Apparently the only Memorial Day event in Richmond today was sponsored by the De Anza High School Junior ROTC (Air Force). I was invited by cadet leader Cecilia Del Rio to attend the event, which began with a breakfast, and say a few words.
The program has been controversial but has many enthusiastic supprters and cadets. See West Contra Costa school board OKs Junior ROTC program at De Anza High despite opposition. WCCUSD Board Members Todd Groves and Madeline Kronenberg, who have supported the program, were also present.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday that began just after the Civil War as Decoration Day, which now honors all Americans who died while in the military service. Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
Local veterans were invited to attend, and several did so and also spoke.
I chose to reflect on the residents of Richmond who had died while serving. It appears that there were none in any of the recent conflicts, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, beginning with Desert Storm. I could not find city-specific data for Korea, WWII or any others going back.
But the Vietnam Memorial Virtual Wall is a unique source for Vietnam deaths. It turns out there were 32 Richmond residents who died in Vietnam. Most were young, from 18-22. I looked up details on the youngest, Corporal Thomas Michael Walker, 2nd Platoon, C Co, 3RD Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196TH Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, United States Army, Vietnam. He was 18 years old, born June 3, 1949, starting his Vietnam tour November 26, 1967, a little more than 6 months after his 18th birthday. His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 11B10: Infantryman
I am guessing Cpl. Walker enlisted after graduating from high school, spent nine weeks in basic combat training, another six weeks in Advanced Infantry Training, and shortly thereafter found himself at war.
A month before his 19th birthday, Cpl. Walker was killed by small arms fire in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, the northernmost province where on May 2, 1968, there were pitched battles to "attack, seize, secure and defend" several villages that sat astride a major North Vietnamese infiltration route in Quang Tri Province.
Following are the other 31 Richmond residents who died in Vietnam. You can click on each for details.