In their memory: Roll of men from Wayne lost in Vietnam is read
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 21, 2013 1:50 AM
Aurora Perez, 7, reads the memorial sign left in memory for Tom Harrison at the Wall That Heals after a "Roll Call" ceremony conducted at the site. Harrison became the latest Wayne County casualty of the Vietnam War, passing away Friday from complications associated with Agent Orange exposure.
One was a "hell of a good" fighter pilot described, by those who knew him, as a smart, handsome, likable young man.
Another was a "homebody" who "cried and cried" before he boarded a vessel bound for war.
And there was even one among them who lied about his age so he could join the Marine Corps at 14 -- a teenager who was gunned down within a year of arriving in the jungle during an attempt to resupply his unit with ammunition when An Hoa Combat Base fell under attack.
But Friday evening did not belong, entirely, to Air Force Maj. Murray Lyman Borden, Army Pvt. Bobby Ray Lane and Marine Corps Pfc. Dan Bullock.
Thirty-eight other sons of Wayne County who fell in Vietnam -- and the family members and friends they left behind -- were to be honored in front of the Wall That Heals, too.
So long before a bell sounded a single time to symbolize their sacrifice -- before their names blared out of a pair of loudspeakers -- those who gathered at Wayne Community College for a "Roll Call" ceremony bowed their heads in prayer.
And when a storm wind blew as the chaplain asked God to comfort the fallen and those who have, for most of their lives, longed for their return, one who showed up to the service was "rattled" by the feeling that "took over" her body.
"It was like they were here -- like they were wrapping their arms around the people who came out tonight," said Elaine Walker, a Goldsboro resident who said several of the local men who fell attended her church. "It gave me chills -- chills like I've never had. I feel them in my bones even still."
The cost of war was on display at WCC Friday evening -- on the faces of veterans who lost comrades in the jungle; in the voices of women like Marie Owens, whose brother, Army Sgt. Emmett Eugene Ballree far too soon.
So when it came time for a county hero to unwrap, for those in attendance, the experience that earned him the Medal of Honor, retired Army Col. Joe Marm shied away from the day he, single-handedly, "eliminated" the dozens of North Vietnamese firing down on his men from treetops and behind a mounted machine gun -- the moment a sniper's bullet knocked him out of the war and nearly ended his life.
He knew the night was theirs.
Instead, Marm talked about the history of the wall.
He told stories about some of those whose names will forever grace it.
And when he talked about his friend, Lt. Henry Herrick -- when he revealed that the officer's last words to his troops were "If I have to die, I'm glad to give my life for my country," Johnny Michaels broke down.
"Some men, I guess, are born to die," he said, wiping tears from his eyes. "They are born to die so they can show us what true patriotism really is. God rest their souls."