20 year old brother Mark Allen Matter was killed near the village of Cam
La, Quang Tin Province, Vietnam, October 1, 1970. The medic said none
of the IV's worked properly; the med-evac helicopter could not get in for
40 minutes because of the cloud cover. Mark went into shock from a
single shrapnel wound from a booby trap and died either en route or when
Though we received many official letters of sympathy, we
only learned how he died from the men who like the nine of us also
called him brother - the men in his Recon unit whom we met in the fall
of 2009. Their friendship and love for him lifted our grief.
cannot find any justification for that war or the ones that have
followed. I resigned from the US Department of State over President
Bush's policy of preemptive strike.
wrote the attached for my family - saying Memorial Day is always a hard
one for me - how to remember with love yet hate the war. This year I
reread Mark's few letters from Vietnam and then tried to make him come
alive for all those too young to have known him. I did not edit his
spelling. Mark left a
hand written letter in which he asked that if he died in Vietnam, we
were to see that none of his brothers went to war. None did.
Perhaps my job this year is to write Mark's Book. Maureen
“A dark red trail” Memorial Day 2015
He wrote home about the beauty of Vietnam, hitch hiking around, hoping to surf in the ocean at Chu Lai saying “its right next to the ocean – I mean right next to it – I can see it from here in barracks just about!” and that he had “real good equipment this time.”
In a letter to “Jim and Tone,” he told them that the Americal patch, the blue one with the stars, “goes on the left shoulder,” said he hoped “all is well with you guys – Mary Jo – to of course” - and told them all to “be good.”
He asked for ideas on how to marry Chris in Hawaii on R & R, said “soon as I have a camera I’ll send pics,” asked for family addresses.
“Hi Marg” he wrote and gently counseled her about her friends and about working, started and then stopped his frank train of thought about race.
He tried to reassure Mom that his Recon unit would keep him safe – writing “I met alot of people from my company and they all seem like alright guys real friendly – and there a good close-nit fighting group – only lost 1 man.” His sent his food list ”some cans of food like Pork n Beans or chillie stuff – not in family size cans – or some of those corn chips I always ate.”
He wrote it was “really strange” that was a second Mark A Matter there, said Kurt needed to do whatever he could to stay out of the draft, wondered if he could meet Dad in Australia, asked about Stormy (Tony’s pony), tried to tell them where he was.
KP and classes kept him from swimming in the sea, the weather left him sweating, the mail didn’t come often enough or quickly enough. He answered letters from his brothers and sisters and told Mom to keep in touch with Chris.
In the letter Mom and Dad received September 29, 1970 he wrote that “the sun is leaving a dark red trail in the sky in the West.”
In Dad’s notes is the handwritten draft of a letter to President Nixon acknowledging his letter of sympathy.
Dad wrote “I pray there may be peace – especially for the sake of Mark’s brothers and sisters who have such special and strong feelings in regard to Vietnam.”
Jim went to Vietnam over Christmas break 2009. He emailed “I will carry all of your grief over there and I will be a 12 year old kid for a while who just heard about his brother.”