Friday, August 19, 2016


The Picture
Jerome A. de Galley - "Foam"
Vietnam 1969

Foam, Vietnam, Keene and Cu Chi

That's all the telegram said. One word. "Why?"  That was it - saying almost nothing, but at the same time saying a lot. But it's all Jimmy Miller could say when my brother, David, notified him that their mutual friend, Jerome "Foam" de Galley, had been killed in Vietnam. In the spring of 1969 they were a world apart, Jim with the army in Germany and David finishing up his year as a tutor at Martin Luther Academy in New Ulm, MN. Their shock, disbelief, and grief brought these old neighborhood friends together again. 

Why Foam?
I've often wondered (and maybe you're wondering too) about my interest in Jerome’s story. After all, he was David's friend, not mine. I have to admit that I didn't even know him that well. There were a lot of guys among David's friends who were my role models, and in a simple way, my heroes. I wanted to be like them, act like them, talk like them, like what they liked - you know what I mean. Then again, maybe I was different, but I don't think so. Maybe it’s not like that anymore, like it was for me growing up in those days of the 50s and 60s in the kind of environment I knew. But there were other guys among my brother’s friends, seven years my senior, who in some ways would make more sense - like the athletes, Marty Schwartz, Kurt Mahnke, Tom Liesener, and others at Northwestern Prep; and Jimmy Miller or Jimmy Ashton, Denny or Bob at home in Zion. So why Foam?
I don’t think there’s a simple answer, and I'm not sure I know the answer. No doubt becoming a soldier, going to Vietnam, and being killed in battle is a big part of it. Those kinds of things have always intrigued me. Part of the answer may be found tucked away in that place inside of me where no one gets to go except me. (Vietnam was our war – that is, my generation’s war. Although safe with my 4D draft classification, I often wondered how I would do if I had to go to Vietnam. I talked to my Dad about that once, and he said that knowing me like he did, I’d probably get killed. I’m not exactly sure what he meant.)
The last time I saw Foam, and the only time I remember even talking to him (although I can't remember what he sounded like), may also explain why he has such a hold of me. It was in 1968, summer I’m pretty sure. Foam came to Zion to see David and knocked on the back door. David wasn’t home, so I had to get up off the couch. I stuck my head out the door and said something really profound like, “Hey. David’s not here.”   That’s about all I remember, except that there was this awkward moment as he stood there looking at me with a little grin on his face. I didn’t know what to say.  I do know that like a real “nob” I didn’t do what you’d think would be appropriate and obvious, like maybe, “C’mon in … make yourself at home …David will be home soon.” But no. I just stood there and basically blew him off. He just smiled and said he’s go across the street to see if Jimmy Miller was home. That’s the last time I saw him.
Then there’s the way I found out about his death. I will never forget that. I’ll save that story for later. Whatever the reason, Foam has always been there since 1969, somewhat dormant most of the time, but not lately.

You Can Take the Boy Out of Prep, but not Prep Out of the Boy
My brother David always had friends, good friends. He was a good friend to a variety of different people. He is just like that. He likes people and they (usually) liked him. And he would always try to keep in touch with people and sustain and renew the friendships he made over the years. It always seemed to me that he would do this even when time and distance and life's circumstances made friendships hard to sustain. But he does it. Jerome is a good example of that.
High School Senior Picture
Jerome was a Milwaukee boy and the son of a pastor. Like many other male "PKs" (pastor’s kid) he went to Northwestern Prep in Watertown where the end goal was to be a pastor. He was in David's class. They became friends. However, Jerome didn't graduate from Prep. David said that he obviously didn’t really worry about his grades. And it might have been the languages, the bane of many a Northwestern student before and after him. Then again, it may be that Jerome just was one of those "PKs" who was not wired to follow in his father's footsteps into the pastoral ministry. David even said that Jerome didn’t want to be at Prep. It was also said that Foam and Prep dorm life were not a good match. I don't really know. Others may have better insight into this. What I do know is that David and Jerome became good friends.

The nickname "Foam" seems to be a bit of a mystery as well. David says he doesn't remember its origin. Of course, going to Prep and getting a nickname was not unusual. It was the norm. If you went to the one (NWC Prep), it was likely that for better or for worse you got the other (a nickname.) Names could be given or earned for a number of reasons, some clever, others not so much. They could be descriptive, sometimes complimentary, sometimes not.  A name like "Foam" might conjure up any number of possible explanations, but I just don't know. So I can't say. Mark Goeglein, an upperclassman prep roommate who knew Jerome, suggested that they probably called him "Foam" because it rhymed with Jerome. It could be as simple as that. Another upperclassman roommate, John Lawrenz added, “Jerome at that time wasn’t a common name, and two syllables too much for dorm-talk. ‘Rome became Foam.”  That makes me smile, having spent 8 years in those dorms, I get it.

