Retired Army 2nd Lt. Terry Modglin's long search for the family of a fallen soldier in his command more than three decades ago in Vietnam is over.
Thanks to Tribune readers, Modglin found family members of Vietnam War casualty Sgt. Richard Lee Stockett of Mesa. Modglin said he wanted the family to know that Stockett's name will appear with others on a memorial being built this year for members of the E Company, 4th Battalion (airborne), 503rd Infantry Division in Fort Benning, Ga. A story about Modglin seeking Stockett's relatives appeared in Monday's print and online editions of the Tribune.
Modglin, who lives in Falls Church, Va., said he regrets that someone else notified Stockett's parents of his death and returned his belongings to them. In an e-mail, Modglin told one of Stockett's brothers that "... every year since his being killed in action I think of him."
"I got what I needed to do for 30 years," Modglin told the Tribune on Tuesday. "I regret I didn't get it done 30 years ago. Other people have been trying to find them before. Even the Mormon Church in Mesa couldn't help us."
Stockett was killed in action March 2, 1971 - four months shy of his 21st birthday - in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam.
On Monday night, Modglin spoke with Jerry Stockett of Lehigh, Utah, one of the soldier's four surviving brothers, and June Kerby of South Jordan, Utah, one of his two surviving sisters. Stockett's mother, Florence, died in 1985. His father, Wiley, died in 1992. They are buried next to their son and a daughter in Mesa City Cemetery.
"It was like wow! A trip to the past," said Kerby on being told about the story and speaking with Modglin. "I've been to the memorial in Washington and will go to this one when it's built. It was wonderful talking to people who knew him in the Army and hearing about what a great person he was."
Modglin and others attended a July 11 groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial being built near the National Infantry Museum in Patriot Park at Fort Benning. Names of the 1,643 members of the 173rd Airborne who died in Vietnam will be inscribed along with 59 others who perished in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stockett's name already is on panel 04W, line 017 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Kerby said while the family had closure years ago, it was good that she and her brother Jerry were able to find out a bit about Richard's last four months of life.
"We were very close," Kerby said. "I remember when I was a senior in high school in Virginia and he was a sophomore he used to drill me on the makes of cars. He looked at their taillights and knew. He was a bright person."
Kerby said that during his last leave, Richard lived with her and her husband in Pittsburgh for about a month. He was engaged to a woman he met in Pittsburgh about three months before his death.