A Soldier Comes Home

 

When the sun rises tomorrow, July 24th, it will mark 40 years to the day that Army Spc. Randy Dalton was killed in action. It will also be the day that Randy will finally make it home to the St. Louis area, to be laid to rest next to his parents. Randy’s father, Fred Dalton, had purchased the extra burial plot in the belief that, though he wouldn’t live to see it, one day his son would come home.

Randy was a gunner aboard a helicopter during a recon mission in Cambodia, five miles north of the South Vietnamese border on that awful day. His chopper took ground fire as it came over some trees, and crashed. A rescue team was dispatched to the scene and found Dalton and another man, SFC Greg Antuanano, still strapped in their seats. Pulling both men from the wreckage, the medic determined that Antuanano was dead, but Randy, though seriously injured, was clinging to life. A desperate but futile effort ensued to stop the bleeding and stabilize Randy. He died in the medics hands. 

As the team attempted to load the bodies onto the rescue chopper, they were ordered to evacuate immediately as enemy forces were closing in.  Recovery efforts were abandoned, and Randy’s body lay next to the wreckage even as the rescue team took enemy fire while leaving the scene. The following day, the rescue team returned, but the bodies and equipment were gone. Randy had been just two weeks from completing his tour of duty in Vietnam.

This is why so many veterans and active duty members wear metal bracelets in memory of those who have yet to come home.  Some have the names of individual service members, while others have phrases such as, “Until They All Come Home,” or “Bring ‘Em Home Or Send Us Back.” No one, but NO ONE should be left behind.

Thankfully, efforts to bring the remains of Spc. Dalton continued over the years. Several months ago, members of the Dalton family were asked to provide DNA samples to the US Army Central Identification Laboratory. Then, on March 19th, Daltons oldest sister was briefed in person that the Army had positively identified her brother’s remains. Karen Dalton Kloster was only 13 when she last saw her brother. “I remember worshiping him. I idolized my big brother,” she said.

HRuyv.Em.98.jpgYesterday, Randy’s remains arrived in St. Louis. The Patriot Guard escorted his body along a route lined with American flags. An honor guard carried his flag-draped casket to the funeral home in Glen Carbon. Tomorrow, at 1PM Central, he will be laid to rest, surrounded by family and accompanied by a volley of shots fired in his honor and the sound of Taps. Though we can’t be there, perhaps you might join me at 1PM tomorrow in a moment of silence to honor the ultimate sacrifice by one of America’s sons, and the determination of a nation to bring him home.  

And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.  ~Joseph Drake

There are 12 comments.

  1. Inactive

    Count me in too. As always, thanks Dave.

    • #1
    • July 24, 2011 at 7:04 am
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  2. Inactive

    Though we can’t be there, perhaps you might join me at 1PM tomorrow in a moment of silence to honor the ultimate sacrifice by one of America’s sons, and the determination of a nation to bring him home.

    Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

    I’m in.

    • #2
    • July 24, 2011 at 7:04 am
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  3. Member

    1PM Ricochet Standard Time

    • #3
    • July 24, 2011 at 7:21 am
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  4. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author
    Jimmy Carter: 1PM Ricochet Standard Time · Jul 23 at 7:21pm

    Well, I think that would be west coast time,..but for this occasion, perhaps we can appropriate it.

    • #4
    • July 24, 2011 at 7:33 am
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  5. Inactive

    Through the Vietnam conflict, America’s wars were mostly fought by citizen soldiers. Men and women who had no interest in military careers or going to war. Yet they went and served our country with honor and valor. During the Vietnam War more than 55,000 didn’t finish their tour of duty. They fought and died in service of our country, patriots all.

    Men like Randy Dalton are real heroes.

    • #5
    • July 24, 2011 at 7:55 am
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  6. Member

    *Slow Salute*

    • #6
    • July 24, 2011 at 8:33 am
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  7. Member

    Though many have died and few I have known. I would like to thank Dave Carter for his service. Also my boyhood friends: Jeffrey Tramel, Michael Stelpflug, and Steve Stacey. All of whom luckily returned from multiple missions. Special thanks to my father who served in WWII.

    At 1:00pm I will remove my Resistol and take my boots off the table in this man’s honor.

    • #7
    • July 24, 2011 at 9:59 am
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  8. Member

    Count me in.

    • #8
    • July 24, 2011 at 10:10 am
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  9. Inactive

    This so moving. Thanks for posting this, Dave. I’m in.

    • #9
    • July 24, 2011 at 10:13 am
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  10. Inactive

    No one could make light of your courage…. If you were struck by a dart or smitten in close combat, it would not be from behind. — Homer’s Iliad, book 13.

    As a helicopter gunner, Spc. Dalton was at the front of the fight. I will be glad to honor him at 1pm central.

    • #10
    • July 24, 2011 at 10:59 am
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  11. Inactive

    Great post Dave!

    Your country’s commitment to those who gave all is deeply moving.

    Domo

    • #11
    • July 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm
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  12. Member

    Thank you, Dave, for posting this. I’m proud to see this story. I went through an initiation some time back with a linguist that worked on Hickam AFB, Hawaii at the place that does the searching and DNA testing. Can’t help but swell up with pride to see such effort put into taking care of one of our own. He is home.

    • #12
    • July 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm
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