Last year I visited The Wall in Washington, DC. I go every year to visit old friends and lost shipmates. This is my usual Memorial Day post, in which I recognize that the day is to honor those who gave everything for our country, not to buy new furniture or celebrate spring. The sales are flying thick and fast, the misunderstanding of what Memorial Day really is runs rampant. So many people treat this day like Veterans Day, and that’s not quite right. Yes, I appreciate the well wishes for having served, but the right day for formal observance is November 11, not today.
Anyway, raving about some misunderstandings and crass commercialism isn’t what this day is about either. It’s about remembering and saying thank you to our lost comrades and their families.
My personal remembrance commemorates five individuals I knew who gave everything for the United States:
Corporal Irwin J. Harder, U. S. Army, Vietnam
Lt. Joseph G. Greenleaf, VF-114, Vietnam
Lt. Clemie McKinney, VF-114, Vietnam
LCDR. Orland J. Pender, Jr., VF-114, Vietnam
Capt. John R. Pitzen, VF-114, Vietnam
Irwin was a high school friend and football teammate. He was sent to Vietnam in February and died in April. Short tour of duty.
Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Pender were aircrew members in my squadron. Captain Pitzen was named as our squadron Skipper just as I was leaving to come home.
Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. McKinney were shot down over North Vietnam, and reports were that they weren’t able to escape the aircraft. Other reports, however, indicate that Mr. McKinney was held as a POW and died in captivity.
Captain Pitzen and Mr. Pender were reported missing in action because they never called out “Feet Wet,” that is, clear of North Vietnam and returning to the ship. They were presumed down, but listed as Missing in Action (MIA). Their remains were identified in the late 1990s. I wore an MIA bracelet to remind me of them for years.
Here are some images I took last time I was at the wall: Click on the images to see them full size and in proper color.
The Soldiers looking for them are below.
More to follow.