CDR ROGER G. LERSETH, USN (Ret.)
Richard "Beak" Stratton Eulogy for Roger Lerseth on May 4, 2004
Roger Lerseth - Gone West
Dr. Lerseth always seemed to approach his time as part of the Fourth Allied
POW Wing with deference, opining that he was the "new kid" - a "short
timer". All this despite the fact that he was a proven warrior of some 96
combat missions, holder of the Distinguished Flying cross, and one who
repeatedly went in harm's way to create conditions that would ensure our
release and peace with honor.
Well let us put that shibboleth to rest today by stealing from William
Shakespeare's King Henry V.
Interestingly enough, one of Henry's generals was named Westmoreland. So
with that tenuous connection, let us transmute the Bard and St. Crispin's
Day for our own purposes, taking the scene just before the definitive
battle against the French hoards and transferring the site to Vietnam.
EARL OF WESTMORELAND.
"O that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in the States
that do no work to day!
" Who is that who wishes so? My General Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are marked to die, it will be our country's loss; and if to live, the
fewer men, the greater share of honor. It is God's will! I pray thee, wish
not one man more. By the good Lord, I am not in this for money, nor care I
who inherits my wealth; it bothers me not if my gear goes into the lucky
bag; such outward things dwell not in my desires.
"But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.
"No, faith, my cousin, wish not a man from America. God's peace! I would
not lose so great an honor as one man more methinks would take a share from
me for the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
"Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hath no
stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And
crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man's
company that fears his fellowship to die with us.
"This decade is called the Vietnam War, this battle the battle of Hanoi. He
that outlives this decade, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when
this day is named, and rouse himself at the names of Hanoi, Son Tay, Khe
Sanh, TeT, the Easter Offensive.
"He that shall survive this decade, and see old age, will yearly on the
vigil, feast his neighbors, and say 'To-morrow is Freedom Day.' Then will
he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say 'These wounds I had in
Hanoi.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he will remember, with
advantages, what feats he did that decade.
"Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words- Risner and
Kassler, Stockdale and McCain, Alvarez and McDaniel, Swindle and Fredricks,
Rowe and Purcell, Galanti and Lerseth - be in their flowing cups freshly
"This story shall the good man teach his son; and TeT shall never go by,
from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he this decade that sheds
his blood with us shall be our brother; however long his stay, one day
shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in America who stayed-a-bed shall
think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap
when anyone speaks that fought with us in Vietnam upon that decade."
So speaks King Henry for all of us.
Dr. Lerseth indeed was a member of this band of brothers, we happy few. He
will be remembered with pride by all those who went downtown, saw the
elephant and returned with honor.
Roger shares with Saint Paul the epitaph the Saint proclaimed for himself
in his letter to Timothy:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the
faith." To this the brotherhood of River Rats and NamPows add: "He
returned with honor."
God Bless you Peach; we shared a fine man. May God bless us all. God Bless
King Henry V: IV, iii
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