28 Nov 2004
Nicholas Owen Wagman with sister Cindy (Sam)
Dearest beloved brother Nick, childhood ally, playmate, cellmate, best friend, only family, teacher, and protector,
I ache for you still. Growing up together, had I not known your steadfast strength and love, I would not have known love at all. I am resolutely sure of that .�.. and so very deeply grateful to you, dear brother.
You alone, taught me by your consistency and by your actions, that I was worthwhile, which was a stunning and life-changing revelation. You insisted that I take this information into my core and turn the key. That single piece of amazing knowledge became the very foundation for my hope, trust and eagerness for life, which you modeled so admirably. No girl could have had a better big brother.
You transformed me with your wise counseling, your tender and thoughtful care, your sense of fun, affectionate teasing and contagious laughing, unshakeable optimism, inspiring appetite for life around the bend, your budding strength of character, and by your rock-solid encouragement which steered me through many rough waters - even when you were in Viet Nam. Your letters were my life boat.
You gave me the best of your understanding and your time. Without you, I would not be me. On some days you seemed decades older, instead of just four years, in wisdom, maturity, and in your sense of responsibility. You worked hard, played hard and were generous of spirit (and generous with your seemingly never-ending pocket change of tips and surprise treats after work.)
I am so sorry, dearest Nick, that I didn�t get to give back to you. It would have truly been my deepest pleasure in life to have shown you the loyal love of a sibling and to offer you the sense of dependable nurturing family that you so brilliantly gave to me.
From his sister,
Samantha Frishberg (Cindy Wagman)
Nicholas Owen Wagman
4th Battalion, 11th Marines
1st Marine Division, (Rein) FMF
FPO San Francisco, California 96602
September 4, 1967
Mrs. Alice Tholen
131 Montclair Avenue
My Dear Mrs. Tholen:
The untimely death of your son, Corporal Nicholas O. WAGMAN, U. S. Marines Corps, near Da Nang, Vietnam is a source of sorrow to me and to his friends in this organization. Please accept our deepest sympathy in your bereavement.
Nick's squad was providing security for Battery "N" of this Battalion on the morning of 02September 1967. At about 12:15 A.M. while Nick was checking his sentries on post, his position was suddenly attacked by an enemy force of undetermined size. Your son, along with two of his fellow Marines, was killed by shrapnel from explosive charges thrown by the enemy in the ensuing fight.
Ample medical personnel were with Nick immediately, however, they could not help. Nick was killed almost instantly without suffering.
It may comfort you to know that the last rites of the church were given by Father Lowry, the attending Chaplain. Nick's many friends attended the Memorial Services, held for Nick this morning.
Nick's cheerful disposition, uprightness, and devotion to duty won him the respect of all who knew him. Although I realize that words can do little to console you, I do hope the knowledge that your son is keenly missed and that we share your sorrow, will in some measure alleviate the suffering caused you by your great loss.
If you feel that I can be of any help to you, please do not hesitate to write me.
Jimmy A. Payne
FIRST LIEUTENANT, U. S. MARINE CORPS
Transcribed from the original
by The Virtual Wall staff.
OFFICE OF THE REGIMENTAL CHAPLAIN|
HEADQUARTERS, 11TH MARINES
FIRST MARINE DIVISION, (REIN) FMF
FPO, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 96602
5 September 1967
Mr. George Wagman
516 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210
Dear Mr. Wagman:
May I express my personal sympathy to you because of the death of your son Nicholas Owen Wagman, Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. May God's comforting spirit comfort and strengthen you in this time of grief, sorrow, and heartache.
As your son's chaplain it was my sad privilege to conduct a Memorial Service for your son and two of his friends who were killed at the same time. The service was at 1100 on 5 September 1967. The entire Headquarters Battery of the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines were present to honor the memory of these brave and courageous men.
Your son's commanding officer spoke highly of the courage and dedication to duty of your son.
The Scripture passages that I read were the Twenty-Third Psalm, John 14 and Timothy 4:7. I used the words of Paul as a fitting memorial to your son and his friends, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." The Memorial Service concluded with the praying of the Lords Prayer and the playing of taps.
