On D-Day’s anniversary, remembering Vietnam

This is the anniversary of D-Day, so let’s talk about Vietnam.

It’s not that I don’t honor the unimaginable courage — and acknowledge the unimaginable fear — of those who stormed the beaches, it’s just the feeling that it’s far easier for the nation to recognize the events of World War II than it is to acknowledge Vietnam.

An old PBS NewsHour segment, called to my attention on Twitter today, in which a teacher teaches history by encouraging her teens to find a “silent hero” seemed a testament to this.

All worthy. And all remembered on a grand scale at least once a year. Today.

That’s not always the case for people who went to Vietnam.

A good friend of mine, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, posted on Facebook last evening that yesterday was the 47th anniversay of the death of some of his close friends.

Warrant Officer Ralph Roussell and Warrant Office Don Lundequam were among those killed when their helicopter was shot down near An Khe.

Let’s do what that teacher’s students do and find a “silent hero.”

This is “Lundy.” He was from Saint Paul, Minn.

He was 22 when he went on a mission as a helicopter co-pilot on June 5, 1970. I was just finishing up my sophomore year in high school, keeping an eye on the draft lottery.

Now I’m an old man and Lundy would be, too, if weren’t for the gunfire from the ground, piercing his helicopter, killing him and the other pilot. The helicopter crashed into water and exploded.

Don Lundequam was dead just three months after arriving in Vietnam. He’s buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

There’s not a lot of information about the incident — it was just another day at war — but people over the years have left notes on a few Vietnam-themed websites that provide more information.

Every year, I’ve noticed, there are fewer messages left.

Dear Donny: We lost you 40 years ago today, and it still hurts so deeply your are in my prayers everyday. You gave your all for your country and for freedom. I placed flowers on your grave at Fort Snelling today, I will never get over you loss my old friend, how I wish that you were here!! May you rest in peace and always know that you will never be forgotten, and you will always remain my Hero. Phil
Jun 5, 2010

Don (we called him ‘Lundy’) was a fine young man cheerful, humorous and just a great friend and excellent pilot in the 2nd platoon. He would have been made an aircraft commander in a couple of weeks. We all shared a love of flying and took great pride in being able to support ‘our grunts’, no matter how trying the circumstances. Lundy was as brave as they come and his loss was particularly painful to his friends and comrades in the 119th AHC. Pickett Gator 317.

I have not forgotten you or your wonderful family since the years my family came to your parents’ resort on Little Pelican Lake. It was a highlight of my childhood summers. I was raised to respect others and felt you and your family were raised the same – you would remember me because I sang “Wade in the Water”. I think of you often and wanted you to know that I sent you this message on your birthday.

More than 100 others from St. Paul also died in Vietnam. If a history teacher in Minnesota should ever want to teach students about a war by finding a silent hero, they won’t have to go far.