 1945 AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA HOSPITAL IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA.  HE WAS THE ONLY CHILD AND SON OF FENDOL AND BEULAH CARTER.

THE CARTERS LIVED ON RUGBY AVENUE AND RICHARD ATTENDED VENABLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, PLAYED LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL, AND COMPETED IN THE CITY TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENTS. 

HE AND HIS FAMILY WERE ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH ON PARK STREET WHERE RICHARD SANG IN THE BOY’S CHOIR.  RICHARD WAS BAPTIZED WHEN HE WAS 12 YEARS OLD AND SERVED AS A JUNIOR DEACON. 

RICHARD ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL AS A BOARDER AT SAINT CHRISTOPHER’S SCHOOL IN RICHMOND FROM SEPTEMBER 1959 THROUGH GRADUATION IN JUNE 1964.  HE WAS AN EXCELLENT STUDENT AS EVIDENCED BY THE FACT THAT HE WAS A NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM SEMI FINALIST.  HE ALSO MANAGED SAINT CHRISTOPHER’S BASKETBALL TEAM.

HE ENROLLED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA AS AN ECHOL’S SCHOLAR IN SEPTEMBER 1964.  AT THE END OF HIS FIRST YEAR HE WAS AWARDED INTERMEDIATE HONORS.  HE GRADUATED WITH DISTINCTION, PHI BETA KAPPA, EARNING A BA DEGREE IN HISTORY.  HE ALSO EARNED A VARSITY LETTER FOR HIS SERVICE AS CO-MANAGER OF THE CAVALIER’S FOOTBALL TEAM.

RICHARD’S GOAL WAS TO BECOME A HISTORY PROFESSOR AND FOLLOWING A SUMMER WORKING AT A LOCAL BANK HE WAS ACCEPTED IN THE GRADUATE HISTORY PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL.  BEFORE HE COULD BEGIN HIS GRADUATE STUDIES HE RECEIVED HIS DRAFT NOTICE.  LIKE HIS FATHER FENDOL WHO SERVED IN THE ARMY AIR CORPS IN WORLD WAR II RICHARD REPORTED FOR BASIC TRAINING AT FORT BRAGG, NC THEN ON TO ADVANCED TRAINING AT FORT POLK LA THEN TO SPECIALIST TRAINING AT FORT BENNING, GA.  HIS MILITARY OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALITY (MOS) BECAME A 17K20 GROUND SURVEILLANCE RADAR CREWMAN.

IN JULY 1969 RICHARD WAS SENT TO SOUTH VIETNAM AND ASSIGNED TO THE 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION TO OPERATE THE GROUND SURVEILLANCE RADAR FOR THE 4TH BATTALION OF THE 9TH INFANTRY REGIMENT.  HE WAS AN OUTSTANDING SOLDIER AND IMMEDIATELY STARTED RECEIVING MANY AWARDS AND DECORATIONS SUCH AS “SOLDIER OF THE MONTH” IN DECEMBER 1969 AND BEING PROMOTED QUICKLY TO SPECIALIST FOUR IN 18 MONTHS. HE ALSO EARNED THE COVETED COMBAT INFANTRYMAN’S BADGE.

AS WITH MANY OF THE YOUNG AMERICAN SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN WITH THE VISION AND INTELLIGENCE TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THEIR DESTINY RICHARD WROTE HIS PARENTS OFTEN THAT “WE ARE HERE TO HELP THESE PEOPLE.”  IN HIS HEART, MIND AND SOUL HE FELT THAT HE WAS PROTECTING AND AIDING THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH VIETNAM IN THEIR FIGHT AGAINST COMMUNIST AGGRESSION FROM THE NORTH.

ON 23 JANUARY 1970 AT ABOUT 1015 PM WHILE OPERATING A GROUND SURVEILLANCE RADAR FROM THE TOP OF A BUNKER ON THE CAMP PERIMETER AT BEN CAU IN TAY NINH PROVINCE RIGHARD’S COMPANY COMPOUND CAME UNDER A HEAVY MORTAR ATTACK. RICHARD SUSTAINED A SEVERE FRAGMENTATION WOUND TO HIS HEAD FROM A PIECE OF SHRAPNEL AND DIED INSTANTLY.

SPECIALIST FOUR CARTER WAS AWARDED NINE MEDALS INCLUDING THE BRONZE STAR MEDAL, THE PURPLE HEART MEDAL, THE ARMY COMMENDATION MEDAL, THE GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL, THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH VIETNAM MILITARY MERIT MEDAL, THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM GALLANTRY CROSS WITH PALM, THE NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL, THE VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL WITH ONE BRONZE STAR, AND THE VIETNAM CAMPAIGN MEDAL.  HE ALSO EARNED THE RIFLE EXPERT SHOOTING BADGE AND THE MARKSMAN BADGE WITH THE AUTOMATIC RIFLE AS WELL AS THE COMBAT INFANTRYMAN’S BADGE.

SPECIALIST FOUR CARTER IS LISTED ON THE VIETNAM VETERAN’S MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, DC AT PANEL W14 LINE 059 AND HERE AT THE OLDEST VIETNAM MEMORIAL IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—RICHARD’S HOMETOWN.  HE IS BURIED IN THE MONTICELLO MEMORIAL PARK ACROSS FROM MICHIE TAVERN.

MOST ASSUREDLY RICHARD WOULD AGREE WITH THE ANONYMOUS POET WHO WROTE

 

                                             FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FOUGHT FOR IT

                                                                   FREEDOM

                                              HAS A SWEETNESS THE PROTECTED

                                                           WILL NEVER KNOW  

 

REST IN PEACE SPECIALIST FOUR RICHARD THOMAS CARTER AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE TO YOUR COUNTRY AND TO YOUR COMMUNITY.                                                                           


I would like to conclude these rededication’s by sharing with you a short poem that was found on a sentry box on Gibraltar after World War I (1919):

 

GOD AND THE SOLDIER ALL MEN ADORE

IN TIMES OF TROUBLE AND THEN NO MORE

FOR WHEN THE WAR IS OVER AND ALL THINGS ARE RIGHTED

GOD IS FORGOTTEN AND THE OLD SOLDIER SLIGHTED.

 

Let us make sure that never happens to these young men.

THANK YOU

 

God Bless these 24 young men and their families

God Bless the United States of America

God Bless the United States Marine Corps.

 

SEMPER FIDELIS


AND ALL THE PRINCESSES SAID……OOHRAH!!

  

ETERNAL PEACE LASTS UNTIL THE NEXT WAR

(Russian Proverb)


Once A Marine, Always A Marine