Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

Up Not Forgetting Department Memorial Day Memorial Video 2005

"Not Forgetting Department"

On this Memorial Day weekend, and for what it is worth in the "Not Forgetting Department": While I was a USAF Combat Comm Team Commander in the mid 60's, one of our many missions was to install a mobile TACAN on mountain top somewhat north of Dong Ha. There was an infantry unit operating in the area, and the commander thoughtfully offered to attach a squad of his guys to my team to help us with defense of our site, which I of course accepted.


One of the guys was Matthew, who had been drafted, and was from So. Calif. not far from where I grew up.  We took minor harassment most every night, but on one night, "the other guys" got really serious. We finally prevailed, but with a number of injuries, Matthew seriously. His squad leader and I began to carry him to a med evac point that had been set up about a km away. On the way, Matthew said, "Lieutenant, please don't forget me." I assumed he was concerned in case we had to put him down that we'd come back for him, and I assured him we'd get him to the evac and that there was no way I'd ever forget him. We got there, they treated us, but Matthew had died.


It was early morning of the second day of his 19th year. Matthew wasn't the first troop or comrade I had lost, and he wasn't the last, but he was the first that asked to be remembered just before he died.  When I finally returned to the CONUS, I faced a problem. Every time I went back and revisited my experiences, I triggered a rash of violent dreams, but I had promised I wouldn't forget. Andrea finally said, "How about a flag."  I put up a flag pole and got a flag from my Senator. I made a list with Matthew on top, and each of the guys I knew who had died, beneath him.


Each day, I would put up the flag for the next guy on the list, and I still do. Over the years, I've added the friends, their kids, and now grandkids who were or are serving in combat zones. In times when we are at war, Andrea and I usually have a couple of pen pals to whom we send packages (We have two right now from They too get their flag day, and the next day I put it up for their whole unit. It gives me a non-threatening moment each day to remember each of them, and if it's a troop I actually knew, I can connect a face with the name on the list.


While I was still employed, I got the boss to install a flag pole for us, and my veteran colleagues and I (and some non-vets too) began doing the same thing at work.  I still have occasional violent dreams, and I've just learned to live with them. They started out as video/audio replays of real events, but over time, they're now usually pieces and parts from different events strung together differently each time into things that are real but never actually happened. That is, except for one. Matthew has remained a verbatim replay for me to this day. I'm glad.


As I said, FWIW, that's how I remember. I can't imagine how many different ways guys have figured out to remember ... whatever works. I really don't think any of us want to ever forget.


Keep the faith,

Fred Jensen K6DGW/AI8AB