I went to Woburn, Massachusetts on Saturday 10 September 2000. Steve Bartlett accompanied me. Steve is a former Marine and relative of Charles McMahon. After spending some time at Charlie's gravesite we visited the Boys and Girls Club. A handsome display dedicated to Charlie is in the main room.
Marcia, the receptionist, welcomed us and telephoned two of Charlie's boyhood friends. George Holland and Michael Mulrenan are both former Marines. George served at Henderson Hall in 1975. Michael enlisted shortly thereafter.
Charlie, George, and Michael were inspired to enlist in the Marine Corps by the example of Charles Gardner, the club's executive director. Gardner was a Marine Corps Combat Veteran of the Korean War. The Boy's Club became a de-facto recruiting sub-station. There is a legacy of more than thirty years of unbroken service in the Marine Corps by young men who grew up in the club. Charlie's younger brother Scott also enlisted.
The first of thirteen Woburn men killed in Vietnam was PFC Joseph L. Drew USMC. The last KIA was Charles McMahon Jr. The Drew family sponsors a trophy awarded each year to a Woburn boy or girl who demonstrates character and leadership. Charlie McMahon was awarded that trophy in 1971. That was the same year that Charlie earned the distinction of being named Woburn's "Boy of the Year". Much of Charlie's off time while growing up was centered at the Boy's Club.
Marcia also works for the Woburn newspaper. She sent me copies of the articles about Charles. George and Michael showed me photo albums and shared stories about Charlie.
Woburn sent thirteen of her finest sons to the war in Vietnam, sons that did not return. The town is proud of their sacrifice and honors them. When Charlie's remains were brought home in 1976 the town stopped and held a funeral service. Charlie was buried with full military honors. A USMC color guard and honor guard presided. Mrs. McMahon Sr. was presented the American Flag. Both she and Charles Sr. have since passed away.
The most heart-breaking photograph that I saw was of the funeral service. From a high lectern the minister gestured with both arms raised. Before him was the casket, draped in the American Flag. Seated in a wheel chair was a dress blue clad Marine. Scott McMahon lost both of his legs in an automobile accident near Camp Pendleton.
We had an excellent service in Marshalltown, Iowa, last April. Darwin Judge was honored. We should do the same for Charles McMahon Jr. in Woburn, Massachusetts. The circumstances in Woburn are different from those in Marshalltown. I submit that we take the following course of action:
Please weigh in with your comments.
- As a living tribute to Charles, I think that we should locate his brother Scott. Scott has fallen through the crack of drug and alcohol addiction. He was/is under VA care but the family has not had contact with him in several years. Find Scott and render what aid that we can.
- The Drew Trophy is 35 years old and is in need of restoration. I recommend that the Saigon Marines Association allocate funds to have it professionally restored.
- A Ceremony be held in Charlie's honor on or about 29 April 2001. The Boy's and Girl's Club is presently undergoing redecorating. The Club, for the flag, photos, medals and other items should ready a permanent display and final repository. The Saigon Marines should organize a ceremony.
Kevin M. Maloney