Remembering those who paid the price for our freedom

A son and grandson find the name of a cherished relative on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Thompson).

PFC Larry Harris of Willis, a former classmate, died on Feb. 28, 1967, in Tay Ninh, Vietnam, the first Floyd County casualty of the war that claimed the lives of 58,220 U.S. service members.

Larry is buried at Topeco Church Cemetery in Floyd County and I plan to stop there for a moment of prayer and remembrance on this Memorial Day.

Sadly, Larry is not the only friend who died in that terrible war in the years that followed it.

I will pack my cameras into our Mini early this Memorial Day for a ride over to the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin to two reasons: One, to cover the annual Memorial Day Service that honors veterans there (including those from Floyd County), and to honor and remember Airman Adrian Cronauer, who came home from Vietnam, later served in the Pentagon office that worked to locate the remains of those who died but were never found.  He and his wife are interred in the cemetery in Dublin.

For a number of reasons — including my own health problems — I did not make the trek to Washington, DC, on this Memorial Day for the last Rolling Thunder Ride to the Wall to honor and remember those who died in Vietnam and other wars and honor those still missing in action.

I took the first Rolling Thunder ride in 1988 and many others over the years.  I’ve memorized the locations of names of those I knew — names like Petty Officer and Chief Gunners’ Mate Don Robertson, a Roanoker and friend, who died in Kien Tuong province on March 26, 1969.

Sometime between this Memorial Day and Veterans Day in November, I will ride up to Washington to visit the Wall (The Vietnam Veterans Memorial) on the National Mall remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

I’ll honor Navy Boatswain Mate Ken Hatcher, who died in Long Khanh province on April 19, 1971, or Engineman Dallas Cummings, who died in Thua Thien province on Feb. 18, 1968, or EO3 Dennis Allen, who went down in Quang Nam province on July 10, 1968.

Too many people, too many friends, too many teammates, too little time to give them the honor and recognition they deserve on this Memorial Day on May 27, 2019.

Let’s please take a moment to remember all of those who wore the uniform, served their country and paid the ultimate price.

Without them, we might not be here today to celebrate something called Memorial Day.

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