MONDAY is Veterans Day. It is a day to thank those men and women who served in the military. This day — along with Memorial Day — is also a time to especially remember those people who died while serving their country.
Six men who spent all or some of their lives in South Pasadena gave their lives during the Vietnam War — a controversial conflict that split friends, generations and the country.
More than 58,000 American military personnel died. Others came home scarred, or in some cases, distained.
Take a moment, South Pasadena, to think of these names:
Robert Dean Campbell.
Ralph Nelson Duemling.
Bruce Charles Hunt.
Peter Lorenz Wood.
Terry Brooks Dyer.
James Kelly Patterson.
Visit the Wall of Faces website at www.vvmf.org.Wall-of-Faces and read about them, and look at their faces.
These men are not just military classifications or statistics. They were once someone’s children, neighbors, friends or classmates.
Here are some memories taken from websites, yearbooks and newspaper articles that will help personalize them and show the legacy of memories they left. I’ve included the approximate age when they died.
Ralph Nelson Duemling, 1945-1970: U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Lieutenant. Age 25. From a website tribute left by Michael Duggan in May 2018: “Ralph and I were co-workers at Ralph’s Market in South Pasadena. To me, he is the face of Vietnam, meaning that his loss hit me harder than many others. Vietnam was just a story in the news until you lose a friend. He was my friend. I still think of him more than many others on Memorial Day. He was my connection to that war. Marine, stand at ease. You did your duty.’’
Terry Brooks Dyer, 1950-1969: U.S. Army, Corporal. Age 19. A website tribute left by Daniel Ruger: “I also attended South Pasadena H.S. and remember both Terry and his brother Kim. We all worked at McDonald’s. I remember the day that Terry came into McDonald’s in his Class A uniform after graduating from basic training — so shining and so proud. Us young men gathered around admiring him and then a year later, we learned he had been killed in action. I remember Kim, who still worked next to me on the grill and was tougher than his brother, just broke down and cried.’’
Bruce Charles Hunt, 1947-1970: U.S. Navy, petty officer third class. Age 23. Hunt drowned in the Mekong River on Nov. 4, 1970. He graduated from South Pas High School in 1965 and was due to return home on Dec. 1 and then get married. Following high school he attended Pasadena City college and joined the Navy in 1968.
Robert Dean Campbell, 1945-1967: U.S. Marine Corps, Lance Corporal. Age 21. He graduated from South Pas High School in 1963. He had attended Oneonta Elementary School and South Pasadena Junior High. He attended Pasadena College before enlisting in the Marine Corps. He had been a Marine for a little more than a year when he was killed. A neighbor who knew Campbell said in a newspaper obituary, “He was a tremendous boy. Very well liked. He liked the outdoor life camping and fishing.’’ SPHS Principal Dr. Franklin Thompson said Campbell received A grades in citizenship while a student there. He was also a member of the Boys’ League at SPHS.
Peter Lorenz Wood, 1942-1968: U.S. Army, 2nd Lieutenant. Age 25. Wood was active in several activities at SPHS, including senior play crew, Cimara Club and Junior Statesman. He was a second lieutenant in the Army when he was killed in January 1968. Robert Byram, class of 1960, left a memorial on the Wall of Photos: “It has been a long time and I have never forgotten our friendship. You will always be in my memory.’’ Wallace Gossett posted: “For eight weeks we were in the same company at Officer Candidate School. I took a recycle and lost all contact with the men of the 71st, but the bonds of going through training for a little while together have left a lasting impression. … Peter, you are not forgotten.’’
James Kelly Patterson, 1940-1967: U.S. Navy, lieutenant commander. Age 26 when shot down. Department of Defense has declared him dead while missing. His body was never found. He would have celebrated his 79th earlier this week. Family and friends have pursued uncorroborated leads that he may have survived and become a POW. His brother Luck has spent years trying to understand what became of his brother, and his research can be found at USNA63.org. Click on Last Call and James Patterson. Luck’s memories include the time his brother, while on R&R, hopped a plane and found his way to Luck’s unit in the bush. “He had always been a protective big brother and here he was again, checking on my welfare, easing our folks’ concerns. He found me as I was preparing my Marine rifle control for a three-day patrol, and not to be denied a visit, asked to go along. So I issued him a helmet, flak jacket and rifle. … The two days we spent together were very special. When we could, we talked about home and family, and of course the war. Kelly was living his dream, flying a carrier based Navy warplane in combat. … I treasure the memory, of these, as it turned out, our final hours together.’’
So, say thanks to any vet you see Monday, and every day. Say a prayer for all our veterans who never made it home while serving our country — whether or not you believe in the justness of the conflict. Remember, too, those who died in non-combatant situations or who continue to serve today.
And perhaps you could stop by the memorial and markers under the trees in the park by the War Memorial Building and leave a remembrance to the six fallen men who left South Pasadena to serve and died in Vietnam.
My email is ALippman@gavilanmedia.com. Please write if you have any story ideas about people, places or things of interest to South Pasadena residents.