Roger Michael Kittleson

United States Marine Corps
23 July 1947 - 25 February 1969
Excelsior, Minnesota
Panel 31W Line 051



Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Roger Michael Kittleson

Roger -

I was in Viet Nam when they killed you. Neither of us knew the other was there. Neither of us knew that only one of us would come back to see the lights of The World. But for half a year, and though separated by half of a country that was host to a common enemy, we were for a time together again.

Growing up we weren't always the closest friends, but during those middle years we were. That was when in the struggle for identity amidst our peers, a guy needed an ally the most at school. And you were someone whom I chose to trust. Of course by graduation we'd made other friends, discovered other interests, other futures to explore, which for me would be the Army, for you the Marines. Yet for both of us it was one military, in the service of one cause, in the furtherance of one noble and imperishable ideal: that men may always live in freedom.

Roger, I found your name on the granite Wall some years ago. It was the only one that I came to find, just as in Washington the Vietnam Memorial was the only thing that I took time to see. I'd flown to the city on a mission of another sort - back during the Y2K hysteria when I made a living criss-crossing the country, updating computer systems in the finest of hotels. In those days the hospitality I received wasn't anything like what you and I had known in the service, especially in Vietnam. The spacious beds were nothing like the last one that your living body felt, the chef-prepared food nothing like the last canned rations that passed your lips. No, I'd been experiencing what was the best that thirty years later the world you left behind could have to offer. Yet that too, was a part of the ideal that we'd gone to war to further and protect - that men could live in freedom and also prosper.

It was on the way back to the airport, to return to Excelsior - which was still my home town as it had been yours - that I told the cabby to take me to the Wall and wait. Then from the roadway I walked through the open woods, studied the directory, and started the descent in front of the polished panels of stone. Somewhere along the way I stopped and traced your name with a fingertip and recalled your face. I remembered what a great pal you'd been and realized anew what a friend I'd lost. After that I imagined what an excellent dad you would have become, and thought for a moment about the painful void left in hearts other than my own. Though I had that flight to catch and the cab was waiting, still I was in no hurry to leave your name behind.

As a person moves along the gradually expanding wall, concentrating upon the chiseled letters, the slope takes you slowly downward, while the granite rises higher than your head. Lower, steadily lower, move your feet. Darker, steadily darker, becomes the view before your eyes, until you reach the apex and begin the gradual ascent. And it's near the far end, when you're almost on level ground again, and daylight once more strikes you from every side, that it hits you like a mortar shell. What you discover is that you've been inside an open grave, one that you've just emerged up and out of and from there back into the living world, but one in which all of those on the Wall must still remain.

Roger, when the enemy killed you, they extinguished one of the brightest lights in my past of nearly sixty years. And now, about a year ago, our newest enemy - and the heirs in malice to the NVA and Viet Cong - nearly put out another. Far from Excelsior, far from what had been his home too, the Iraqi insurgents blew up my son. But he, thanks to the kind of luck that Heaven withheld from you that day, ended up coming through. After one infantry tour he'd volunteered to return for another year, a year that at its end nearly cost him what yours in Nam had fully cost you.

Roger, the struggle against tyranny continues without either one of us now. But you'd be glad to know that there are still young men like we once were, willing to take weapon in hand and stand in our place. And as they carry on, fighting the fight that you and I fought, and as I approach my own final rest within the earth, I remember you often, and I always will.

David Walker
23 July 2006
Hendersonville, North Carolina

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a friend,
David Walker
Hendersonville, N C

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 23 Jul 2006
Last updated 08/06/2006