5 months ago, I submitted a picture of my dad (John Luke) to the Virtual Wall to include on his profile page – this week, I got a message that they were ready to update his profile and Jack, the volunteer who is updating his profile started a conversation with me. I now have a pdf copy of the 100+ page operational report which has a section in it that recorded what happened to him. I also know now that 2 other men were killed and 3 others were wounded and I have the names of the other 2 KIA.
After years of searching, I finally did it… I found an email address for one of the men wounded when my dad was killed. It took awhile but I finally got up the courage to send a long overdue email to one of the three men who survived the incident in which my real dad was killed. I didn’t know what to expect when I sent the message to him but I was happy the next morning to see one back from him right away. He said he lost his right leg in the incident and that his memory was failing but yes he did serve with John Luke over there. He asked for some pictures of him and said he’d tell me anything he could remember. He’s going to forward the emails him and I have shared to other guys who were in my dad’s unit and see if any of them will talk to me as well. He said he’ll stay in touch with me and tell me anything I want to know. He did an interview about his experiences in Viet Nam for a family members history class a few years ago. He forwarded me the information from the interview and contained in it was a firsthand account of what happened the day my dad died.
My phone’s been ringing and emails have been coming in; I think I’ve been in contact with 4 or 5 people now… maybe six – they just keep coming in. There’s a guy in Medford who served with dad and knew him well. I’m just so amazed by the response I’ve been receiving since first emailing Ed. The guy I just talked to on the phone knew my dad well. He said dad had a stutter and they teased him about it just a bit but nothing real mean. They also called him “cool hands Luke” after some movie.
I talked on the phone to the guy in Medford who served with my dad and asked him the question I’ve been asking all of them and he had an answer. I’ve wanted to know if my dad knew about me and he told me that dad did mention me once… maybe not by name but he did say he had a kid back home. He’s sending me copies of the pictures he has of my dad.
Ed sent me part of a declassified combat report about the incident where my dad was killed:
“The 6th of March saw the first U.S. casualties of the month when the third platoon of C company detonated either a 155 or 8″ round at BS559719 which was booby trapped with a trip wire killing SP4 Thomas A. Toledo, PFC Johnnie L. Pryear, SP4 John A. Luke a KCS and wounding three other men of the platoon including SP4 Edward Benson. That afternoon the second platoon of A company found nad destroyed an 81mm mortar dud at BS54767. That evening C company observed on VN nad fired artillery on the suspect and received small arms fire in return at BS564733.”
When I get to Washington DC to see the wall for myself; I’ll be looking for the names of the other two men.
This journey of finding out about my dad has had it’s ups and downs over the years. Sometimes the things I’ve found out have hurt but I won’t stop looking for answers to the question of who he was. All I want is to know more about him. I’ve decided the next stop on my journey is to start back at the beginning and try to find any of his classmates to see what they can tell me about him when he was younger.