August 1, 1969
I always take time to talk to a couple of guys when I visit Washington, D.C. I thank them for the extraordinary impact they’ve had on my life and on my life choices (that only they would know.) I pull out and re-read the letters I wrote to their families. I thank them for their sacrifice. And I touch their names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Harold D. “Ranger” Williams (from Los Angeles) and Frank D. Walthers (from Morton Grove, Illinois) were killed during a fierce battle after their 5-man Ranger Team came upon an NVA battalion in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
In the after-action report, it became clear that Harold’s leadership and specific selfless acts of bravery saved the team from being completely over-run. Harold was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award; Frank was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest.
As I shared recently, I was listening to a man walk on the moon only two weeks before. I was awed by that achievement but on this day, I was feeling the stomach-churning, heart-sick loss of two beloved members of my platoon, my company, and our nation. Only in retrospect years later did I know that I was one person before August 1, 1969—and a completely different person the next--fifty years ago today.
--August 1, 2019