The More Things Change-the More They Stay the Same
Even after Foam left Watertown, and even after high school, he and David kept in touch and remained good friends. “Quiet, friendly, with a subtle sense of humor, and generous with what he had,” is how David described him – “a trustworthy friend.” David often was a guest in the de Galley home. They would hang out in Milwaukee and Jerome would come to Watertown. Jerome finished high school at Milwaukee Washington and graduated in 1963. He was part of the Washington Players, the school’s drama club. It makes me smile, but his yearbook “bio” also says he was in the Latin Club. Even if it was Latin that, in part, led to his demise at Prep, knowing the rigors of that program, I would not be surprised is Jerome was a Latin stud at Washington.

Milwaukee Washington HS "Washington Players"
Jerome Center Back
Jerome had an interest in art. After high school he attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and earned a degree in interior design. I have no idea what his dreams were, or what direction he hoped his life would go. I did not know him that way. But in the end it didn't matter. In the 1960s the Vietnam War was the news. With a very low draft lottery number in hand and unable to find a job because of it (who's going to hire a guy who is likely to get drafted in the very immediate future.) Jerome said the heck with it, and enlisted. 
   Here' an interesting side bar to the story. In its initial convention in 1964 The Lutheran Women's Missionary Society (LWMS) of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod adopted
as their motto, "United to Serve Jesus." A young man and son of a Milwaukee pastor designed a seal based on that theme. That young man was Jerome de Galley. This is how Jerome explained his creation: The circle represents the unity of your organization and represents your missionary endeavors around the globe. The clasped hands at the foot of the cross signify the strength of the Word of God and your society to spread his message. The hands also show charity in that they appear in the act of giving and receiving. The cross represents Jesus and his word. The letters LWMS, of course, stand for your society."
At the 6th convention of the LWMS in June of 1969 Jerome's logo was stamped onto metal pins. The first pin was set aside to be presented to the artist himself, but, of course, that was no longer going to happen. It was presented to his mother, dedicated to his memory. This logo would be found on all LWMS printed materials, and I guess you can still get one of the pins.
David said that you could see Jerome’s artistic gifts already at Prep. John Lawrenz said the same thing. David also commented that “in his own subtle way, Jerome was proud of his LWMS logo and it especially pleased his Mom.”

Jimmy Miller
       Jimmy Miller did not go Prep. He was not even a Lutheran. He lived across the street from us in Zion. He was one of David's good friends from that part of his life. (David never had a problem mixing his friends from his different worlds. Another gift.) I like to say that Jim Miller was like the hero of the 1950s sports novels for boys, Chip Hilton. Handsome, athletic, and a natural leader with those “sloping shoulders that spelled success.” He had a metallic green ’57 Chevy, was quarterback of the ZeeBee football team, and … well, we all wanted to be like Jimmy Miller.
The old Prep friend, Foam, became friends with the neighborhood chum, Jim Miller, through David. How exactly that happened, I don't know, but road trips and adventures in Door Country, Elkhart Lake and the Dells, along with all that entails, are at least part of the story. Jerome attended Jim's wedding. They became good friends. Both ended up in the army, but Jim ended up in Germany and Jerome ended up earning a place on the Wall of the Vietnam Memorial.

 The Still Before the Storm - 1968
1968 was a crazy time in America and the world. It has been described as the year of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both killed in 1968. The Democratic National Convention turned into a riot. Richard Nixon was elected president. It was the year of the now infamous Tet Offensive, and the anti-war movement was loud and growing. People talked about the generation gap, the women's movement, and there were rumblings that the Soviet Union was on shaky ground. 1968 became the title of a book by best-selling author, Mark Kurlansky. The sub-title was "The Year that Rocked the World."
Closer to home in 1968, David was a tutor at Martin Luther Academy in New Ulm, MN, and among other things, was planning and looking forward to his wedding with Mary Lou in June of ’69. Jimmy Miller was with our Uncle Sam stationed in a Northern Germany town called Wolsrode, and as he said that he loved the country and the people. He didn’t have much praise for the army, especially the leadership. And, “I’m just so thankful to be here rather than “Nam”. I hate to be selfish but this duty sure beats risking your life in a rice paddy – if only that wretched mess could stop and people give up violence and hate.” Jerome had enlisted in the Army and followed that same Uncle Sam to Fort Lewis, Washington. Writing on 3 October ’68, he confessed that “the entire situation that I’m in is not so bad once the weekends come around,” and “been taking things as they come.”  On a more ominous note he added, “am being conditioned to be a mortar man in the infantry division. Since this fort is in the Pacific Army Command, it is inevitable that we will be using our mortars in “Nam.” I try not to think about what could happen to one over there. The future belongs to those who are prepared and I try to center my thinking on my absorbing all the “good stuff” they’re handing out.” This same letter was filled with questions and concerns about his friends Dave in New Ulm and Jim in Germany. And the sense of humor. The letter ends with an exclamatory, “Please send cookies!” I was a junior in high school at Northwestern Prep in Watertown, WI, and although I was very mindful of the situations of my brother and his friends, for all practical purposes, I was worlds away.
1968 came to a happy and enjoyable end. Foam finished training on 19 December and headed home. Hanging out with friends in Mankato and Mequon, a four-day skiing trip and bar trolling with Tom Liesener, and a quiet New Year’s Eve of “Southern Comforts and lobster at M’s of Willowbrooks near Sem,” helped fill the two weeks before being shipped out for Vietnam on January 5.

