Richard B. Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass is there. So is his son, Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III. One of three fathers and sons who were killed in the Vietnam war. Richard senior, was lost on June 8, 1956 and is believed to be the first casualty of the conflict. His son joined him nine years later on September 7, 1965. Two names. Two lives. Two faces.
It took a long time before we as a nation decided to honor those faces and make sure that their names would remain indelibly carved upon a stone as solid as their love of country. Enshrined along with their comrades who, like them, fought the unpopular war because it was what they believed they should do. Young, and not so young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom.
We have a tendency to forget and as additional generations mature, many never even know of these heroes that went before them. Time can be cruel. We live in today. Many would say they have enough to worry about in today’s environment without giving much or any thought to those who are now long since gone. So here, on the eve of another Memorial Day, I would like to post a few statistics that will hopefully bring some perspective to how great the loss to our nation was.
39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger
8,283 were just 19 years old.
The largest age group, 33,103 were only 18 years old.
Twelve soldiers were only 17, 5 were 16, and PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.997 soldiers ere killed on their first day in Vietnam.
The Wall contains the name of 31 sets of brothers
31 mothers and fathers lost two of their sons
54 soldiers all attended the same high school, Thomas Edison High in Philadelphia.
There are 8 women on the Wall, killed while nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for outstanding bravery above and beyond the call of duty. 153 are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of only 475 lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
Morenci Arizona, population 5,058, a small mining town, only had 9 young men in their high school graduating class of 1966. All 9 enlisted as a group in the Marine Corp. Only three returned home.
Three boyhood friends, LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, and Tom Gonzales grew up together in Midvale Utah, each separated by only one street. Best friends who all enlisted in the military and were sent to Vietnam. In the span of 16 days in 1967, all three were killed.
January 31, 1968 saw the most deaths in a single day. 245. The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968. 2415.
In total the Wall holds 58,267 names. No, make that faces. Faces that marched away, and never got to return. I hope you will take a few moments this Memorial Day to remember and say thanks to those that gave so much and received so little in return. Just names? I don’t think so.