Memorial Day 2017
(written by) Richard's friend, Fern Malkine-Falvey.
Richard Quinn didn't want to go to war. Very few do. He couldn't imagine killing anyone. He had just finished two years of college at UCCC, and was going to enroll at the University of Miami. He was a Latin major – had received a scholarship in foreign languages. He was an honor student. He had spoken to a close friend about becoming a subway train conductor. He had big dreams about playing professional baseball.
But the day after his 21 st birthday, on July 24 th , 1969, he received his induction notice, ordering him to report on August 4 th , to Fort Dix, NJ, for basic training. After completing those eight weeks of training, Richard was sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for 10 weeks of training as a Medic. For that is how he had decided he would serve; in this way, he would be doing everything he could to save lives, instead of taking them.
Richard did well in the Army; he wrote home to a close friend that it wasn't so bad – that he wasn't being harassed; that he was treated fairly. All one had to do was do their job. He learned all he could, as quickly as he could, for he'd be responsible – with only 10 weeks training – to save the life of every soldier that passed through his hands.
Deployed to Vietnam on January 12, 1970, “Doc” Quinn died exactly 6 months later, July 12, 1970, during a firefight on the Cambodian border. He crawled hundreds of yards, through jungle terrain, directly facing a hail of machine gun, and small arms fire. Focused. Determined to reach those who needed his help. As fate would have it, he was directed towards the body of a fellow Medic – “Doc” Thomas Kloss, a conscientious objector, from California. Reaching his side, Richard put himself between the gunfire and his fellow Medic. Both died there, Richard's body later found, draped over Kloss'. The enemy had lobbed a grenade at them, to make sure they were dead. Nearly 50 years after this incident, the point squad leader for the platoon and company that day, Sergeant Don Ketcham wrote, “Man, that guy had guts!”
There is no way to know how many lives Richard saved, both on the ground, and in Medevac helicopters. For his actions that day, Richard received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and many other medals and citations. But Richard didn't crawl through raging gunfire to be a hero; he simply did it to try and save anyone he possibly could. Sergeant Ed Nored, who was also present at that firefight, and spoke to Quinn as Quinn crawled past him later said, “Quinn moved forward armed only with his aid bag. He moved forward beating down the fear he had for his own life, and fearing what condition he might find the wounded in. Would he be able to help the men or not?”
The only two to die in the firefight that day were the two Medics. “Doc” Kloss had just turned 19; “Doc” Quinn was 21. They had both arrived in Vietnam, from opposite sides of the country, on the very same day, and died together on the same day. Exactly a year to the day that he received his induction notice, Richard was buried here, in the Woodstock Cemetery, one day past his 22 nd birthday. On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, Quinn and Kloss' names are side by side, both gone too soon.
The Vietnam War was possibly the most divisive war – other than the Civil War – in our history. Richard, like so many others his age, did the best he could under extremely difficult circumstances, and died the most honorable way one can, according to the Greeks – by sacrificing his life to save another.
Although it is clear that Richard's last act on this earth was truly heroic, Richard would not have wanted to be glorified, but he would have wanted to be appreciated – to be remembered. As he told his brother George just before leaving for Vietnam, “If I don't come back, keep my name alive.” Nearly half a century later, he would surely appreciate that we have come together, today, to do just that.
And now, Richard's brother George will read from an essay Richard wrote about Woodstock before he went to Vietnam, called “Late Summer Evening in a Small Town.”
Late Summer Evening in a Small Town
The warm, late summer air has brought numerous types of
people to the cozy little village nestled in the Catskills.
The air has a sweet, nighttime end-of-summer aroma, which creates
an air of easy-goingness not with us earlier in the season.
Bats and insects dart around the streetlights and animals spring
from alleyways to the other side of the street. Young people
are everywhere, teeming with the youthful exuberance, which
characterizes them, buzzing from one place to the next, having
no cares in the world.
Older people prefer to sit on benches, feeling the warm
soft air of the night on their faces and perhaps drop a comment
or two about the loud sports cars or the short skirts, both of
which characterize the night. Several of the town drunks head
up to the graveyard to sit on the soft green grass and drink
their spirits in peace as they discuss better times among
themselves. A warm breeze blows now and then, and laps at a
strollers face and then passes on. Noise is everywhere!
Happy voices sing out from the bars and cafes. Voices whiz
by from passing cars and strollers talk loudly among themselves.
Everyone, man, woman and animal is in a frantic rush to enjoy
this last vestige of summer. The warmth, the smell, the aliveness
of nature in the trees, bushes and ground are NOW to be enjoyed
for in a short time it will be gone.
Click on any image to enlarge.