Cu Chi and Keene
             The official record states that Foam began his tour of duty in Vietnam 12 January 1969. He was part of B (Bravo) Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, USARV (United States Army Reserve). The "home" base of the 2/14th was a place called Cu Chi in Hau Hghia province of South Vietnam, about 25 miles northwest of Saigon. In a postcard to David on 21 January Foam wrote, “Have finally arrived at Cu Chi, my base camp near Saigon. 90-100 degree temperatures daily and sunshine are getting me a January tan quickly. Will be in training about a week before joining our company in the field.”
Jerome said that he was working out of Fire Support Base Keene. Another veteran, from Alpha Company, who arrived in April 1969, also told me that the company was stationed at FSB Keene in March of 1969 and often worked the area around the Saigon River. My understanding is that a fire support base was an outpost set up in various strategic locations away from the main base. It would be the launching point of various patrols, ambushes, missions, and operations that the army deemed appropriate at the time. They also served as an artillery support area for those units sent out into the surrounding area for whatever mission they were ordered to carry out.
The veteran mentioned above was Kirk Ramsey, Alpha Company, who arrived at FSB Keene in April, just after Jerome's death. He gives an excellent description of what Keene was like. Leaving the base camp at CU Chi by truck you would go west on a major paved road passing mud and thatched houses and then through a larger village. Turning south and west on a gravel road, you would come to FSB Keene. 

"I climbed to the ground and looked at my new surroundings. FSB Keene was built on a slight mound, with a ragged line of dirt walls and sandbag bunkers circling the base. A single stucco building dominated the center, the remnant of some former landowner’s estate. The ground was lumpy, uneven. It was carpeted with a well-trampled layer of grass and weeds, with generous patches of ruddy charcoal dirt showing through. The bunkers had a weathered, lived-in look. Soldiers wearing nothing but trousers sat or lounged beside most of them. The 105 mm howitzers were strategically placed in a triangle on one side of the rise. Beyond the walls lay stacked coils of concertina wire to help keep out the riffraff. A sergeant came over to greet us and guide us to our squads. One by one he dropped us off at the bunkers until it was my turn...The squad was a mixture of new men and veterans, big men and little, educated and high school dropouts. For the next couple of months, we would eat and sleep together, bathe together and go everywhere together, and occasionally fight and die together."  

Fire Support Base Keene

In a 27 February letter to David, Foam gave this description of his life there. “We have about 30 men in our platoon. Most of them are from the east coast. A fairly good group of guys. Our monkey “Willie” and a platoon dog named “Rose” plus her 9 new pups complete our family on the front.  He went on to say,

“Our fire base camp is quite small, only company size, with 250 men. Three regular infantry platoons and our fourth mortar platoon help defend our outpost. We are within 20 miles of Saigon though I have not as yet convoyed near or through any part of the capitol…Our environment consists of generally flat terrain and occasional hedge rows of bamboo and trees. At this time of the year the many rice paddies are dry. Peanuts, pineapple, and coconut are grown part of the year. Our bunkers are made of sandbags and ammunition boxes as well as culverts for the roofs. The idea is to make your sleeping place secure from mortar fire and flying shrapnel…We have battery powered electricity only when possible – most of the time we illuminate with candles and flashlights. Our portable TV is powered by batteries from our radio phones…Water is drawn from wells – pail on a rope. Potable water has to be trucked in on a daily convoy from Cu Chi, along with our guaranteed hot meal for the day…To fill the spare time, we have improvised an exercise-workout area to keep us from getting out of shape. Details such as filling sandbags, digging ditches, hauling supplies, among other necessary duties take part of our daytime. Evenings is when we are on the alert. Taking guard, 2 men each hour, throughout the night firing illumination rounds and occasionally some high explosives, we check and retard the advances of the enemy.”

