Chuck McDonald vividly remembers the American flag draped over his uncle’s coffin. The funeral was nearly a half-century ago. Joseph Monaghan was just 20 when he was killed in Vietnam.
McDonald, who was 6 at the time, keeps the flag and his uncle’s Purple Heart in his Drexel Hill home.
Monaghan’s name can be found carved on a memorial at Marlborough and Widley Streets, along with those of 10 other Fishtown residents killed during the Vietnam War.
From 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, the Cpl. Charles J. Glenn III U.S.M.C. Memorial will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Installed in 1967, it is one of the oldest Vietnam War memorials in the country, according to committee member Joyce Windfelder.
The neighborhood has maintained the memorial on its own since the beginning. In 1986, after the memorial was refurbished, six Fishtown residents — four of them veterans — formed a committee responsible for its upkeep, and organized Memorial Day and Veterans Day events.
In a symbolic roll call Saturday, committee member and Vietnam veteran John Lonergan is to shout the name of each person memorialized. Glenn’s uncle, George Ludwig, a committee member who served in Europe after the Korean War, will respond with “present and accounted for.” Speakers will represent each of the 11 men to “give them all a voice,” Lonergan said.
“We want there to be a face and an idea of who they were, not just their name etched into that stone,” said Lonergan, a childhood friend of Glenn’s. Lonergan himself was injured in Vietnam after treading on a landmine.
Windfelder used a Facebook page to find speakers, since many of the soldiers’ immediate family members have died.
McDonald learned about the event that way. He said he would talk about his uncle’s competitiveness during pickup basketball games and the singing voice he showed off during performances for fellow Marines. He plans to bring his 13-year-old daughter, Catherine, so she can “understand the legacy of those who sacrificed.”
“People still care, people still remember the sacrifice that people gave,” added McDonald, 55. “I’ll just be proud that everyone’s family won’t be forgotten.”
Bill Burke, a self-described “old Fishtowner,” plans to speak in honor of Harry Seedes, a childhood friend who was killed at age 20. Burke remembers meeting Seedes — nicknamed “Horse” — playing basketball at Hetzell Playground on Earl Street near Thompson.
Seedes was “GQ-looking,” witty, and entirely against the Vietnam War. The song “War” by Edwin Starr would’ve been his anthem, Burke said, but Seedes dutifully served his country.
“I felt a numbness after his death,” said Burke, also a Vietnam veteran. “They can’t talk anymore; they’ve been laid to rest 50 years now. So it’s important that the person that does the voice has the facts correct, and they knew the person well enough at one point in their life. How would they be today? … Harry would’ve been a leader. He was his own man.”
The first name on the memorial is Glenn, who orchestrated mini-battles with his toy soldiers and tanks as a child in his Fishtown basement. During the Vietnam War, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, persuading three other neighborhood boys to join him.
He died July 7, 1967, four months after arriving in Vietnam. He, too, was 20 years old.
Fifty years later, Glenn’s loved ones remember the pain caused by his death.
Bobby Hubbard said Glenn’s death was “a shock in the neighborhood,” and that he tears up when he remembers the stunts Glenn would pull, like riding a mini-motorcycle around the neighborhood at 12 years old. Hubbard was one of the three boys Glenn persuaded to join the Marine Corps.
Ludwig was working on a South Philly dock when he heard Glenn died. He rushed to comfort Dolores, his sister and Glenn’s mother. Glenn was her and her husband’s only child.
Until her death in 2001, Dolores left Charlie Glenn’s action figures and bedroom untouched, said Michelle Ludwig, George Ludwig’s daughter. She is to speak in honor of Glenn on Saturday.
Glenn was buried at Beverly National Cemetery in Burlington County, but when Dolores missed her son, she’d walk the two blocks from her home to the memorial, where she felt like he was still present, Michelle Ludwig said.
“She never got better,” she added. “But if you can think of anyone who turned something so tragic into something so positive, the honor with which she carried herself as a Gold Star parent was radiant.”