Always remembered | The names of 10 young Mercer Island men are etched on the moving Vietnam Memorial Wall
By MARY L. GRADY
Mercer Island Reporter Editor
July 6, 2011 · Updated 11:32 AM
A Vietnam Memorial Wall was in Bellevue at Sunset Hills Memorial Park this past weekend. It is a reminder not only of those lost in past wars, but those in harm’s way in the present.
The names of 10 Islander men are scattered along the glossy surface of the wall, a three-quarter scale replica of the original in Washington, D.C.
The wall at the Bellevue cemetery this past weekend is one of three such moving displays. But the result is the same. The wall brought hundreds into the sunshine to touch the names of the fallen.
A measure of the huge loss that war took on American soldiers and their families can still be seen on the official Vietnam War Memorial Web site, where friends and family members post their thoughts and memories. Here is a sample:
John Francis Bergeson
I was John’s Den Chief in Cubs, later his patrol leader in Scouts. I graduated from MIHS several years before him, then went away to college and military service. The next news I had of him was his obituary. It was no surprise that he died a Marine Corps officer, but it was a tragedy. John was one of the sweetest kids ever born — gutsy, gung ho, always trying the extra bit. He made up for size with heart and grit. Sleep well, John, and may America always deserve the sacrifice you made for her.
Craig Cyr Ransom
Ransom was a kind and gentle person. I will always remember the sacrifice he made to his country. A long overdue memorial plaque, with Ransom’s name, along with nine other students, from Mercer Island High School, will soon be hung in the entrance of the school.
May 28, 1999
Michael Dennis Frost
Something, I found, that embodies the courage of men who did not always believe in war, but yet did what they had to do, even to their death. In tribute to Michael Frost, KIA, March 2, 1968. That Michael found his own answers in his own way is evident from writings he never mailed, but which were found among his personal effects and quoted in part for the Reporter, by Mr. Frost. “I have been prepared, for something, I’m not sure I believe in. It makes my own conscience, this job, and set aside other personal beliefs.” I have this inexplicable feeling of duty. I’m not sure I can explain what I mean by duty other than it is something that combines pride and responsibility. If I were to some way dodge this service obligation, I’d feel like an apple tree that doesn’t bear apples, but takes the best from the soil around it and gives nothing in return.
Nov. 19, 2006
James A. Johansen
Jim was my best friend in high school. In 1962, we both went off to college; Jim to Arizona State, me to George Washington University. At college I joined AFROTC and graduated in 1966 with a commission as a Second Lieutenant and a slot for Undergraduate Pilot Training (Class 68-D) at Webb AFB in Big Spring, Texas.
Jim was a Warrant Officer flying helicopters when he came through Big Spring on his way to Vietnam in the summer of 1967. At the time I was in the T-38 phase of training and at dusk we sat off the end of the runway drinking beer and eating pizza. Jim and I were always trying to outdo each other so I had purposely brought him there. On takeoff, the T-38’s afterburners would thunder and shoot flames out the tailpipes as they lit and then glowed into the night sky as the aircraft climbed away. He was impressed!
January 29, 1968 was the eve of Tet Lunar New Year in Vietnam - the Year of the Monkey. It was the date chosen by North Vietnam to mount a general offensive throughout the South. The purpose was to get the populous to rise up and join the Viet Cong to overthrow the government. In the US, with the battle raging vividly on television screens all across America, I heard that my friend Jim Johansen had been killed in action.
Jim’s helicopter, we were told, had crashed while returning from a reconnaissance mission on January 18th. It was a shock to lose a friend that close. I tried to think of something I could do for his family, but I was at a loss to come with anything. How could you fill a void as big as the future?
This “casualty” is my father. I never knew him. My half-sister is about 30 now. I’ve never met her. I wish I could have known my dad.
May 31, 1999
James Richard Waldowsky
“His name flies today over Afghanistan because we remember CW1 Martin Taber and James Richard Waldowski, who I believe tried to come in and pick us up. I say this because they are two aviators listed as KIA the day of the attempted medevac. They located a spot in the jungle that would allow them to get into us. As we moved to their location, small arms fire was heard and their aircraft crashed. They are never forgotten. His Memorial Wall printout flew with a pilot of the 1-130th Aviation Battalion, TF Panther on OEF-4 missions from Bagram, Afghanistan, as a tribute.”
Feb. 8, 2004
I didn’t know Dave that well; I had just joined golf CO 5th Marines just as the battle of Hue City began. I was in Vietnam for about a week, Dave had been in Vietnam since Aug. 1967. We were in the 1st platoon together. Dave and two other Marines were KIA on a front porch of a house in the middle of Hue City. The fighting was very heavy. Many other Marines were also KIA that day. It was a cold and rainy day. The reason I remember his name and not the two Marines is that I had a good friend in high school with the same name. I remember the incident quite well, as I helped retrieve his body. He will never be forgotten.
Former Marine, Vietnam
October 31, 2000
To all who served with my brother, thank you for your courage and your sacrifice. And to his friends, thank you for remembering. To honor my brother, a special David Warner Kindergarten fund has been set up through PeaceTrees Vietnam, a nonprofit organization (www.peacetreesvietnam.org). In 2006, a school will be built and dedicated in his name in Vietnam. Anyone wishing to contribute or who simply wants to touch base is welcome to contact me.
November 30, 2005Contact Mercer Island Reporter Editor Mary L. Grady at email@example.com or (206) 232-1215 ext. 1050.