Thirtieth Year
VietNam Wall Remembrance
June 10, 1995

USNA Class of 1963

From Jim Ring--For the ceremony, I decided that we should do a Class remembrance at the Vietnam Wall after a friend from West Point '69 told me that his class had done one there. The Class Foundation had Larry Marsh act as the MC and Larry provided the chairs, podium, the singers, and the man playing taps. The Foundation had a Classmate speak about each fallen Classmate. Mike Cronin spoke about Dan Moran, because they were in the same squadron. Mike also gave a talk about the Vietnam War and its impact on us and the fallen Classmates and their families.(See Below). CAPT Mike Strand '69 presented the LT bars that he had received from Ken Buell to Ken's son, LTJG Rick Buell. At the end of the ceremony, the Foundation had classmates led by VADM Bill Earner take the pictures of the fallen classmates to the location on the Wall for Carl Doughtie. We had someone videotape the entire ceremony and the tape showed something very interesting as we got to the Wall. A small flock of Canada geese flew over in what appears to be a Missing Man formation. I have copies of the tape.

There were many people involved in working on the ceremony. The Foundation chose the date of June 10, 1995, because it was the 30th anniversary of the VN death of our first classmate, Carl Doughtie. His parents came to the ceremony and they were very touched and pleased. As you know, the Foundation provided grants to the Children of our deceased classmates and Carl had none. Because of this, the Class had had no contact with his family. His parents said that they had thought the Class of 63 had forgotten them. They were happy to see that we had not. A few years later when Carl's remains were returned and was buried at Arlington, the Foundation authorized a grant to his nephew, Carl. I believe he is now receiving it or will receive it shortly.

Anyone with additional photos of the ceremony should send them to Webmaster Steve Coester for inclusion on this page.
Assembled Attendees

Dave Konold's Benediction

Larry Marsh presiding

Mike Cronin's address

CAPT Mike Strand '69 makes presentation to family of Ken Buell

Fallen Classmates

Concluding playing of taps

Mike Cronin's Keynote Address:

"We meet here on this beautiful June day to commemorate a great tragedy. I think it might be worthwhile to pause for a moment to ask: What is the real nature of this tragedy? Certainly it is not the physical fact of the death of our Classmates in Vietnam. For death is faced by all. Also, I suspect that their suffering was not great, for these, after all, were brave men. The brave suffer the least because even though they have fears, they do not live in fear. The real tragedy of death is the loss of life; here, the loss of promising young lives.

Now after all these years it may be easier to understand what they lost. Look around you. They lost what we have had all these years. They lost the chance to have families, careers, dreams, hopes, victories, failures, disappointments, lost loves. Yes, even the chance to suffer, for this too is a part of life.

We have suffered a loss as well, the families of these men especially, but all of us. We lost the chance to know these men fully. They are frozen in time as young men with great expectations, We, as well as they, have been denied their life. All these loses are final, irrevocable, and uncompensable. The most simple and compelling aspect of all this tragedy is that we have had life all these years, and yet have hopes and dreams for the future. They have none of this; they cannot even share our sadness that they are lost.

We suffer these losses without any adequate explanation from those who led us. For our Classmates are also part of a sad chapter in American history. As we have always suspected and now know, there was no plan for victory. In fact, not much of a plan at all, just a policy. Perhaps worst of all, the actions of the American leadership revealed a lack of conviction to the enemy. They were thus inspired to endure and outlast the United States of America. The bitter pill of error has not yet been swallowed by those who had the power to prosecute the war successfully and yet failed to do so. For that matter, those who naively accepted the protestations of the communists that they embodied the democratic will of the Vietnamese have been silent as well. They have yet to acknowledge that they supported a government guilty of massive human rights abuses evidenced by an enormous exodus of refugees.

What does all this mean to us now? First, I think we must not let the confusion and debate over failed policies in Vietnam besmirch our memory of these fine men. They were brave, loyal, and prepared to serve, even if the ultimate price was to be paid. We must not let them he distant and plastic heroes, for they were real human beings. Those I knew best -- J.B. Worcester, Dan Moran, and Carl Doughtie -- were all very fine humans, but human none the less.

Carl Doughtie's loss is especially meaningful to me. I flew on the mission on which he was killed. I was brand new in my squadron. We were supposed to take the guns defending the target. We made repeated runs on those emplacements. At the end, not much was coming up. It was the first occasion on which I was fairly certain that I had killed others in battle. But we didn't get all the guns. Carl was killed a few moments later.

None of these men planned to die for this abstract cause as selfless, idealistic heroes might do. Rather, they did what they saw as their duty with full knowledge of the risks and in spite of their love of life and personal hopes and dreams of the future. They were afflicted by the same human fears and apprehensions as all of us are. And yet they repeatedly exposed themselves to great danger, as they saw this as their duty in service to their country. It is this willingness to do their duty in spite of their human frailties that makes them heroes. Indeed, we remember these men mostly in a human context as our friends and Classmates more than we do as midshipmen and officers. This is so even though they did their duty as naval officers as well as any have before or since in the history of our Republic. They and the battles they fought will not be memorialized in Victory at Sea and have largely been forgotten but, you and I, we know the truth. None have fought more bravely than they did for the Republic.

There was no shortage of such men in Vietnam; the shortcomings were to be found elsewhere. We must not let this happen again without doing all we can to prevent it. The cost of opposing bad policy, even to the ruin of a career, is slight compared to the cost these men have borne.

We are here to memorialize tragic events, but we are not here to wallow in sadness. If I may presume to speak for our departed Classmates, I think they would not like that. They were good, open-hearted men who would wish us to live well. They would want to be remembered with a smile and a toast rather than with a tear. I believe they would counsel us to live every day to the fullest, to drink deeply of the great and small pleasures of life. And to face life's struggles with joy founded on the knowledge that we are fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in the struggles of life.

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