I don't think I have ever posted this before. But forgive me if I have. I have two memories. One, was being in a limo in Metuchen, NJ, on Flag Day, June 14, 1967, when my brother, Charlie, was being buried. We were driving on Main St. on the way to Hillside Cemetery when I saw a man entering a store there, not seeing us. And I thought: "Doesn't he know what's happening? Doesn't he know Charlie is dead and about to be buried?' He was not at fault. I knew it but couldn't understand it. Two, I was in a car on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in a funeral procession for the father of a friend of mine, David. As we drove to the cemetery, people who were in cars traveling in the other direction, all stopped and got out of their cars and stood while we passed, taking off their hats if they wore any. It was a remarkable display of humanity, of shared humanity. And I have never forgotten and never will forget it. Honoring our "dead" keeps them alive, at least for a little while.
May 25, 1998
by Peter Schultz
Thank you and I am honored to be here and to be able to speak. I would like to take just a few minutes to tell you what this place means to me.
First, it's a place to remember. My brother Charlie is remembered here. He grew up in Metuchen, graduated from Metuchen High School in 1962 and Muhlenburg College in 1966. After college, Charlie enlisted in the Marine Corps, went to OCS at Quantico, Virginia and was commissioned a 2d Lt. He was assigned to Vietnam, where he arrived on May 4, 1967. On June 3, he was killed in a night battle near Chu Lai.
Charlie did not have to go into the Marine Corps. He had been accepted to graduate school and had he chosen to do that he would have been granted a deferment and could have avoided the service altogether. But he thought his country needed him. He was a devoted follower of John Kennedy, who told us "to ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Charlie answered that question by joining the Marines.
A few days after his death we received a letter from his commanding officer. It read in part:
My dear Mr. and Mrs. Schultz: The untimely death of your son, on 3 June at Quang Tin Province is a
source of sorrow to me and to his fellow Marines. Charles was assigned as Platoon Commander First Platoon of Company F. At the time of his death, Charles was taking part in Operation Union II, a search and destroy mission. While crossing a rice paddy in search of the Viet Cong, Charles' platoon came under heavy fire from the Viet Cong. Charles was critically wounded in the first burst of fire. He
immediately received the best medical attention but failed to respond. Charles' cheerful disposition, pleasant personality and devotion to duty won for him respect from all who knew him. Although I realize that words can do little to console you, I do hope the knowledge that your son is keenly missed and that we share your sorrow will in some measure alleviate the suffering caused by your great loss.
Signed, M.C. Jackson, Lt. Colonel, USMC
Such a letter to receive. Devastating. But, I think too, such a letter to write. I do not know Col. Jackson but I detect from his letter that he is a good man who understood quite well what his letter would mean. And writing this letter and others was part of his job. It must have been torture.
This confirms what for me is a truth - this thing we call war is obscene. I do not mean that the Vietnam War in particular was obscene. And I do not mean that wars cannot be just or that they aren't necessary. But even when necessary and just, still war is obscene.
And because they are, when they are over we, all of us, must heal. And this is the second thing this place means to me - it is a healing place.
This park is beautiful in form and intention. The trees, the flowers, and markers, especially the markers, the simple markers. They are all beautiful. And the markers explain the park's intention - that we never forget those who gave, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, "the last, full measure of devotion."
But more important than the park for me are the people who have made it. There are many and I would like to recognize three, Betsy Schwartz, Suzanne Nann and Bob Nann. I first came to the park to watch a play Betsy has written entitled "Memorial Park." If you haven't seen it or read it, you should. It is a beautiful play. And Suzanne Nann I have not known for very long. But since we met she has welcomed me, welcomed me home, and made me feel like I am a part of this park.
And especially Bob Nann. Bob and I go way back. We go back to Little League baseball and to Metuchen High School where we were classmates. After graduating, we both went to college and then Bob ended up in Vietnam. He was stationed at Chu Lai and he saw the battle in which Charlie died.
For that reason Bob is important to me. But for another reason as well. I'll explain it this way.
The men in Vietnam had a word for what they did most of the time, "humping." The "grunts" in Nam
humped, day after day, night after night. It was tedious, it was hot, it was cold, it was wet, and it was dry. Worst of all, it was dangerous. And all they had for comfort was comradeship.
I've done my share of humping. No, not in Vietnam, although I tried. After I graduated college, I enlisted in the Army reserve. Then I went active duty and asked to be sent to Vietnam but they wouldn't do it. As my wife and friend, Kathi, said recently: "Thank God some one had more sense than you did." Indeed.
But figuratively I have been humping in Vietnam. It is not dangerous but it is hard, it is hell, and too often it is lonely. For a long time l felt alone.
But then I came here; I came home, and found Bob Nann. And since then I feel as if we have been walking, humping, together trying to heal from the pain of Vietnam. So, Bob, thank you. Thank you for remembering and honoring my brother, Charlie. And thank you for being there, for walking with me and sharing my pain and grief. I lost my brother in Vietnam and I will always miss him. But I have found another brother here. Thank you, Bob Nann, for helping me to heal.
Last updated 6/12/00 by Jim Halpin.