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40 Years On – The Last Casualties

40 years ago today, two young men died when the American embassy in Saigon was shelled.  Corporal Charles McMahon and Lance Corporal Darwin Judge were the last two American ground casualties in South Vietnam.  The final pullout from Saigon happened the next day.  These men joined the ranks of 58,303 men and women who died in the Vietnam War.

Gallons of ink and billions of electrons have been spent trying to criticize or justify the war.  To this day, those who lived through it, those who watched it from the sidelines, and those who look back at its history can debate endlessly about its causes, conduct, and consequences.

But today, we need to remember these two men, along with their brothers and sisters who died there.  Why they were sent and what they did is secondary to remembering that they lived, and died, for all of us.

If you haven’t been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., or have not visited the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, you should.  Recently, a friend sent me a link to the Virtual Wall. Browsing the links to the photographs and other data on these men and women, I was humbled.  They come from across the breadth of our nation.  They were the children of privilege and of poverty.  Some could claim a heritage that included pulling an oar on the Mayflower, while others were immigrants.  They came from every race, color, and creed.  They were both draftees and volunteers, recent recruits and veterans.  They were the best that America had to offer, and we honor them by remembering them.

To those of you who served in Vietnam, thank you.

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