* I along with my DH wrote this for Memorial Day 2011. I would like to post it again in honor of an American solider who died serving his country in Vietnam. Ray was one of my husbands best friends – every Memorial Day my husband’s thoughts went to the boy he grew up with and to the letter he received telling of his friends death. Ray was an all American young man who left behind a special legacy to all who knew, respected and loved him. Today – Memorial Day let us remember Ray and all of the special young men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. ~ Patty May 27, 2013 *
Decoration Day officially became a holiday May 5, 1868 to honor those who had died in both the Union and Confederate Armies. Prior to that, one of the many stories of that first Decoration Day was that a group of children somewhere in the south started to put flowers on the graves of the soldiers. In 1868 mourners honored the Civil War
dead by continuing the tradition started by the children by decorating the soldier’s graves with flowers.
After World War I – which was the war to end all wars, observers began the tradition of honoring the war dead from all the wars and the name was changed to Memorial Day sometime after World War II.
Today my husband Tom and I would like to remember SGT Raymond Paul Kurtik July 3, 1949 to July 7, 1969, who served with the 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, USARV in Vietnam.
Tom remembers the young boy that grew up to save the lives of many men. He remembers meeting Ray in the first grade and from that first day they became very good
friends. Ray was a normal all American boy, doing all the things boys from the 1950’s and 1960’s did. Both of them grew up and graduated high school together. Ray volunteered for the US Army and Tom volunteered for the US Navy. Both of them stayed in touch as Ray left for combat in Vietnam. Tom remembers how dirty the letters were when he received them. Then the day came when Tom’s last letter sent to Ray was returned with a note from a Major informing him of Ray’s death. Tom stated that when the news hit him it was unreal. The thought of his good friend dying at the age of 20, even if he is serving at a combat zone, did not cross his mind. The reality of it was made more difficult knowing he could not attend Ray’s funeral because Tom was also serving overseas and would never see Ray again.
For years Tom had many unanswered questions and had always wanted to know about his friends Vietnam service. Special thanks go to Dave one of the brave soldiers who served with Ray that provided Tom with much information, and to his Squad Leader who posted this on June 26, 2000 from a Vietnam Memorial website:
Ray was the Bravo Team Leader on this one particular day. And as his Squad Leader
stated they would become not just comrades in arms but they would become friends, and “that is the best you can say about a fellow infantryman”.
“Several other soldiers don’t know it, but he (Ray) saved our butts, at LZ VIVIAN. One whole side of the LZ came under full attack, 15 minutes of Mortars, then Sappers,
followed by Infantry. When the Sappers and Infantry broke through the wire in front of our bunker, Ray hopped up onto the bunker at a full height and threw a helmet full of M26 fragmentary grenades into the enemy, turning them back from our position. He then proceeded to successfully help me, through small arms fire (M16) and frags, fighting from the berm next to our bunker, drive back the (enemy) attacking the next bunker. Today, I still vividly remember that long night and my friend Ray.”
Dave wrote to Tom explaining what happened on the fateful day of July 7, 1969
“…The day Ray died was supply day or LOG day as we called it.
The area we were in was triple canopy jungle and there were no clearings
large enough to bring in the supply helicopter. The most open area we could find had several large trees the needed to be removed. The trees were prepared and
blown. Unfortunately one tree was larger than anticipated or it fell the wrong
way, and Ray died instantly….”
“Those serving in the infantry were the fewest of any MOS’s in the Army”, Ray’s Squad Leader went on to tell us, “at the height of our involvement in Vietnam, there were 500 thousand US Army troops stationed there but of those only 10,000 were infantry.”
Ray was the boy next door, just like many other thousands of young men who fought and died over the centuries to preserve our way of life or to liberate the oppressed from other countries. There was nothing remarkable about Ray – he was a son, a brother, and a best friend. He went to church, to school, and lived a life of a young man growing up in Pennsylvania, looking forward to his future.
It is the everyday people who become heroes by the extraordinary things they do. Ray
saved the lives of many men. His death was not in vain. His purpose for being
there in Vietnam was fulfilled. His life can be summed by this bible verse: “I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”