In 1993, I went to La Vista Memorial Park in National City, CA. It was the first time I had ever visited my mother's grave. As I looked for her name on the stones, I was distracted by a group of ducks a few headstones away. By the time I got there, the ducks were moving away, but as they moved, they revealed two headstones with the name "Curtis Lamar Duck." Father and son, side by side, eternally.
This moment in time was a surreal coincidence that called upon me 10 years later, when I one day felt an overwhelming need to learn more about the younger Duck.
In my research to learn more about Lamar, I was able to make contact with a man who was close to him while serving in the Army. Following is his response to me about Lamar and their last day together.
*The following recollection has some disturbing imagery into the reality of war.
"My first thoughts are, that the time I had to know anyone, was short. Yet, a few stand out from that time and for me Duck was one. I remember talking with him about surfing. Don't know if he ever did it....but he talked a good story. My being from Michigan kind of took me out of the surfing crowd. He was a handsome guy. His smile was infectious, his laugh was easy and natural. He had a cocky aura about him but not arrogant. I suspect he was probably a real lady killer. We either went by last name, or, if our last name was unusual, a nick name would be made up. I was "Pinky" for Penxa. I guess the "x" was to much to deal with. My grenadier was "Wink" for Winkler. Duck was good enough for him and I never heard anyone get away with calling him Lamar. On that day, 16 Feb. 1967, I had been with the unit probably a month. I had actually met Lamar Duck in the replacement company and went through in-country training with him. We had been convoyed to a miserable firebase known as 3-Tango (previously had been 3-Church). Our mission was to conduct search and destroy operations near the Cambodian border in order to interdict NVA forces attempting to infiltrate the central highlands. We were not dealing with what was known as V.C. These guys were North Vietnamese regulars with Red Chinese mixed in. New clean uniforms,new AK-47s and they smelled like Jade East. We walked through the rain forest looking and listening. At around 3 in the afternoon, the point saw fresh footprints in the wet ground and followed them. The unit moved cautiously, quietly. The next thing I knew, an ear splitting sound was filling my head. I could not identify what was making such a horrific noise. For what seemed like forever I lay in the undergrowth trying to figure it out. But then I could see the plants and small trees being cut down by gunfire. Gunfire so intense that no individual weapon could be heard. The sound was like the scream of a jet engine and a large waterfall combined. Everything was in slow motion. I made up my mind at that moment that I was dead. I think it was a good attitude to have, at least I didn't have to worry about it anymore. Lamar was not in my squad and was some distance away during the first few seconds of this ambush. Lee Lewis was beside me and as I turned to look at him he got hit in the mouth and throat. The hours after that defy description, at least mine. This contact went on until 7 or 8 in the evening. Artillery fire, air support and a "Dragon ship" got the NVA off our back but our losses were heavy. As we recovered the bodies I saw many that I recognized, some more easily than others. Many friends there, I felt very lonely, very angry, very afraid. Because I was a replacement, I got to know very few people. Now, in a few short moments, there were even less.One thing was for sure, it was going to be a long year. Little did I know that March would be as bad."
Lamar was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star. There is some discrepancy as to whether or not it was with a "V" attachment (for Valor) or an "M" (for Merit). The documentation I received stated that it was for merit, but one of the gentleman who runs a Vietnam Memorial Wall website states that his verification of the award proves to carry the "V". No life is given meritoriously, so a designation of valor is definitely more appropriate.
In any case, the loss of Lamar's life was felt deeply. I have had various correspondence with his friends and family members over the years, all of which express regret over the loss of him. He was young and full of so much potential, as were so many of our lost loved ones. And I am honored to have made my connection with him.
Because of my encounter with Lamar Duck, my family and I were honored to support Alpha Co., 1/22, 4ID in their first tour in Iraq in 2003.
If you have served, or will serve, thank you. If you have a loved one serving, or has served, thank you.
If we can't bring them home safely, then we owe it to them to remember them...forever.
For more information about the 1/22, you can visit http://1-22infantry.org/
To visit Lamar's memorial page, you can visit