Saturday, July 19, 2008

Remembrance Service

The colonel stood straight with his weight equally distributed on each foot. He wore his cavalry hat and held a sheaf of papers containing names and dates. His posture, speech, and demeanor were that of an army commander-which he had been. He was now the Alpha Troop Association commander and the occasion was a remembrance service for deceased warriors of Troop A, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry of the 101st Airborne Division. 

As he stood facing us, we were seated at round tables inside the hooch of the Jackson Room in the Doubletree Hotel in Nashville. The mood was quiet, respectful, and reverent. The colonel read aloud the names on the alphabetized list. He spoke the full name, year(s) served in Vietnam, and the casualty date. After a pause, he gave voice to the next name and dates. When a veteran in the audience recognized a name, he stood and made comments about the hero who made the ultimate sacrifice. Sometimes the comments brought tears among us. Other times the levity of the remarks brought laughter. This continued for almost 2 hours as around 160 names were spoken.

A name was missing from the list. Gerard Vincent Palma, a 1964 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, was my platoon's leader the year of 1966. Lt. Palma completed the Troop A tour of duty, went home, and returned to VN in 1969 as a captain for a second tour in the 11th Cavalry. The helicopter in which he was riding on 4/19/69 was hit by enemy gunfire, crashed, and all aboard were killed. 

A 1966 picture of him is below.  Below the picture is his name as it appears on the Vietnam Wall on panel 26W line 8. Captain Palma is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 8 site 5518-E.  I spoke his name at the meeting and it will be added to the Alpha Troop list for the next meeting in 2010.  

I am the shirtless soldier at age 19 in the same picture somewhere in VN.  I'm now 61. 

Alf Iver Hovland was on the colonel's list. He, too, was in my platoon. His picture is near the bottom showing him as he removed a biscuit from a can of C-rations as I snapped this photo. His date of death was announced as 4/10/92, after tour.  He is buried at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in section U-2, site 1102 in South Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The bottom picture shows Hovland standing and Palma seated in a jeep somewhere in central VN in January 1966.

Think about this for a moment.  Will a group give voice to your name and dates long after you pass?  How about your rotary club, college fraternity or sorority, former employer, or the church or synagogue where you worship?  I doubt it.

An old WWII veteran from Connecticut who is a patient at the veteran's hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina said this when I was there to help serve watermelon on July 5. He said,  "there is an unusual bond between men who served and fought in war.  It's different from any other bond between people." He continued, "the bond that exists between these men is the way the Lord intended."

Have a good week!

Mouse and click to enlarge photos for clearer viewing.


At 7/19/2008 9:39 PM, Blogger TheVirtualWall said...

Hi Mike, There is a personal memorial page in honor of Captain Palma on the web site named THE VIRTUAL WALL (TM) at

Captain Palma's memorial page, with a picture of him, is at

THE VIRTUAL WALL web site does not accept fees, donations, subscriptions, or advertising in order to honor the fallen. I'm one of the volunteer staff.

At 7/24/2008 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry Palma and I were West Point classmates, close friends, ranger buddies and served together twice. We were lieutenants together at Fort Carson and and captains together at Fort Benning. He left from Fort Benning to return to Viet Nam for his second tour. Thank you for your blog.

Marty Michlik

At 7/24/2008 10:41 AM, Blogger Mike Mabe said...


Thank you for your message and the information about your close association with Jerry Palma. In one eulogy about Captain Palma at url : the 10th paragraph describes a citation he earned. The two sentence paragraph includes the words "the badly outnumbered patrol" in which Lt. Palma led a group to aid. I was in the small patrol of 7 men who were pinned down by enemy gunfire. Two of us were wounded.

The citation he received was deserved.

Mike Mabe


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