GMC News

A Message from President Caldwell on Vietnam War Veterans Day

A Message from President Caldwell on Vietnam War Veterans Day

One of Ronald Reagan’s final acts as President of the United States was to leave a letter at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The letter was addressed to those whose names are carved on the wall in remembrance of the sacrifice they made for our nation. The letter read: Our young friends— yes, young friends, for in our hearts you will always be young, full of the love that is youth, love of life, love of joy, love of country— you fought for your country and for its safety and for the freedom of others with strength and courage. We love you for it. We honor you. And we have faith that, as He does all His sacred children, the Lord will bless you and keep you, the Lord will make His face to shine upon you and give you peace, now and forever more.

President Reagan’s letter is one of thousands that have been left there.

One letter reads I came to this black wall again to see and touch your name.

Another reads My Dearest Son, Today I am coming to see your name on the “wall.” I haven’t been ready until now, but I know that I must see it before I die.

Of the 58,000 names on the Wall, eight of them are from Georgia Military College.

One of those men who made that trip across the world from the safety of home to the jungles of Vietnam was Sgt. Paul “Skip” Lawing. Sgt. Lawing was a Junior College student at GMC in 1970 who was killed in action in the Phouc Tuy province. He was a dog handler for the Green Berets, a NASCAR fan, and, by all accounts, a great basketball player.

He was also posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat. His citation reads:

“Sergeant Lawing observed a force of Viet Cong soldiers moving towards his hilltop outpost… He immediately brought this enemy force under mortar fire and requested assistance. Shortly afterwards a reaction force… arrived at the base of the outpost and made contact with the enemy. Sergeant Lawing personally directed the actions of this friendly force from his observation post. When the enemy element broke up into smaller groups Sergeant Lawing unhesitatingly moved through intense enemy small arms and machine gun fire in order to continue directing the movements of the reaction force. Once again with complete disregard for his own safety, he moved through the bullet-swept area in order to engage this flanking element. At this time, he came under withering machine gun fire and fell mortally wounded. Sergeant Lawing’s conspicuous gallantry saved a friendly force from ambush and probable loss. Sergeant Lawing’s conspicuous gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.”

Sgt. Lawing’s beloved dog Sandbag made it home from Vietnam and attended his funeral.

Georgia Military College is a leadership institution, and every day that I set foot on our campus, I think about the qualities that make great leaders. Today, as I think about our Vietnam-era vets—those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who fortunately were able to return home—the leadership quality at the front of my mind is courage. Those we honor today personify courage and it’s important to me that our students, our faculty and staff, and everyone who sets foot on our campus knows that they’re walking on the same ground where heroes among our nation’s most courageous have tread before them.