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May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Tears

One of the guys I went to HS with, Anthony Tormey, who, after a career in the military went on to found and currently is CEO of the Leader Development Institute, did a post on facebook of the young men from our hometown who died in Vietnam.

One of those young men, who died in 1968, is buried right next to my dad, who died four years later.

As an 11 year old girl, who was pretty much traumatized by war reports and body counts on the nightly news, seeing that white military headstone, alone on a gentle hill, made me sad. I realized he was only 19. That was “grown up” to me, but still I knew it was too young to be dead.

And so every time I’d go to the cemetery to see Dad, I’d say hello. He was PFC Kenneth R. Totten. And every Memorial Day I pray for him, this unknown young man.

I soon grew older than he ever did. Now my own son is older than he ever was, but still I pray, and still I say hello when I am back in my hometown and go visit Dad’s grave.

Today Anthony said he googled about the local men killed in action, and only found a picture of one, Capt. Edward Starr, a handsome young man, also too young to die, not yet 30.

Then I googled, too, and found a memory page to young Kenneth Totten. His friends and relatives had posted–they called him Kenny. Makes sense for such a young guy.

But then I saw a picture, and all of a sudden, this young man who had been a part of my life for 44 years, sprang into focus. I burst into tears. Now he is a real person to me.

He’s so handsome in his Marine blues. So damn young.

Kenny, your sacrifice is remembered and praised and mourned.  When I pray for your eternal rest, I add my prayers may no more babies have to die in war. A futile prayer as long as humanity stays the way it is, I know, but I am the eternal optimist.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. And thank you for your sacrifice.

The picture is from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund




  1. Margarette, I could never imagined I would have accomplished what I set out to do today to the extent that it has, raise awareness and bring back to life the lives of these young men and the sacrifice they made as well as their friends and family in the day and ever since. Kenny, as it turns out was a late addition. Some one brought his name to my attention, but when I went to do this he is listed as having lived in Brewster vs Carmel. Yet indeed he did attend CHS, and reading tributes on his page was well liked.

    Comment by anthony tormey — May 30, 2016 @ 10:21 pm |Reply

    • I think because I’ve been trying to write a book about a POW for four years now, and because I teach so many vets and active service people, I think about POWs, MIAs and KIAs more than many people out of the military do. It’s been so great to see Kenny as a person, not just as a symbol. Thanks for all you do.

      Comment by maggiec — June 5, 2016 @ 9:22 pm |Reply

  2. This person is my uncle and my moms brother that’s is so great what you said about him thank you so much for praying for him all these years you are a great person rip uncle Kenny

    Comment by John morelli — June 2, 2016 @ 7:50 am |Reply

    • thank you for reaching out, John. It’s so good to know that he’s got family! I rarely get to Raymond Hill as I’m living in TN for now, but I’ve never seen anyone there–not that there are crowds there when I go. No one ever sees anyone at dad’s grave, either. I would say my pleasure, but that’s not right. I am happy to pray for him. He’s been part of my life for a long time now. Please give your mom a hug for me.

      Comment by maggiec — June 5, 2016 @ 9:27 pm |Reply

      • Will do thanks again.

        Comment by John morelli — June 6, 2016 @ 6:57 am

  3. Wow! What can I say? I’m so glad a family member saw their loved one IS remembered.

    Comment by anthony tormey — June 5, 2016 @ 9:56 pm |Reply

  4. I saw this on face book and want first of all to Thank the sweet young lady that took our place and gave a Hi to Kenny:) The Totten family was one of our dearest and sweetest friends, as the Nickerson family all will never forget their loss. Vietnam was such a sad and meaningless war if ever there was a true example of loss and pain!
    · Reply · 8 · Yesterd

    Comment by Mary Nickerson Smith — May 31, 2017 @ 11:18 pm |Reply

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