Memorial Day 2020 Memories by Wags and McClosky.

As a platoon leader and Company Commander with the 173 Airborne Brigade from 1969 through 1970 there are too many soldiers in my command that I remember tomorrow and too many that I don’t. As the leader regardless of grade, when you are in combat people expect you to KEEP IT TOGETHER, or else look that way. In the dense triple canopy jungles of II Corps contact and combat was most often made at ranges closer than the size of a decent living room. You smelled or heard them before you saw them. Soldiers of both sides would appear and disappear in seconds in the dense foliage. If you were calling the shots it required all your attention. That is why when someone was wounded often my radio operator would make the call for a medivac, direct a LZ to be made or found in a safe area, and hand off the coordination of the evacuation of those who zigged when they should have zagged to the leader of the unit who requested the evacuation.  As the leader you were remotely aware of the chopper landing and perhaps you could divert your attention and see its departure from behind you. You hoped it would be the only one for the day.
Whenever the mayhem ended and you had secured your location you got a face to face report of the events of the day from that leader. Our unit was in continuous rotation, that is to say when a troop got short he left and the new guy arrived. No one served with me for the entire year I soldiered in Nam. In a platoon of 25-30 you might rotate 2-3 soldiers a week for stateside, illness, or wounds. In a company of 100 it is a revolving door. Although I met every soldier assigned to my unit sadly there were times when I would look the squad leader in the eye and ask, was that the kid from Texas or liked to surf ?? Finding out from your First Sargent that they had been sent to Japan for medical care left no closure. I never knew if that soldier came home in a plane seat or coffin.
I did a keynote speech at the mobile wall in SW PA years ago and my opening statement was “Of all the monuments in Washington DC I DISLIKED the Vietnam Monument most most”. As the audience looked at me in stunned silence I told them when I was there I would run my fingers over the names of the soldiers I knew and know that there were names of those from my unit that I did not, that they were a shadow of someone whom I sent into battle after finding out where he came from and what he liked doing the most before telling him to “stick close to your Sargent, he will keep you out of trouble”. That when I left the wall it was with a profound sadness for all those lost, that tears still come to this day. If they aren’t on the wall I wonder where they are ??
If I didn’t pay proper respect then I will tomorrow, when I salute that field of marble , bronze, and flags…..…again.
Robert “Wags” Wagner  LTC (RET) U S Army
Here are some more thoughts about Memorial Day from Pat.


One of my most memorable family trips was when we ventured on a bus tour to Washington, DC. Rob and Denise Dunbar, our friends, organized the trip and one of the highlights was a tour of the White House. Rob’s grandfather was a U.S Congressman and Rob and Denise knew the ropes to getting our security clearance and a tour of a truly magnificent historical residence. 

Everyone needs to do this trip several times because there are so many historically significant monuments to see as well as the varied museums and galleries. Our nation’s capitol is remarkable any time of the year and I can’t wait to go back someday. But the memory that sticks out to me, even to this day, was when we were immersed in the solemnity at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

The silence of the crowd was definitely noticeable as we watched the guard meticulously march in front of the tomb in the prescribed cadence and number of steps. This ceremony goes on at all times in all weather – night and day. It is a true honor to be chosen as one of the guards in this prestigious ceremony and we were all placed in a somber, reverent mood when we made our way through Arlington National Cemetery. Standing in that silent, and tranquil setting, my eyes gazed upon the rows and rows of the graves of the fallen soldiers who had been buried there. As far as the eye could see, the perfectly aligned sites,adorned with the white monuments bearing the statistics of the fallen, made me stop rigid in my tracks- taking in the enormity of the moment. I am a history buff, as you know from former posts, and I took some time to reflect on all of the wars, the sacrifices, the honored dead that were privileged enough to be laid to rest there. You could not help but think about the service that our men and women in uniform afford us, protecting our freedom every day, in the most demanding of situations world wide. I thought about my Uncle Jack, a B-24 Bomber Pilot in World War II, who flew 52 missions over Italy in the Anzio Campaign. Coming back each night with hundreds of flak holes in his fuselage, only to be repaired and sent out the next day on yet another perilous mission. 

I always admire anyone who has served in the military. Their courage, dedication, and sacrifice, is most exemplary. As the song goes, ” Some gave all, all gave some.” On the bus ride back , I sat in silence as my family slept and thought about how close I was to serving. I had a #11 draft number in college and had the Vietnam war continued on one more year, I would have been plucked from my comfortable early post office lounge in my dorm room and splatted down in some rice paddy in South Vietnam battling the North Vietnamese. I am friends with many who went and served and I respect them so wholeheartedly. What a rugged and unforgiving experience they had. Some made it back and some did not. I pray for their families and for all the families of the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. They should never be forgotten and if you ever stand in the center of Arlington, the moment and experience will be forever etched in your memory.

So, as we embark on the holiday weekend, with our picnics, our mountain bike rides, hikes, horseback rides or rounds of golf, let’s all take a moment and remember those silent warriors who are buried in Arlington and in other sites around the world. Memorial Day is the official start to summer for sure, but it should never be lost on any of us, what the true meaning of that day is to our country. God bless and protect our service men and women and thanks for reading.


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