THE MIRACLES AND TRAGEDIES OF JANUARY 20, 1967
This is about a man I never met who sent me a letter which told a story that could have only happened because of a series of miracles.
PFC George W McGhee is the hero we carried off the mountain that night.
PhPhyllis and I met Pace Caldwell and his wife, Dot, in January of 2017 for the first time. The four of us traced the names of three men killed, January 20, 1967, whose names were etched on the travelling Vietnam Memorial Wall, Ft Benning, GA. Pace’s name was not on the Wall because he was evacuated from the battlefield under extraordinary circumstances 50 years earlier.
Several months ago I posted two stories about the battle of January 20, 1967. (See The Longest Day and Darkness Night). After reading these stories, Kevin Caldwell, son of Pace Caldwell, posted a letter of gratitude.
I would like to thank you for your courage and dedication to upholding “No man left behind”. I know it was more than a motto and that you and your men upheld it on more than one occasion. It is the occasion of the time that you held to it in saving Pace Caldwell’s life ( more than once from what I have heard), that I would like to offer my deepest gratitude. I am the son of Pace born just a little over a year later in 1968. Seeing his image on this page from back then was very moving. I am also the spitting image of him. His photo looks just like the one of me in uniform many years later that hangs on his wall today. You not only saved his life that day but also made it possible for me to exist as his son. One moment in time that you found the courage and strength to do what was right and brave produced many repercussions that one could have never imagined in that time. I know as a fellow soldier and human that our vision is very limited and that we can not see or have knowledge of the repercussions of our actions. I wanted to say thank you so that you might experience a sense of pride and gratitude on the deepest level possible. Your actions not only saved Pace but also allowed all of us that he loves to know uncountable moments of a future that would not have existed without him. No medal, no words can describe the treasure that is yours due to your actions. May heaven bless you and those you love 1000 times over for what you have given my family. I live in the D.C. area and have been waiting to see the memorial wall with my father Pace. I thank you that I will not see his name on that wall and that I am here to be able to see it at all.
Kevin Caldwell’s website adds the following comments:
…… I can never repay Lt Burr and his brave men for the gift of life they have given me. It is for them and their comrades both living and dead and for the 760,000 plus of my fellow citizens in the 6th C.D. In MD, that I offer my services as a representative in Congress.
Pace Caldwell, 3rd plt, A Co, 1/35 Inf Bn, Central Highlands, South Vietnam
I may not be able to repay them directly, but I can honor them by promising them I will never dishonor their service and sacrifice by becoming just another member of the corrupt, dishonest establishment that controls our system of Gov. I instead will fight to my last breath against those who deny us our liberties and subvert the founding principles of our country and the Constitution. In keeping with the great traditions, these men fought to preserve, I vow to do all I can to reflect great credit upon them and to deserve the great honor these men have bestowed upon me.
I never forget, Forever Grateful
/s/ Kevin Caldwell
I can see God’s hand in the above story at several points.
First, it was no small miracle, that any of us survived the battle of January 20, 1967 , because we were inserted about 7 km from the intended location which put us into an area occupied by a large enemy force. We suffered 3 KIA and 4 WIA. The tragedy of January 20,1967.
Next, several hours later as the battle took a turn for the worse a sister unit suddenly appeared on our flank. I had no knowledge of the friendly unit or their location. Apparently, they didn’t either.
Further, We were fortunate not to have had casualties from friendly fire. To our good fortune, in the confusion of the battle, the enemy withdrew.
The next miracle occurred when an artillery helicopter flying nearby was persuaded to pick up some of our casualties when higher headquarters denied our requested medivac to pickup our wounded (perhaps for valid reasons). Without this particular unexpected extraction of our wounded some would not have survived. Pace was on this helicopter.
Lastly, the remnant of our platoon walked several miles to the valley below the mountain to the LZ. We did so at night through enemy controlled area, carrying PFC George William McGhee, our deceased comrade. Surely God’s Grace saw us through the night.
Fifty years later, Phyllis and I were happy to find out that our new friends Pace and Dot had a strong testimony of faith in God and continually give God the Glory for saving Pace’s life. Pace and Dot are a wonderful couple who treated Phyllis and I like we were part of their family.
Lastly, Kevin Caldwell’s life and his current endeavors reflect great credit on himself, his family and is further evidence of God’s Grace.
We may never fully know how God’s purpose was furthered by the survivors of January 20, 1967.
However, for me and my house we will serve the Lord