The Price of Freedom

I’m going to step away from Cape for a couple of days. I’m scanning some photos from late 1969 and early 1970 because it’s important that we don’t forget what was going on forty years ago. While politicians were wrapping themselves in The Flag, young men were dying.

Youth for Decency Rally

That’s Jack Sensenbrenner, the right-wing former Bible salesman mayor of Columbus, OH, speaking at a Youth for Decency Rally. The rallies popped up all over the country after Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested for indecency in Miami, decades before Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” President Nixon immediately endorsed the events, along with everyone else who was afraid of change, Rock and Roll and all the other hedonistic free love hippie things that went along with it.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam War comes home

Newspaper photographers don’t have any idea what the day is going to be like. My first assignment for The Athens Messenger on Sept. 17, 1969, was a routine grip-n-grin photo of a local serviceman being awarded a bunch of medals for his service in Vietnam.

Posthumous medal presentation

That afternoon, I went back to City Hall to watch the mayor award the Bronze Star and Purple Heart to the parents of a boy who didn’t come back. As I looked at their expressions, I wondered how much they had aged since they received that knock on their door and looked out to see a somber-faced soldier on their stoop.

The lonely ride back home with a box of medals

The image I’ve never been able to get out of my mind is the one of them walking out to their car. On their ride home, they’re going to have a box of medals sitting where their son should have been.

Country Joe and The Fish

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep from thinking of the lines from Country Joe and The Fish that had been posted on the Ohio University College Green on Moratorium Day:

Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,
Send ’em off before it’s too late.
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

Their names are lost to me

I don’t know their names after all these years. I guess it’s not important in the long run. They can be the “Unknowns” to stand in for all of those families who received a knock on the door that changed their lives forever.

One thing I’ve always wondered: was there a newspaper photographer in North Vietnam who had the mirror image of my assignments?

12 Replies to “The Price of Freedom”

  1. Cape has its own casualty list. Many of the names are too familiar.

    Robert Raymond Gregory
    Lieutenant Colonel
    United States Air Force
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    March 22, 1932 to November 19, 1973
    POW December 02, 1966 to November 19, 1973

    Gary Leroy Schemel
    Private First Class
    United States Marine Corps
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    January 04, 1946 to September 26, 1965

    Robert Lee Taylor, Jr.
    Corporal
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    March 10, 1947 to March 08, 1968

    Carroll Joe Benton
    Sergeant
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    September 23, 1951 to June 12, 1971

    Elwin Harry Busch
    Captain
    United States Air Force
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    January 11, 1932 to June 09, 1967

    Billy Jack Hogan, Jr.
    Sergeant
    United States Air Force
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    October 14, 1949 to November 29, 1970

    Terrance Lee Brock
    Specialist Four
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, MO
    21 August 1946 – 04 January 1969

    Charles Richard Finley
    Private First Class
    United States Marine Corps
    Cape Girardeau, MO
    02 December 1948 – 11 April 1968

    Robert Dale McFall
    Sergeant
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    June 26, 1949 to March 10, 1970

    John Shelby Burford
    Major
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    June 13, 1934 to August 30, 1967

    Stephen Blake Peel
    Specialist Four
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    June 06, 1947 to August 07, 1969

    Earl Watson Tharp, Jr.
    Specialist Five
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    October 03, 1949 to June 26, 1970

    1. Hello,

      My name is Catherine Wendlandt and I am a student at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. My English class is reading The Things They Carried, and is now beginning a project memorializing soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. We are commemorating lost soldiers and I received Terrance Lee Brock’s name. I was wondering if you knew him or had any information about him. I would really appreciate your help in honoring him. Thank you!!
      Catherine

  2. Bill,

    You are entirely too correct. I should have added a photo I took of Freedom Corner, the southeast corner of Capaha Park, where the list of Cape’s military casualties are listed.

    You have 12 names. Here are five names NOT on your list:

    Marion Troy Eakins
    Ervin J. Emrick
    Robert L. McCallister
    Benjamin R. Pinkerton
    Gary Owen Price

    What’s interesting is that there’s a name on YOUR list that is not on the plaque:

    Elwin Harry Busch

  3. Elwin Harry Busch was missing in action. His remains were later found and returned home long after the plaque at Freedom Corner was installed.

  4. I knew Terry in High School and we were friends after graduation. We used to run around and had a good time in Cape. He was a real nice person and is missed. Here is a link to an article in the Southeast Missourian about his passing. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=-VogAAAAIBAJ&sjid=w9gEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6279,525614&dq=terrance+lee+brock&hl=en

    I don’t know what more to add but if you have any question feel free to email me @ mjjames4320@sbcglobal.net. I will post your request on our High School web site and see if someone else has some information you could use.

  5. I appreciate each of you who is helping me remember. Having had the gift of living out a full life, I find myself thinking more of those young people who didn’t have this opportunity.

  6. Ken,

    I did some searching and believe the photo of the parents may be those of

    Stephen Blake Peel
    Specialist Four
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, Missouri
    June 06, 1947 to August 07, 1969

    I did a search of a database that has the records of the men from Cape Girardeau and only two names appear for period July 1, 1968 to September 17, 1969. Stephen and
    Terrance Lee Brock
    Specialist Four
    Army of the United States
    Cape Girardeau, MO
    21 August 1946 – 04 January 1969

    Normally, I find that posthumous awards to the family are within 6 weeks to two months after death.

    I was wondering if there was an article to go with the photos for Charles Henry and Doris C Peel that might show what medals he was awarded. The marker for Stephen shows an Army Commendation Medal but your article above says Bronze Star, and if I could get the article showing Bronze Star, then I can post that medal on his page at http://www.virtualwall.org/dp/PeelSB01a.htm Thanks for any information you might obtain and provide.

    Jack

    1. Jack, thanks for doing the research, but I may have sent you on a wild goose chase. The parents receiving the medals are in Athens, Ohio, not Cape.

      I’m pretty sure I was able to track down the name of the serviceman, but I don’t have it handy right now.

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