My prayers, interest and sympathy are with you in these days of lonliness and adjustment. May Gods Spirit be sufficient during this time of need.
C. E. McFarland
Chaplain, U.S. Navy
Transcribed from the original
by The Virtual Wall staff.
Ludlow native born on August 31, 1947. His parents were George Wagman and Mrs. Robert Tholen. The family lived at 131 Montclair Avenue. Nicholas Wagman attended St. James Elementary School in Ludlow and graduated from Covington Catholic High School in 1965.
Wagman joined the Marines in 1966. He was a logistics specialist with the Fourth Battalion of the 11th Division. Corporal Wagman was sent to Vietnam in September 1966. He was killed in action on September 2, 1967 in Quang Nam, Vietnam.
Besides his parents he left two sisters. Funeral services were held at St. James Church in Ludlow.
Kenton County (KY) Public Library site
'This Cannot Be, He's a Young Man'
A month after Stratton was killed, another Ludlow resident lost his life. Nicholas Wagman, a Marine corporal, died on Sept. 2, 1967. He was killed just two days after turning 20.
Pamela Claxton, a friend of the Wagman family, who lived just up the street and was four years younger than Wagman, watched him grow up.
"His sister was my best friend," Claxton, who now lives in Washington Court House, Ohio, recalls. "Nicky had a real squeaky voice when he was small. He almost reminded me of Mickey Mouse. As we got older I can remember he was like my big brother. Nicky started getting interested in girls and stuff. He was a good-looking guy. He had this wonderful black, wavy, curly hair. He had freckles. He had a Fonzie-esque coolness about him. His voice changed and he became sort of soft-spoken. He turned into this really cool guy."
Wagman liked to party, had eyes the color of chocolate, drove a '57 candy-apple red Chevy, was a snappy dresser.
"I remember one time he got dressed up and his sister and I were sitting there and he said to me, 'Well, how do I look?''' Claxton says. "I beamed after that, because Nicky had asked me how he looked. It made me feel so special."
She was shocked, of course, when she learned he had been killed.
"I was still in that state where you're young and you're not going to die," Claxton says. "Well, that was probably my first real reality check when that happened. I thought this cannot be, he's a young man. He's too cool. He's still going to come home and drive his Chev."
Rodney Dunaway met Wagman during his junior year at Ludlow.
"I only knew Nick for three years, but I would have to say he was my best friend," Dunaway writes in an e-mail.
They graduated together and rented an apartment. Wagman talked about enlisting in the Marines. "We did a lot of running around and had a lot of fun," Dunaway writes. Dunaway enlisted in the Air Force after Wagman had enlisted in the Marines. They kept in touch by mail. When Dunaway hadn't received a letter in a while, he asked some friends to check up on him.
"That's how I found out he was dead and how he died...We both planned on going into the military. We believed it was the thing we should do. He would always kid me because I wanted to go into the Air Force. He said real men go into the Marines. Sure wished I could have convinced him to go into the Air Force with me."
By Lew Moores
The Sunday Challenger
Sunday, November 7, 2004
Used with permission
From The Virtual Wall:
The "Stratton" mentioned in the first sentence above is Lance Corporal Everett Stratton, Jr., one of two men from Mike Company 3/1 Marines killed in action in Quang Nam Province on 04 Aug 1967. Lance Corporal Hugh M. Jackson of Saint Louis, Missouri, was the second.
I received these two moving letters from a fellow Marine who was there:
Subject: Re: Your brother Corporal Nicholas O. Wagman 4th Bn, 11th Marines
September 2, 1967 was my first time in combat, I was talking to your brother just five minutes before we were attacked. I want to assure you that your brother did not suffer at all that night, I know this for a fact. I helped carry him to the helicopter 10 minutes after the fighting started to die down. I am surprised by your description of your brother's face, for when I saw him laying there waiting for the chopper he had a look of complete peace about him, and never moved at all. The 4th Battalion combat report you have is accurate. Nick was Sergeant of the Guard that night and had just left my post a few minutes before the attack. The Headquarters Battery had about 125 men in it. However we were out on an operation at a small fire base on that night.
