Memorial Day

A letter my dad wrote to a sibling of a fallen soldier, Maurice.

Thanks for being so understanding when I called. My intent was not to bring up past tragedies but to let you know that there is someone else that shares your great loss. That night has haunted me for the past 22 years. It was a turning point for me (for the worst). I had seen many men die & many wounded. But that night brought it all home to me. I remember the next day when the three were loaded on the chopper I was unable to help; all I could do is stand there and watch. I remember it so clearly. My thoughts at the time were, Is this it? Is this all there is? They won’t even let me grieve. Maybe that’s why I called; I was denied the relief of grieving. And they were denied life & you were denied joy.

Once they were put on the chopper the next word I heard was saddle up (which meant we are moving out on patrol). No time was given to them or those of us that loved them. I had talked to [another soldier] it was his first night in the field. He had relieved Maurice a few minutes before the attack. Maurice had stayed up with [that soldier] in the foxhole awhile to make sure he was awake & to reassure him. The other two that were killed that night were Henry Thomas and James Rivera.

In closing, I want to say once again you had a wonderful brother and was a great asset to my squad. We talked a lot. But I’m afraid that time has removed those [conversations] from my memory, but not Maurice, Henry, or James.

With all my love

The three members of my dad’s squad were KIA on 9 Mar 1968 in Quang Tri, South Vietnam during an ambush. Clicking on their names will take you to their individual pages on The Wall of Faces, part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. “The virtual Wall of Faces features a page dedicated to honoring and remembering every person whose name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.”

Maurice Alan Cooper

James Rivera

Henry Earl Thomas