Retired Army 2nd Lt.Terry Modglin knew Sgt. Richard Lee Stockett for only two months. Yet, it was sufficient for the soldier from Mesa to make a lasting impression on his superior officer.
"It's enough time when you sleep in the same bunker," Modglin said. "You really get to know a man fast that way."
Modglin is trying to locate relatives of Stockett, who was killed in action March 2, 1971 - four months shy of his 21st birthday - in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam. The commander of the E Company, 4th Battalion (airborne), 503rd Infantry Division wants to tell Stockett's relatives what type of man and soldier he was, and about a memorial being built in Fort Benning, Ga., that will list Stockett's name, among others.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial being built near the National Infantry Museum in Patriot Park at Fort Benning took place July 11. Construction of the memorial is scheduled to begin in September. Project officials expect it will take about a year to complete.
Ken Smith, president of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial Foundation, said the group came together about two years ago with the sole purpose of raising money, gathering names and coming up with a design for the memorial. It will honor more than 1,700 "sky soldiers" who have died in battle, as well as recognize the brigade, which has been instrumental in American military operations in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Names of the 1,643 members of the 173rd Airborne who died in Vietnam - including Mesans Sgt. Frank Herrera, who died May 18, 1968, and Sgt. Rick S. Brown, killed January 7, 1971 - also will be inscribed along with 59 others who perished in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any future casualties will be added.
Stockett's name already is on panel 04W, line 017 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Modglin, who lives in Falls Church, Va., and others associated with the memorial haven't been able to find Stockett's parents or any other relatives. Calls last week to a number of people in the Valley with the Stockett surname yielded no results.
Stockett was the unit's radio telephone operator, the man who carried his unit's radio on his back in the field, according to Modglin.
"He had been on tour for 18 months," Modglin said. "I believe he would have had a brilliant future. He would have gone on to be a congressman or held some sort of leadership position. He was that kind of person."
Modglin said Stockett pushed to go on the mission where he was killed.
"He begged me," Modglin said. "He wanted to become a reconnaissance man, the elite of the elite. You regret a decision like that the rest of your life. He just wanted to do it. He was a strong, upstanding, Mormon kid who was religious. He obviously came from a strong family. I believe they would want to know about how their son is being honored."
Modglin said while he didn't handle getting Stockett's belongings to his family, he's sure someone did.
"Before I let him go, he brought me his things and said, 'This is my stuff. If anything happens to me, make sure my family gets it.' "
Modglin hopes he gets some response from Stockett family members from this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"He had a sister and brother that I knew of," Modglin said. "I want to meet his family. Some families aren't able to close this chapter in their lives. From the sense I got from Stockett, his family were the kind of people who would want to know about this memorial."