Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eternal Valley Memorial Day weekend 2011

Young son and I went to Eternal Valley on Saturday for the annual placing of flags on the graves of veterans interred there for Memorial day.  The Grouch family has been involved in this event for many years as each of the four Grouch kids participated in the various levels of scouting.  This will be our last year I imagine because young son times out on scouts when he hits 18 in October.  I usually go in uniform to show my respect to the veterans buried in the cemetery.  This year one of the other fathers was there in his ACUs.  Another LTC, he was in Iraq with the same unit as older son in 2007 and we did lots of nostalgia talk about the Army.  He didn't look as worn out as me, maybe because he was about 7 years younger than me. Just wait!

In the grand tradition of this event we arrived at the designated time and then waited another 40 minutes for the folks in charge to get organized and get the program under way.  The boys placed a flag at each veteran's grave marker, stepped back and saluted and then on to the next grave.  The turn out over all was a bit smaller this year than in years past so the scouts who were there stayed on to continue the job until every veteran's grave was marked.  The picture shows just one section of the very large cemetery.  The boys did a great job.

Click on the photos for a larger view

Saluting at a Vet's grave after placing the flag

The Grouch and young son

A 22 year old helicopter pilot who died of his wounds in Vietnam.  See below for his story

WO1 Patrick D. Erb

06 Jul 49   15 Mar 71

Sylmar CA
This was WO1 Erb's first aircraft commander mission. On 25 Feb 71 they were resupplying troops on or near a pinnacle LZ (LZ Scotch), which is near the Rockpile. LZ Scotch was obscured by smoke from Laos, had marginal visibility, dead trees around the approach, and a departure route that limited maneuvering. A major firefight was being fought at the base of the pinnacle, and the Dolphin aircraft was advised to expedite departure. Richard Bricker was the crewchief riding on the left side, right behind Doug Erb, who was on the controls. The aircraft took fire on climb out, caught fire, exploded, and fell to the ground among the trees. Bricker recalls they had just lifted off the LZ (Scotch) when Bricker saw a bright flash through the trees, and moments later felt the impact at the access doors (at the base of the tailboom). The explosion/impact knocked the aircraft sideways to the right, causing the aircraft to impact with the trees, which in turn caused the disintegration of the aircraft as it fell 10 feet to the ground. The aircraft was engulfed in flames before it hit the trees or the ground. The crew chief, SP4 Bricker, and the gunner, SP4 Mike Walsh, were blown out of the burning aircraft during the crash and survived. Walsh heard someone cry out and found Burch. He carried Burch to a log, that they hid behind, until rescued by the Infantry. Simultaneously, Bricker, who was badly burned, cried out for Walsh to get him, but Walsh could not because of the intensity of the enemy fire. The Infantry came down the hill and assisted in the recovery of the crew to the mountain top, where they were flown out. During the crash, the pilots rode the aircraft in and were unable to get out the burning aircraft from the front. To get out, they both had to run through the intense fire in the cargo compartment and were severely burned. All crewmembers were able to walk away from the aircraft under their own power and were taken to the hospital at Quang Tri by a following 174th Dolphin aircraft. Both pilots had burned their lungs running through the fire and succumbed to pneumonia weeks later in Japan, which was commonplace. The severity of the burns was the reason they remained in Japan and were not shipped back to the states for recovery. Erb was in the bed next to Walsh when he (Erb) died. Walsh and Bricker were sent to the Burn Center at Brooke Army Hospital, Ft. Sam Houston, TX. Walsh was the least injured of the four, but was medically retired from active duty. Bricker, who also walked under his own power to an aircraft that lifted him out of the LZ, is alive and well in Piggott, Arkansas and has six children. He has had over 300 skin grafts and is loving life via his children (who found this website).

Source: Fred Thompson Sep 89; Bill Early Jul 91; COL Bob Berk, Pentagon, June 1992 who was an attending nurse in the burn ward in which that they were treated; Fred Thompson and Mike Walsh phone conversation-May 1993; Mike Walsh VHPA reunion Jul 1993, Phoenix; Fred Thompson and Richard Bricker phone conversation, Mar 99.


  1. A very sad story. So young.

    A nice picture with my brother though. He looks grown up and very tall. Although he is on the upside of the hill.

  2. So wonderful to see all the Scouts there placing the flags and paying respects on behalf of a grateful nation. Great picture of you and the Bean, don't think I've ever seen you in ACUs before!