Porter Garner III '79 May 25, 2023 5:28 PM updated: May 26, 2023 2:48 PM
May 26, 2023
On March 29, 1973, the last American combat soldier left Saigon, marking the end of the United States’ direct military involvement in the Vietnam War. By the end of the U.S. diplomatic evacuation in 1975, over 58,000 Americans – and over 200 Aggies – had lost their lives.
In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completed and dedicated in our nation’s capital, and has since become the most-visited memorial on the National Mall. For many, however, the travel required to see this important and exquisite memorial is prohibitive. For that reason, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund created The Wall That Heals, a traveling exhibit that includes a replica of the memorial.
Last month, Aggieland had the privilege of hosting the exhibit. The Association of Former Students was deeply honored to serve as a sponsor to this exhibit, which opened to the public on April 27 with a “Welcome Home” ceremony. Among the esteemed guests at this ceremony was Medal of Honor recipient Clarence Sasser ’73, a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M University and the only Aggie Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam era.
Among the tens of thousands of names etched on The Wall are those of 90 Aggies known to have been killed in combat in Vietnam and the surrounding areas of conflict. These names carved into the black granite are so much more than the letters that compose them; they are an eternal recognition of Aggies who exemplified our core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service.
I think of Aggies like Capt. Russell Condon ’55, whose unit was ambushed by enemy forces and drawn into a deadly firefight on May 22, 1965. Capt. Condon led a counterattack and placed himself in a position to draw enemy fire away from the unit, sacrificing his life for the safety of his troops. He posthumously received the Silver Star award for his gallantry and valor.
The citation of his award details the events of this fateful day; but it is, ultimately, incomplete. The lives Capt. Condon saved, and the resulting ripples of those soldiers returning to their families, are simply immeasurable. Like all the lives lost in this and our nation’s other conflicts, each name on The Wall symbolizes a life cut short and a reminder that freedom comes at a great cost.
Texas Aggies know this better than anyone, as we have mourned the loss of over 1,100 of our own in military service to our nation. As Aggies, we hold dear our duty to remember, respect and honor these men and women, and this duty extends far beyond the boundaries of our campus.
On this Memorial Day, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the legacy of the 1.3 million who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. We will never adequately repay the debt we owe to them, or the families they left behind; but we can ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain. May we each commit to a life that embodies the same core values through our intentions and our actions. In doing so, we will honor their memory and inspire future generations to carry this legacy forward.
With great respect,
Porter Garner ’79
President and CEO