I have always been saddened by your brother's death for he was due to go home in a few weeks. I did not know him well at all. But I know he had both a brave and kind heart. I look back on Vietnam with great sorrow and have never talked to anyone from my unit after I left. That night in September has always troubled me deeply.
Subject: Re: 4th Bn, 11th Marines part 2
Thank you for your most kind letter, I am deeply moved. However we are helping each other, remember that. All of my letters to you are open to anyone, anytime. I would like your permission to do the same with your most heart-felt letter to me?
Your brother's death was the first vivid example for me of one of the great mysteries of life. Why do terrible things happen to good people? For me the BOOK OF JOB is the most revealing of the books in the Hebrew Bible.
I have never attended a Marine reunion and I probably never will, I'm sure some do. I was very pleased to find the section on The Virtual Wall for the 11th Marines and I want to thank you for placing the combat report of September 2, 1967. You have given me some peace and I sincerely thank you for that. I have very deep mixed feelings about Vietnam. If I may speak for at least a few Vets of the Vietnam war we were given three strange gifts: Sorrow, Betrayal, and Guilt! The reason I contacted you is that for years I have relived that night in Nam when your brother died. I could not remember his name and this disturbed me a lot, it seemed to me to be disrespectful. I tried to find his name about 5 years ago, but was told I never would. I could not remember on what day in September the combat happened, I was thinking it was on the 25th or 26th of September. As I said I did not know your brother well at all, we were in the same battery but different sections, I really only remember talking to him that night. However I liked him - he was friendly with a ready smile, and told me he was glad to be going home soon, I think in 27 days. I really have difficulty remembering a lot about that year, and almost no names.
An 18 year old choir student in Nevada was assigned to write a report on "someone on the Vietnam Wall" before their class trip to Washington DC. This student picked my brother's name randomly and wrote to me asking for information about Nick. This is my response to her:
Nick was born in 1947 and raised in Ludlow, Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio). Nick was four years old when I was born. He was a wonderful big brother, always laughing and joking with affection, but he was also serious too, working a job after school, on Saturdays, and during vacations ever since I could remember. He worked for a neighborhood produce truck which visited neighborhoods in our small hometown (6,000 population then). Nick carried orders of groceries and wooden cases of small glass Coca-Cola bottles into the homes of the customers. He always had a pocket full of change as tips and was very generous with me in sharing his good fortune. Nick was polite with very good manners and all of the neighborhood women appreciated his kind smile and gentle style.
We watched westerns and "The Mickey Mouse Club" together on TV, and we played yellow and red vinyl records on our little portable record player. Nick often played and sang to the Military Theme songs for the various branches of the armed services. He was always partial to the United States Marines. He loved his dogs, especially his first, an old black cocker spaniel named "Sambo". Sambo had been hit by a car once, and his hind legs became paralyzed. The dog would drag his hind end around and scoot places in the yard and Nick would often carry him and play with him, so that Sambo wasn't left out. Nick seemed like a hero to me when he did this. He was kind to people and to animals anonymously. When I would see him being kind, and he thought no one was looking, my heart would break with pride.
We walked to and from St. James grade school together, and Nick would always make sure that I was safe. Nick and his athletic friends in 8th grade performed a soft shoe tap dance on a team and won a trophy. I also tap danced in yearly St. Patrick's Day talent shows. We had to practice dancing in the dingy basement of our house and Nick would always protect me from the ickky waterbugs and spiders. We also walked together across a wooden railroad bridge, crossing the Ohio river from Kentucky, to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. Nick loved baseball and played in Little League. We walked to Sunday afternoon movies together at the local movie theater and Nick taught me about his favorite move candy: Boston Baked Beans. We trick-or-treated together and he always knew who was giving out the big sized candy bars. I looked up to him as an expert on many things. He was an altar boy, attending Mass back when the Mass was said in Latin. Nick studied Latin in high school also. He had a love: his 1957 cherry red Chevy. Nick had a few girlfriends in high school, and slow danced with girls, I remember, and he listened to the Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and the Rolling Stones when they first came out. In fact, from Vietnam, he requested that we send him audio tapes (old reel-to-reel tapes) of his favorite music and we did.
