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May 20, 2009

Pause to Remember and Honor

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Next Monday is Memorial Day. It is a day when we should come together as a community and take a break from the rancid political bickering in Washington, which passes as national leadership today, and reflect on the men and women in uniform who are serving our country in the darkest corners of the world.


They are not pawns in the latest cheap political games of Foggy Bottom, or the stuff of obligatory convenient rhetoric uttered in a press release. They are our friends and neighbors, aunts and uncles, Moms and Dads – simply put – our loved ones.


For many, honoring our men and women in uniform is not confined to a special day of the year, but it is a solemn duty which we undertake and observe seven days a week.


It was President John F. Kennedy who once said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”


Today, of the nation’s nearly one million soldiers, almost 600,000 are serving on active duty and over 250,000 are deployed to nearly 80 countries worldwide.


Our nation has been at war for over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military has served with great valor, endured countless hardships, and made monumental sacrifices. In that time, over 4,000 men and women in uniform have died.


Since the Revolutionary War, when our great country fought to gain our freedom from England and our foothold on independence, to the present conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, over 42 million men and women have served in uniform to protect our way of life.


In over 230 years, 657,267 men and women have given their lives for us on battlefields around the world. Over 19 million citizens are living war veterans.


More than 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam War. The average age was 19. Of that number, 300,000 were wounded in action, and 75,000 were disabled. It has been estimated that almost five million military personnel and civilians, from all sides, lost their lives in that Southeast Asia conflict.


Of the 58,261 names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, 1,046 are Marylanders who made the ultimate sacrifice.


We all would do well to heed the words of President Kennedy – and President Abraham Lincoln – who said: “Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”


Well, we do remember.


In today’s sound bite culture, talk is cheap and all-too-often not followed-up with deeds.


In the words of Lt. Sarah Blansett, of the Navy Speakers’ Bureau: “These dedicated men and women are worth more than that – more than a 20-second sound-bite. Their history deserves telling and re-telling. Find a way in your life – at work or home, at church or a youth group meeting, wherever – to keep their memories alive. Honor their sacrifices, tell their stories, and cherish their memories.”


One of our native sons we remember on this solemn occasion is Army Private First Class Herbert Eugene Mulkey, Jr., from Mount Airy.


PFC Mulkey was killed in action by small arms fire in An Khe, Binh Dinh, South Vietnam along with SGT Richard L. Stockett, of Mesa, AZ, and SP4 Richard D. Saldana, of Oxnard, CA, on Tuesday, March 2, 1971, while serving with E Company, 4TH BN, 503RD INF RGT, 173rd Airborne Brigade.


At the time of his death he was only 18 years old. He had begun his tour of duty in Vietnam just two months earlier, on January 6, 1971.


Before he enlisted in June 1970, he attended Linganore High School.


He was born June 5, 1952, in Fairfax, Virginia. However, by 1961, his family had moved to Mount Airy.


Funeral services were held for PFC Mulkey at noon, March 15, 1971, at the Second Baptist Church, in Falls Church, Virginia. The Rev. W. Earl Costner officiated. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


He was survived at the time of his death by his mother and father, Fannie and Herbert E. Mulkey, Sr.; his five brothers, Leonard, Robert, Richard, William, and Allen; and two sisters, Debbie and Jacqueline, according to various news reports at the time.


After his death he was awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Medal. He had previously been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Parachutist Badge, Expert Badge with Grenade Launcher Badge, and the Good Conduct Medal, according to a Carroll County Sun news report from May 28, 1989.


He was also awarded a special place in history and in our hearts.


God bless PFC Mulkey and all those who gave their lives in our service and bought our liberties with their blood. God bless those who protect our freedoms. God bless their families and the friends and loved ones left behind.


After Memorial Day, we look forward to summer vacations, leisurely cookouts, or fun at the beach.


However it is only fitting that on this Memorial Day we pause to remember. It is a time to think about the men and women who continue to fight and die in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


It is a time to honor those who gave so much so that we can continue to live in a land which offers us the unalienable right to live free and cherish liberty in the pursuit of happiness.


PFC Mulkey may be found at Panel 04W Line 017 on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Next time you are there, pay him a visit and thank him for his service.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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