3rd Platoon, A Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Gia Dinh Province – June 19, 1967
Memorial by Tom Conroy – May 12, 2001
A few weeks ago, I located Monte’s father, Merle Harper, and I went to talk to him about his son who had died on a battlefield so far away and so many years ago. I can only say that I am truly sorry that it took me so long to do this. I found Merle to be a truly wonderful man and in his eighties now, he is having a few health problems but, he remains remarkably sharp. He welcomed me into his home and he seemed truly appreciative that I had contacted him. Merle told me about Monte’s wife, Jeni, and how Monte had loved her with all his heart. Hanging on the living room wall directly above the television set, Merle has Monte’s medals displayed. He has numerous photos of his son neatly arranged in albums, along with the many cards and letters that were sent to him about Monte’s death. I also met Merle’s wife, June, who was not Monte’s mother …..but you would never know it. Just like most marriages, she is the one that keeps everything flowing smoothly and it was very obvious that she has a special place in her heart for Monte.
Monte and I went to Palmdale High School (Palmdale, California) together and we knew each other fairly well. When we were younger, I remember going out to Merle’s farm and going on hay rides with Monte. During high school, Monte and four other guys formed a band and they played at many school dances – Monte was the organist and they were really good. I believe that had Monte survived Viet Nam he would have gone on to great things because they were really going places up until the day Uncle Sam sent his “greetings”. The band broke up and Monte, along with eight others of us from the Palmdale/Lancaster area (Antelope Valley) went into the Army on May 17, 1966 and ended up at Fort Riley, Kansas for Basic Training. During this time, Monte and I used to talk a lot about the Viet Nam War and how we were going to be the ones to end it. We were shipped to Viet Nam in January of 1967. We had made it through numerous firefights and several battles until that fateful day of June 19, 1967. That morning our battalion shipped out on the Mobile Riverine’s boats on another mission just like every other time. I don’t know the circumstances in which Monte died, but Monte and most of A Company were wiped out that day, along with several other soldiers from B Company and C Company. Merle told me that Monte had been shot in the chest and died instantly. Two other Antelope Valley men also died that day, my friends Kenny Frakes and Timmy Johnson.
If you knew Monte or if you look at the photos of him you will realize how completely full of life this man was. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country – everyone of these men are heroes and I want to say that you will never be forgotten by the men who fought beside you. As long as we live you will always be in our hearts and in our thoughts. Awhile back I was able to visit The Wall in Washington D.C. and when I saw Monte’s name up there I cried. Then I noticed that Kenny’s, Monte’s and Timmy’s names were all touching. All three grew up in the Antelope Valley, they were drafted together, trained together, fought together, and they died together – they will always be together on The Wall for all time.
I wish to thank Merle and his wife June for sharing their memorabila of Monte. God Bless you Sir. Your Son and the both of you gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Two more of Monte’s A Company pals. Looks like they’ve concocted a mighty fine C-Ration meal. If anyone out there recognizes these soldiers, please let me (Bill Reynolds) know. Lets hope that these fellas survived the June 19th Battle…..