Nick always had silly friends and was always joking and making me laugh. This was truly important to me because unfortunately our childhood was violent with some awful people in our lives. Our mother was divorced and remarried many times, so Nick was my teacher in many important ways. Our own father left us when I was 3 and Nick was 7, and he never ever visited us or paid child support. Our childhood was not happy, but Nick managed to always hold hope for the future. He reminded me often that good days were ahead when we could get out and make our lives the way that we wanted them to be. I admired his wisdom and strength and caring.
When Nick joined the Marines, he was attending the University of Cincinnati as a freshman taking Liberal Arts. At the time (1966) he truly felt bad for the people in Vietnam who were being taken over by Communism. He enlisted to help stop the spread of Communism and he truly believed that he was helping others and helping our country by upholding freedoms. He often wrote to me from Vietnam and I was thrilled to get his letters. After 13 months of Vietnam duty, the soldiers were due to come home. I remember getting a letter from Nick which said "This is the last letter you will get from me. The next time that I see you, it will be in person. I have served 13 months now in Vietnam, so I am scheduled to go to Okinawa for two weeks of R&R (Rest and Relaxation) and then I will be home. This will be your last letter." So in early September of 1967, I was sixteen years old and in high school. I went with my Uncle Joe to the "pony keg" (a midwestern term for a store that sold soda pop and beer and just beverages and snacks). We were preparing for a Labor Day party. When my Uncle Joe and I returned from the store, we saw a strange car in the driveway. It was tan or faint olive green with gold stenciled letters on the door "USMC". My uncle quickly turned our car around and acted nervously. He told me that he had forgotten to get cigarettes at the pony keg, but I knew that that wasn't true. I had seen the "USMC" on the car door, so I silently thought "He's Home! My dearly loved brother is home! They are having a surprise for me!" So I played along with my nervous uncle and returned to the store with him. All along, inside, I was screaming with joy, because my brother was my only true family and hero and he was finally home! I couldn't wait to hug him tight. Well, when Uncle Joe finally took me back home, the Marine Corps car was gone and I ran into the house with joy, high as a kite. I just KNEW that my dearest brother Nick was home. I was crushed to find out that that car had come to deliver the bad news that my brother had been killed in his last combat assignment. To this day, I have never gone from the highest high to the lowest low within seconds, like I did on that day.
It took two weeks for Nick's body to come home. I had to go to the funeral home to identity his body. His poor face was swollen but I saw the tell tale chicken pox scar on his right freckled cheek. What made it especially painful for me was that this Funeral Home, Catherman and Jones, was the same place that Nick would take me to on Halloween because they gave out rainbow lollipops that were the size of saucers. My memories of Nick came flooding in.
One young Marine from VietNam contacted me the next year after Nick's death. He said that he was moving into Nick's old bunk in Vietnam that same night that Nick was killed. He said that Nick had packed up his own belongings that night and cleared out of his bunk, handing it over to this just-arriving soldier, just hours before Nick was killed. Nick showed the new guy around and was very nice to the new guy. So dear Nick died on his last day of of duty in Vietnam. My last letter from him told me that it would be the last letter. It was.
Was he a hero? To me he was, always. After he died, I was notified that Nick had taken out a small insurance policy and he had named me as the person to receive the ten thousand dollars. I shared some of it with family members, but I also bought a used car - my freedom. Nick gave me the ticket to start my own life and make the life that I wanted. I was no longer trapped.
I miss him terribly still. I only wish that my two grown sons could have known their uncle Nick. My sons are now 19 and 21. Sometimes I can feel Nick's amazing spirit (like right now as I tell you this story) and my throat tightens with sadness, but also with deep deep gratitude. I feel so lucky and blessed to have had him for the years that I did. No girl could have had a better big brother.
Please say hello to him for me at the Wall, Jennifer. I have never been there. Someday, I plan to go. Not only do I grieve the loss of Nick and the 58,000 other young men, many who truly thought that they were stopping an evil Communism from taking over helpless people, but I grieve the children that these fine young men would have had. Exponentially, the tragedy is in the hundreds of thousands. You will stand before the Wall and maybe feel the loss and love that must be soaked into the stone and earth by now. I will think of you on that day.
Have a good trip (and thanks for asking about my brother Nick)
Samantha (Cindy Wagman)