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During Parents/Alumni Weekend of 2010, the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association held a memorial service for the 29 students and alumni who lost their lives in Vietnam. As one who knew nine of the 29, I have often wondered how we truly express our feelings about our classmates who have given the ultimate with words worthy of the cost they paid. I really wish I knew how to do so.
We could talk about them being great men, but I remember them during our days at NGC. We had no great men in the corps. We were all the same, whether on the drill field, an FTX, Field Day, Federal Inspection, chow line, the daily dozen or summer camp. I don't remember them being much different from the rest of us.
I think of a statement supposedly made by Adm. William Halsey during the Battle of Guadalcanal when a subordinate called him a great man. His response was, "There are no great men; there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstance to meet." In that respect, they were great men because of their readiness to meet those challenges. This ceremony was to honor and, more importantly, remember these men as our brothers.
So how do we honor them? We honor them by remembering them as fellow cadets on the drill field, as fellow students in our classrooms and as our friends in the dorms, at the Dixie, the Hooch, the Canteen, Atlanta and all the places where we shared our stories and our lives.
We remember them particularly as our friends who shared the joy and laughter of our best times and held us steady during our worst times. We remember them as soldiers who understood their duty, and while perhaps not always willing, were ready to put all on the line in their service to their families, their county, their troops and each other.
The thing that has stuck with me more than anything else I took from NGC was the sense of camaraderie that I don't believe can be explained. It can only be understood by those who were there. Even though no longer with us, they remain our classmates and comrades. They are alive in our memories and in our desire and need to honor them for their "full measure of devotion" and willingness to serve. Therefore, I firmly believe that as long as those classes are alive and the Corps continues, they will remain so.
And finally, as so well put by Shakespeare: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
P.S.: I posted this on the NGCSU website a few days ago and was reminded that there were coeds in the Corps. The Corps went coed in 1973 as I recall, four years after I left. The Class of 1969 was the last NGC class to lose a member in Vietnam, my friend David B. Wood.