|Trey Prather: His LSU football bio photo; his and his parents' gravesite|
We remember Terry Cross. That will mean something to his friends from Oakdale, La., and Louisiana Tech University.
We remember Gene Youngblood. That will mean something to his friends from Fair Park High School in Shreveport, and all the friends he made afterward.
We -- those of us from Woodlawn High School -- remember Glenn Ogburn, Edward Cox and Harold O'Neal ... and, of course, Henry Lee Prather III. Trey.
All were military servicemen who died in action in the Vietnam War.
Obviously, Memorial Day encompasses much more than those killed in Vietnam. It covers all those who died in the service of our country while in the military. As several Facebook friends have pointed out, this is not a day to honor all servicemen; that's Veterans' Day (Nov. 11).
All wars are horrible, and we all suffer. And we can debate the merits, or non-merits, of U.S. involvement, which is what happened on my Facebook page this past weekend -- and I didn't ask for that.
Every war stirs our passions. We know looking back that it was crucial for the Americans to help save the world in World Wars I and II. We're not so sure about the Iraq and Afghanistan involvements; those are being questioned, second-guessed even today.
For people of my generation, Vietnam -- and those who died there -- is the one with which we most identify. And it remains a contentious topic even now.
We know that the American government -- led by the big man from Texas with the big personality and the big ears -- and the military leaders misled us, misguided our troops, and we question all those wasted lives, those young men with all their promise gone.
More on this below. Here's what doesn't change: The permanence of those names on the Vietnam Wall; our memories of those young men; our grieving for them. I think of them most of all on Memorial Day.
I have posted blog pieces over the past 3 1/2 years on Trey Prather and the other Woodlawn kids. Here are the links:
Now about two other young men ...
|USMC 2nd Lt. Terry Cross|
To be honest, he wasn't one of our front-line runners. He was just on the team. But he was an outstanding student. I remember him, in 1967, as a dormitory monitor on the floors where the athletes roomed -- a quiet guy, nice guy, seemingly always reading, always studying.
He was at Tech an extra year working on a master's degree in mechanical engineering. He graduated in December 1967.
I did not realize, or had forgotten, that he was in the ROTC program at Tech. So when he graduated, he joined the Marines, and quickly was a Second Lieutenant ... and was off to Vietnam.
Four months after graduation -- April 8, 1968 -- he was killed in action. He was 24. Here is the link to his page on the Vietnam Virtual Wall: http://www.virtualwall.org/dc/CrossHT01a.htm.
I was a junior at Tech; I do remember getting the word that he had died. He was the second person (and athlete) killed in Vietnam that I had written about; it made an impact because he died three months after Trey Prather.
I don't think Tech did much, or anything, to honor Terry. But two years ago, some of his former teammates, the Tech track and field program, and people from Oakdale put together a Terry Cross memorial service prior to the annual Jim Mize Invitational meet at Tech.
From a story in the Oakdale newspaper: His family was presented a service portrait painting of him and a copy was given to the Louisiana Tech Alumni Center. The Jim Mize Invitational's first running event, the 4x100 relay, was named the Terry Cross Memorial race.
Great touch. Long overdue.
|Army Sgt. Gene Youngblood|
But his younger brother, Tommy Youngblood, was a star athlete at Fair Park High, a Class AAA All-State defensive end the same year Trey Prather was the All-State quarterback. Like Trey, Tommy signed a football scholarship at LSU and he was Trey's teammate -- and a friend -- for two years.
After I wrote a couple of articles on Trey, Tommy -- who lives in Highland Park (Dallas suburb) -- contacted me and wanted to meet. He had known several Woodlawn kids, dated a few Woodlawn girls, and wanted to talk about Trey and LSU.
We've become friends, and Tommy told me that not only did Trey's leaving LSU and joining the Marines and his subsequent death hit him hard, his older brother died in Vietnam only a month after Trey.
"He was always an ROTC guy, a military-type guy," Tommy recalled. "Fair Park had a really good rifle-drill marching team."
When Gene got out of school, knowing he was about to be drafted, he enlisted in the Army and went to Officer Candidate School (OCS). But that didn't take, so he wound up in basic training in 1966, served at Fort Polk and Fort Benning, earned a sergeant rank, and went to Vietnam in 1967.
Charles Eugene Youngblood -- Gene to his family and friends -- was one of 10 men in his platoon killed in a Tet offensive battle in the province of Hua Nghia on Feb. 12, 1968. The cause of death listed: multiple fragmentation wounds. He was 23. A page link:
"He was a fun guy, an interesting guy, a good guy," Tommy remembers. "He knew people from everywhere -- Fair Park, Woodlawn, Marshall (Texas). He had girlfriends from everywhere."
On my Facebook home page, Sylvia Pesek of Haynesville, La. -- the hometown of Trey Prather's mother and maternal grandparents -- posted a few paragraphs from one of my previous blogs (this was from a story written 20 years ago by someone else).
Here is a portion of a remark made in response by a person whose name I am not going to publish here:
"Maybe we should forget their names and tear down their monuments and quit memorializing their acts of war, whether they be 'voluntary' or 'conscripted.' The whole idea has to end somewhere, and as long as we keep making heroes of the victims, it will never end."
There's more, but you get the idea. And there might be people who agree. But I don't, and others don't.
Tom Dixon's reply to this person (and I don't know Tom): "Memorializing the person who gave their life in military service is NOT memorializing the cause. Any man who dies or risks death to protect or save the life of his fellows (and here, I primarily mean his brothers in arms) is a true hero. The 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds who served with me in Nam didn't start, understand nor promulgate that (bleeping) war. They 'served' as best they knew how."
And here was Sylvia's reply: "You do not forget the names of friends or family. You do NOT. ... And they were ALL somebody's friends and family."
Yes, they were. Prather, Cox, Ogburn, O'Neal, Terry Cross, Gene Youngblood, thousands and thousands of others. They gave their service; they gave their lives.
Bless them all. Honor them all. We always remember.