Memorial by Mike Lee - June 5, 2004
My brother John was the third of seven children. He was born in New York and was raised there until
1956 when my parents, with five children, drove across country and set up shop in Southern California.
My Dad was a machinist and Mom was a registered nurse. My little sister and I were the only part of the
family to be born in California. John went to Saint Bernard's High School in Marina Del Rey. He rapidly
became known as a class clown where he viewed a classroom as 35 captives who needed to be
In 1963 the family moved to La Crescenta. John attended CV high school with several other 9th Infantry
Division soldiers. As the war in Viet Nam escalated John entered Glendale College, but like most young men
he had not chosen a direction, which resulted that spring of '66 receipt of the famous "Greeting" letter
from Uncle Sam. Dad encouraged John to join the Navy but John wanted nothing to do with a 4 year hitch
so he accepted the draft. Several of the soldiers I have met have little recollection of the faces but I met
a soldier named Monte Euler, also an Alpha Company trooper, who had a copy of the orders with John's
name on them from Los Angeles to Fort Hood and then to Fort Riley.
John took a page from his mother's book and chose to be a medic. I have read letters he wrote where he
spoke about being grilled by other soldiers to make sure his knowledge base was sharp. John came home
for leave just before his deployment overseas. He had just received his tropical weight dress "greens"
and he took them to the dry cleaners to make sure they were pressed and ready to ship out, regretfully
the cleaners caught fire and his dress uniform went up in smoke.
As John approached his 21st birthday, we gathered around an ancient reel-to-reel tape recorder and
sent the tapes and a cake packed in popcorn to Viet Nam. We were never sure if the cake made it there.
The week after John's birthday, my brother Dennis, a soldier himself at the Language Institute at
Monterey Ca., a chaplain and the military escort came to our house. My Mom was concerned when they
said John was MIA because she thought this was just a softener to telling us he had been killed. They
came back the night of Dennis' wedding with the final report. Den was off on his honeymoon and Mom and
Dad waited several days until they sent him a telegram letting them know John had been killed. The rest
of the events are somewhat fuzzy, but I remember Mom sending the military escort to his parent's house
because she had notified Dennis and she wanted the Spec4 who was assigned to support the family to
spend time with his own family. I have a picture of Mom and Dad receiving John's Bronze Star and
Purple Heart and it's clear by the absolute grief on their faces that John loss was agonizing.
We were told John was killed in an ambush and that he was hit with recoilless rifle fire, which was why he
was listed as MIA as his body was so badly destroyed by the explosive round. I started my Internet
search with the intention of finding the guys who may have witnessed John's death and meet the soldiers
who saw him last. I've recently spoken to a number of men who experienced that battle and I've been
touched by several of them who will never forget that horrible day, but as of yet I have only met one
soldier who personally saw John on June 19th. An RTO named Kieth Bibee saw John in the last moments
of his life and it is comforting to know that at the end, John was not alone.