Thursday, February 27, 2014

Most Poignant Memories of the Vietnam Era: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Steve Shields, Kent State Killings

This is a response to question #2, asked me by my niece Rachel Sanders:

2. What are some vivid memories you have about the time? What do you consider to be the most important events? Why?

The most important events for me personally were, for the most part, not the most important events nationally. The first event that hit me like a ton of bricks was the death in Vietnam of my first cousin, Tommy Fitzpatrick. I grew up about a mile away from Tommy in Euclid and I went to grade school, St. William's, with him. Oddly, our extended family was so large and close that we hardly had friends outside the family. Tommy was killed in April 18, 1969 (http://www.virtualwall.org/df/FitzpatrickTM01a.htm). He was 21-years-old, his whole life ahead of him. His funeral was at St. William's and he is buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon.

Tommy in Vietnam (left)

A second vivid memory was the death in Vietnam of my Notre Dame friend and classmate, Steve Shields. Steve studied with me in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria. He was brilliant, fun, and funny. Everybody loved Steve. At Notre Dame Steve was in Army ROTC and became an officer after college graduation. After a period of training, he went to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. Steve's copter was shot down in June 20, 1972 (http://www.virtualwall.org/ds/ShieldsSE01a.htm). I went to his funeral in Philadelphia and his military burial at West Point.

A third poignant memory for me was the killings at Kent State on May 4, 1970. I cannot express how terrible and traumatic that was for me. Kent State was located very close to my home in Euclid, Ohio, and so many friends attended there. Even my cousin Maggie Brock was there that day. This was a turning point in my life and I think a turning point in public approval of the war.

The huge demonstrations against the war were memorable and the My Lai massacre March 16, 1968) was one of the most significant events, but personally the combat deaths of Tommy and Steve, and the killings at Kent State were the most affecting.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Bob, I just found your blog...love it!

View from the North Coast said...

Thanks!