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Editorial: Sacrifice and Memories

Editorial: Sacrifice and Memories

On Memorial Day, we remember what they gave ... and what they left behind.
Editorial: Sacrifice and Memories

Panel 40e, Line 38

If you go down to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., that’s where you can find his name.

It’s on a panel located about two-thirds of the way down the wall on the right side facing the monument.

His name is on the right edge of the panel, to the right of Alexander Federoff and just below Hurshell H. Gough.

Sgt. Kenneth Lloyd Fetter of Schenectady.

Sgt. Fetter began his service in the Army on April 24, 1967. He served in the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry, C Company, performing light weapons infantry duty.

On Feb. 20, 1968, according to the Army, “Fetter experienced a serious casualty which ultimately resulted in loss of life. This occurred in or around Near Lai Khe, South Vietnam, Binh Duong province. Circumstances of the casualty were attributed to: ‘Died through hostile action .. multiple fragmentation wounds.’”

His father got the news on a Saturday night. The rest of the community learned about his death the following Wednesday in a brief article printed in a narrow column of the front page of the Schenectady Gazette. His body would be returned to the United States within a few days, the article said. Funeral arrangements were pending.

He was less than two months shy of his 21st birthday.

To most of us who had never met him or who weren’t even born when he was killed, Sgt. Kenneth Lloyd Fetter is an etching on a monument far away, one of hundreds of thousands of soldiers from all American wars who gave their lives serving our country over the last 242 years.

To others, though, he was a friend and classmate, son and uncle.

“I remember Kenny as a strapping young teenager who tossed my little sisters and I around up at Aunt Sue’s camp in Galway Lake,” someone wrote on the website, honorstates.org. “I was almost 10 years old the day my mother told me Kenny had died, and I never have forgotten that feeling that my innocent world was changed. .. We are ever grateful to all who served in Vietnam, God bless you all.”

To another family member, he was “the Uncle I never met.”

“Uncle Kenny was my mother Debby’s oldest brother,” his nephew, Tim Thurber, posted two years ago Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website. “There was Kenny, Priscilla, Lucille, and my Mother from My Maternal Grandfather Jerry Fetter and my Grandmother Ouida “June” Putnam. Uncle Kenny was talked about often around the holidays. From what I heard growing up, my mom’s parents took it hard. I will forever honor you, Uncle Kenny, I look forward to the day we can finally meet.”

He continued at another time, “I will never forget the stories from my mother and Aunt Lucy about how cool my Uncle Kenny was... Your name will carry on in my family through my children. God Bless your heart, and the ultimate sacrifice you made for your country.”

Melinda Nehring Wollitz was just 9 years old when her family got the news of Kenny’s death.

“You were the quirky teenager who goofed around with us Nehring kids up at Aunt Sue’s camp on Galway Lake,” she wrote. “My mom is Marilyn Balazovich-Nehring. We honor you, as I again told my story of bravery and sacrifice that put you on The Wall to a group of young students in my class. You were so very young, it is even sad now, almost 50 years later, that your life was cut short. God bless you!”

For niece, Gabbi Camp, her uncle’s death took on special meaning when she and her classmates studied the Vietnam War.

“When I was learning about the Vietnam War in school, I thought about you, which was weird in a way. But in the future, I was planning to be a future veteran like you, which I’ll risk my life for our country. Plus me and Stevie wish we could meet you. R.I.P Uncle Ken. From your long lost niece and nephew: Gabbi And Stevie.”

And John O’Donnell, a friend, classmate and teammate of Kenny’s on their high school baseball team, took a moment to thank him.

“Remembering a Classmate and hero on the anniversary of his being taken from us. Thank You Ken. You gave all so that others could live in peace.”
When we honor our heroes today, we must resist the urge to think of them in a disconnected way. We must think of them in real terms. 

When you die in a war, you’re not “lost” or “fallen.” You’re killed deliberately by someone with a bomb or a gun or a hand-grenade or a missile.

“Hostile action.” “Multiple fragmentation wounds.” 

To truly attempt to understand and appreciate their sacrifice, we must remember, too, that the soldiers we honor on Memorial Day are more than a name on a monument or gravestone. We must remember the lives they lived, the experiences they shared, the friends and family members whose hearts were torn apart by their deaths and who will miss them forever.

And while we’re bowing our heads in gratitude, we must remember and appreciate the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifices.

Thank you, Uncle Kenny, and all your fellow soldiers who gave up your lives for us.

Rest in Peace.

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