Classmates Who Are No Longer With Us
A half century after graduating in August 1969, when most of us were in our seventies, 50th Company began to reconnect. Wonderful reunions were held in 2017 and 2019. Regrettably, but not surprisingly, age has taken its toll, and some of our classmates are missing from the 50th Company formation. We remember and respect them
The Company has a program dubbed “Comrades in Distress.” Who is “in distress” is decided on a case-by-case basis. It includes such things as the death or serious illness of a classmate, spouse, child or grandchild. Or the loss of a home to natural disaster or fire. Basically the program is an effort by the Company to reach out to these individuals and offer our support and sympathy. We need everyone who hears of such cases (this could include the children of classmates) to notify us as soon as possible so we can take appropriate action. The Company email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our “In Memoriam” page is dedicated to those who are no longer with us. Or intent is to remember and honor them. This includes two, Jim DuPont and Tom Edgren, who were killed in action in Vietnam and have been recognized in a special 2019 ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. At last count, we have lost 34 classmates, and two members of the Company’s cadre. We have done our best to provide meaningful obituaries, but some contain only minimal information.
[Note: this account is based on remarks made by Mike Thornton at a 50th Company OCS remembrance ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on September 26, 2019.
Mike remembered: “James Camil DuPont died in action on September 18, 1970 while serving in Vietnam. At the time he was a platoon leader, as I was, with the First Cavalry Division. I was honored to escort his body back to his family in the States. Jim grew up in North Canton, Ohio the first child and only son of Henry and Mary Alice DuPont. Their second child, Jim’s younger sister, Jill, is with us tonight. In 1965, while still in college, Jim met and married Adele Kellogg who has also joined us tonight. He graduated from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, in 1968. His father, who was “Hank” to everyone, had served in both North Africa and Italy during World War II. For Jim, and for many of us, military service was a requirement of citizenship.”
“After OCS, Jim was assigned to Ft. Lewis, Washington as range officer in a Basic Training unit. He returned to Ft. Benning in April 1970 and joined myself and other OCS classmates in airborne school and then we all went on to the Army’s Jungle Training Center in the Panama Canal Zone. When we departed Panama, after that two week course, we had to wait in the small terminal for the plane that would take us back to the States. As it turned out, we had to wait for 12 hours for that plane to depart. While we waited, Jim and I talked all night and into the next day. I can still recall the outlines of the plans we made, and with the perspective that only age and experience can bring, I can assure you that success was highly unlikely. But that night and that morning, a sunny optimism enveloped us, and we were sure we would not just succeed, but triumph.”
“In just a twinkling of the eye, in June 1970, we found ourselves together once again, this time in Vietnam. We thought it was great good luck when we were assigned to the First Cavalry Division, our top choice. Then off we went and June became July and July became August. Rather than dwell on the shock and grief of September 1970, let me fast forward through nearly 50 years to today, to Washington, DC, in September 2019. Through all those years, most of my time on this earth, I have cherished Jim’s memory and I am both proud and grateful that he was my friend.”
[Note: the account provided below is based on remarks made by Brooke Pearson at a 50th Company OCS remembrance ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on September 26, 2019. Tom and Brooke were 50th Company OCS classmates and army friends.
Brooke remembers: “October 4, 1945 was the auspicious day on which both Tom Edgren and I made our entrances into the world. Tom grew up with his parents and two older sisters in Libertyville, Illinois where, at Libertyville High, he sang, was the lead in a number of musicals, and managed the football team. Later, at the University of Wisconsin, he sang in the Glee Club and a barbershop quartet and rowed on the crew team. Like so many of us, Tom entered the Army after graduating from college, signing up to become an officer and joining us in 50th Company at Fort Benning in February, 1969. According to one of his 2nd Platoon classmates, Tom was "a dedicated, enthusiastic candidate, who often helped to pull along others who were struggling."
“I first met Tom as we rehearsed Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair for our performance at our Intermediate Status (turning black) party in late April. Later, at Fort Hood, Texas, where we, as 4.2 mortar platoon leaders in mechanized infantry battalions in the same brigade, often trained together, I came to know Tom and respect his leadership and his commitment to the soldiers in his platoon. We became friends, and Tom joined Betty and me for many laughter-filled dinners at our apartment in Copperas Cove. He was always positive and fun, his smile radiating good will and joy.”
“Tom arrived in Vietnam in early June, 1970. Less than two months in country and only several weeks as a platoon leader with the Americal Division in I Corps, Tom led his platoon off LZ Mary Ann as part of a company patrol on July 31st. I believe it was his first mission. On August 5th, the company was ambushed and suffered numerous casualties, including three or four from Tom's platoon. Three days later, on August 8th, it was ambushed again. Among the KIAs that day was our classmate Tom. Here is what Jimmy Morrison, one of Tom's squad leaders in Vietnam, said about him: "Tom was exposed to more in eight days than a lot of us were exposed to in a year. This was most likely the worst four days we had, and the sad thing is he was in charge so quickly that he did not have time to get his feet wet… I only knew him a short time, maybe fourteen days, but in that short time, he did two amazing unselfish things I would like his family to know about. He had a tough job and he was a HERO. To leap into action as his men were under siege; to console one of his men as he (Tom) lay dying - these were actions that typified our friend and comrade."
Brooke continued: “To everything he did, Tom brought enthusiasm, joy, and dedication. I don't know what his goal in life was or what his plans for the future were, but I like to think of him as a teacher, whose warmth and smile and thoughtfulness, along with his voracious appetite for life and living would have delighted and inspired his students just as they did me. Tom, we miss you and your big, beaming smile; we remember you and your infectious enthusiasm; we honor you and your selfless dedication. And we thank you, Tom, for being, albeit way too briefly, a part of our lives.”