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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Young Lives Lost - But Remembered Forever

War is a terrible thing, destructive, horrible, heartbreaking, and traumatic.  Almost from the time of the founding of North Lewisburg,  the town's sons and daughters have been called upon in times of war to serve and to sacrifice.  The old Roll of Honor which is painted on the wall of one of the town's retail stores on Sycamore Street has stood as mute testimony to this fact.  The new, marble Veterans Memorial on East street likewise honors these patriots who have answered our nation's call.

I would here like to pay tribute to three young men who were called upon to serve during the Viet Nam War.  These three were drafted into service during the turbulent times of the 1960s, when the war was on every one's mind.  One was a resident from within the boundaries of the community.  The other two were not residents of North Lewisburg, but were part of the greater community - those who attended school, or who were our neighbors, or who were our friends.  One name appears on the town's memorials; the other names do not.  But, each paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom.  Each should long be remembered as patriots - young lives lost in the service of others.

Private First Class Walter L. Burroughs was born on March 13, 1947.  He attended schools in the North Lewisburg area before being called to service.  He became an infantryman, military occupational skill (MOS) 11B2P.  He was jump-certified, meaning he had completed the requirements to earn his paratrooper/airborne "wings."  He was assigned to Company B, First Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, in Viet Nam.  He started his tour of duty there on March 28, 1966.  He was hopeful, like so many others of his comrades, that he would complete his assignment without injury, and return home to his loved ones.  This was not to be, however.  On May 17, 1966, while on a mission in the Phuoc Tuy Province of South Viet Nam, he was killed by an enemy explosive device.  After the battle, his body was recovered and returned home to North Lewisburg for burial in Maple Grove Cemetery.  He was buried with full military honors, complete with firing squad to render the military salute.  The whole town turned out for his grave site services - Walter was the first Champaign County casualty of the war.  I was privileged to play the traditional "Taps" bugle call as part of his service.

Walter was the recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds received in action, the National Defense Service Medal, the Viet Nam Service Medal, the Viet Nam Campaign Medal, the Airborne wings, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Corporal Carl Richard Dagger was born on October 23, 1947.  Although Urbana, Ohio is listed as his official home of record, he had attended schools in the Triad School District.  He was a member of the United States Marine Corps, and saw service as a rifleman, military occupational skill (MOS) 0311.  He was assigned to Company I, Third Battalion, 4th Marines, Third Marine Division, III MAF.  His first day "in-country" in Viet Nam was September 14, 1967.  Over the next eight months he participated in additional training and operational campaigns in South Viet Nam.  On May 17, 1968, he died as a result of hostile small arms  fire while engaged in battle in an area of South Viet Nam.  His body was recovered, and returned home for burial.

Richard was the recipient of the Silver Star, the Purple Heart for wounds received in action, the National Defense Service Medal, the Viet Nam Service Medal, and the Viet Nam Campaign Medal.

Specialist Four William Emerson Shaffer's home of record in his military service file is Cable, Ohio.  He was born on July 6, 1947.  He served in military occupational skill (MOS) 13A10, as a member of the Field Artillery.  He was assigned to Battery B, 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery, 1st Infantry Division ("The Big Red One"), USARV.  He arrived in Viet Nam on May 23, 1967, for his scheduled 12-month tour of duty there.  On May 5, 1968, less than three weeks before he was to complete his assignment, William was killed in action by enemy rocket, mortar or artillery fire while serving in the Binh Duong Province, South Viet Nam.  His body was recovered and returned home for burial.

William was the recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds received in action, the National Defense Service Medal, the Viet Nam Service Medal, and the Viet Nam Campaign Medal.

These three young men who lost their lives in this conflict are memorialized on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  The name of Walter L. Burroughs can be found on Panel 07E, Line 068.  The name of Carl Richard Dagger is incised on Panel 62E, Line 002.  The name of William Emerson Shaffer can be located on Panel 55E, Line 030.  If you, the reader, should ever have the opportunity to visit the Viet Nam Memorial Wall, please contact one of the volunteer guides there for assistance in locating the names of these men, and honor them with a few moments of quiet contemplation.

If you do not have the opportunity to visit Washington, D. C., you can still honor the memory of these men by visiting the Viet Nam Virtual Wall on the Internet at http://www.virtualwall.org/  A great deal of painstaking effort has gone into creating this fact-filled memorial in cyberspace.

And, you - the reader - probably are unaware that the names of these three men (as well as all of the other names which appear on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.) are destined to live forever in real space. 

On February 7, 1999, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) launched the "Stardust" spacecraft to pass by Comet Wild 2.  This vehicle carried, as part of its payload, sets of microchips which contained the names of 1,136,000 individuals to be remembered for "time and eternity," to include the approximately 58,000 names from the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. These names were previously collected during 1997 and embedded as data in the microchips.   "Stardust" rendezvoused with the comet in 2004.  As part of the mission, a capsule containing a full set of these microchips was then jettisoned for the return trip to earth, and landed in the Utah desert on January 15, 2006.  The recovered capsule was then taken to the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, on January 17, 2006.  The microchips were removed, and are now maintained in the Curation Facility there.

The other set of names contained on microchips are still part of the "Stardust" spacecraft, which continues on its journey through outer space.  To see where this spacecraft is today, visit the NASA Website at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/scnow.html

Although nearly fifty years have passed since the Viet Nam War, it is comforting to know that the names of those who died there are remembered at home, on earth, and in the far-flung reaches of space.  These are fitting tributes to their memory.