Augusta Honor Rolls
This collection of monuments is very nicely presented, although the venue is difficult to reach as it is essentially a traffic island. The Civil War service roll monument is adorned with some bas relief panels that tell the story of the average soldier from the day he left the farm, through the battlefields and the bittersweet return. Take a few moment to look closely as the pictorial and keep in mind these pieces were created just a few short years after the last battles. I have no doubt the artist was either part of a battlefield scene himself, or he was wise enough to listen to many veterans and use the best elements of their stories to create the reliefs.
The VietNam honor roll of the fallen has the men listed in chronological order, and it is sobering. Four of the nine men of Augusta gave their lives during the six month period between March 3 and September 6, 1969.
SSgt Raymond J Bechard, US Army, was killed in action on March 9, 1969 while fighting with A Company, 12th Infantry, 3rd Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division. His company and several others were involved on a days long assignment to close down NVA transport routes in Kon Tum Province. Well over 20 men were evacuated from "LZ Swinger" that day. At least two of those that died were awarded the Silver Star for their actions to save officers and senior NCO's under fire... Bechard was one of those senion NCO's.
Spec 4 Ronald Kirkpatrick, US Army, was serving as a radioman with Military Assistance Command VietNam, 'MACV,' when he died from disease on 16 July. The MACV guys worked with the ARVN soldiers and together they trekked through most of the worst that VietNam could offer; snakes, slime and shit. News reports always showed them standing around in conference with their ARVN cohorts in nice clean uniforms, enjoying the benefits of air transport and hot meals back at the barracks every night. Any MACV veteran can explain those photos were not even close to how it really played.
Five days after Kirkpatrick died Cpl Norman Chavarie, USMC, was killed by a hand grenade while serving with Company D, 9th Engineer Battalion, 1st MARDIV. His patrol was sweeping a roadway for landmines when ambushed. It was July 21st, VietNam was becoming a difficult conversation in and around Augusta.
Sgt Gilbert C Turner Jr, US Army, was probably a lifer. He was 28 years old and had been in VietNam over a year when he died. He had been serving with Headquarters Compay, 4th Engineering Battalion of the 4th Infantry Divison. His is one of the many non-combat deaths recorded during the VietNam war. Reports indicate he drowned after diving into a body of water in an effort to retrieve a model powerboat. Yes, it sounds unusual and strange, but lots of strange things happen in a combat zone.
Four young men in six months. Not the worst count of all wars, just a representation of how it goes at times. Our kids step off to put on a uniform, go to a training camp and come back on leave. Then the real job starts and we never know what will happen. Military men and women die in barracks fires, die of diseases, get crushed by tanks in training, are ripped apart by whirling propellors or rotor blades, almost anything can happen other than taking a bullet or other catastrophy of the battlefield. The point is, they didn't come home alive. Their names are denoted with a star or segregated to a special section of the local service rolls. They died. They went to serve and they died. What more do we need to know in order to render honors?