Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Remembrances II

Yesterday, I posted a Memorial Day remembrance of a cousin who was killed in WWII, during the battle for Okinawa, in 1945. Although I have pictures of me (a little redheaded boy) with Max Rowe, I remember him fondly, but not with great clarity.

Today, I’m concentrating my thoughts on two fine young men I knew well in college: Frankie Wallace and Felix King. They were classmates and buddies. They died in Vietnam.

I’ll start with Frankie, he was closer.  I met him when he was the dormitory roommate of a man I’d known in high school, Ronald Fitzgerald.  They’d apparently been assigned a room randomly, but quickly became friends. When Ron introduced me to Frankie, it was easy to see why.

Frankie was a lanky, dark-haired, dark-eyed man from Cherokee, Alabama. Although he  could show a grim face, his most common expression was that of a man about to smile.

As commonly happens, roommates take each other to their hometowns for weekend visits.  When Ron took Frankie to our hometown of Falkville, Alabama, he arranged a date with a young woman we’d known since grade school, Cathy McCoy.  Frankie and Cathy enjoyed being together and he kept going back. They fell in love and married.

Florence State College (now The University of North Alabama) had a superb ROTC department headed by COL Marshall Fallwell. The Colonel and his staff emphasized superlative, aggressive leadership by the young officers-in-training.  Probably a majority of the cadets, upon graduation, volunteered for Airborne training. Some went a step further and volunteered for Ranger school.

Frankie Wallace was Airborne.  He was assigned to the famed 101st Airborne Division. Only seven months into his tour, he was killed in action. A Platoon Leader, Frankie was probably out in front of his troops, as he’d been taught. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions. http://www.virtualwall.org/dw/WallaceFL01a.htm

I knew Felix from ROTC and saw him around the campus, but got to know him better during the miserable days of ROTC Summer Camp.  We were in the same platoon, living in the WWII wooden barracks on Ft. Bennning.  Felix had a fine sense of humor and a stoic outlook that helped all around him deal with the hot weather and competitive, pressure-intensive atmosphere that characterized the situation for cadets.

Felix had been dating a lovely young woman named Judy.  She was one of the college’s majorettes and possessed a personality that matched his. No one was surprised when they married and settled down in Florence.

When Felix went on active duty, he volunteered for both Airborne and Ranger schools.  He was assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), which became the celebrated 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. His unit, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, lost 26 men in in the infamous Ia Drang valley during the run-up to the battle at LZ-Xray. That action was made famous in the book, We Were Soldiers Once, and Young as well as the acclaimed movie starring Mel Gibson, We Were Soldiers. The earlier battle in which Felix died is virtually unknown to the general public.
http://www.virtualwall.org/dk/KingFD01a.htm

I knew men in MACV-SOG who lost their lives in Vietnam.  I mourned their passing and reserve a special place in my  heart for those warriors.  Frankie and Felix, though, were more personal losses from my youth. We didn’t fight together. We were friends and not-quite-yet soldiers.

Join with me in remembering these two excellent young, idealistic men. Losses to their family, friends and the nation.

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Responses

  1. Great tribute! Thanks for posting.

  2. Wonderful, Tom. Thank you!

  3. Nice words from the heart. Thanks, Tom.

    • I’m glad you liked it. It *did* come directly from my heart.

  4. Thomas – Thanks for remembering Frankie. Not a day passes that his absence isn’t felt by the family he left behind. Cathy

    • Cathy, I rarely go more than a day without some thought of Frankie. His loss left a hole in so many hearts.
      Thanks for visiting the blog.


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