The sense of humor was also there in this letter. He began by saying, “You’ll have to excuse my appearance. The climate here is so pleasant that I’m quite comfortable in shorts and sandals. All I need is a gin and tonic. You have that back up there in the semi-artic region(MN), so that makes us even.” Then matter-of-factly he writes that “blue skies, 85 degree temperatures, and casual breezes have predominated our weather over here. Not at all difficult to endure.”
Foam's grade or rank was E3. He was a private, and his specialty in official army lingo was Indirect Fire Infantryman. In language the rest of us can understand, he was part of a mortar team. Their job was to give support to the rifle infantry squads in battle. Usually the mortar platoon would not leave the relative security of the fire support base. "They supported us but did not normally go out on patrols,” is the way one Bravo Company infantryman described it. But it could happen. Jerome wrote, “The regular infantry platoons go out day and night from our camp on ambush missions, etc.  My platoon usually remains within the perimeter to support the elements on a mission, should the need arise. We have been ordered to “saddle up” for big missions in the past, but they have been canceled. I have yet to take part in a ‘heliborne,’ as a big mission including the entire company being transported by copters is called. I hear it is ‘hellish.” I will be experiencing this within time.”

A Vietnam Mortar Team

 The mortar teams lived together in their own bunker and had a nearby pit where their weapons were set up ready for use. If and when they would go into the field they carried the rounds and the tube on their backs. They would just pull it out, set it up on its bi-pod, select the desired number of explosive packets to propel it, and drop it down the tube. They also carried their M-16 and ammo and fought like infantrymen until the mortars were called for.
            But let Jerome tell it. “In particular, my duty within the platoon is training for the position of computer within the fire direction center. The FDC is the headquarters of the mortar platoon and from it come the instructions for and during fire missions. As a computer I will eventually determine data necessary to fire the guns on our targets. It’s somewhat of a challenge. It will keep me more interested than were I just firing the guns and hauling mortar rounds.” I’ve learned that the FDC bunker was centrally located and had a lot of overhead cover and shelter, since it was a primary target during mortar and 
sapper attacks.

Relationships between soldiers in combat varied and depended on the individual. Kirk Ramsey says that during his year in the field he had no contact with the company's mortar platoon. Over the years, however, he has talked to vets who did have friends in the mortar squads. It probably just depended on where your bunker was in relation to the mortar pits.  One of the infantry guys in Bravo company, Robert Navarro, who was there when Jerome was there (but didn't know him,) described how it was not unusual for the infantry guys to keep to themselves. He himself would talk to anybody, while others never got too close to anyone. “As soon as you did, they would be gone.”
Jerome’s descriptions remind me of a scene in the movie Forrest Gump where Forrest and Bubba are sitting out in the open marveling at the beauty of the Vietnam nighttime sky. The also fictional Sergeant Elias in another move, Platoon, has a similar scene. Being an artsy kind of guy, I can see Jerome marveling at the same thing Kirk Ramsey described. "As night approached I beheld the first of many glorious sunsets. The Vietnamese sky turned blazing pink and orange in the west. For nearly half an hour we were treated with a celestial light show, and then darkness dropped suddenly on upon us." The darkness was real, but I also imagine it figuratively as the realities stared you in the face every night and day. Bunkers that were supposed to be "home" were described as a-not-so-spacious 5 feet high and maybe 8 feet square and became sauna-like in the breeze-less heat. The large Vietnamese rats and hungry mosquitoes, and the ever present fears of what it would it be like if attacked or rocketed, by my way of thinking, would make sleep impossible. I wonder if it didn't sometimes seem "dark" even in the daytime.
An official army quarterly evaluation report, dated March 15, 1969, gives a general overview of what Jerome's unit was doing during the time he was there. Here are a few excepts: "The Battalion continues operations in its assigned areas of operation (AO) and special areas assigned by higher headquarters ... Operations are directed toward the location and elimination of main force VC/NVA units, local force units, and the Viet Cong infrastructure ... The battalion has been extremely effective in locating and eliminating the Viet Cong infrastructure ... Raids, ambushes, and small unit operations have achieved excellent results ... During the period, 1 Jan 69 through 11 Mar 69, the Battalion had 34 significant US casualties were 9 KIA, 70 WIA. The most significant contact took place on 8 February when Alpha and Bravo companies engaged elements of the 8th and 9th Battalions of the 88th NVA Regt at XT636236. The engagement lasted some 6 hours ... The Battalion continues to remain active in the "Colors Up" and pacification programs ...Efforts continue to open roads and lines of communication within the AO." The first three months of 1969 were summed up this way: "Operations carried out by units of the Battalion continue to apply heavy pressure against local force units and small VC/NVA recon, rocket arty, and rear service units. Every effort is made to establish contact with larger units moving through the Ba Thu-My Hanh corridor to the Saigon area. The battalion continues to operate in many areas outside of assigned AO with good results." 
There is no way of knowing what role Jerome's mortar team played in any of this, but this is what was going on around him in his Vietnam world for those three months.

So What happened?
You can look it up. It's all so perfunctory. 
Casualty Type:         Hostile, Died of Wounds
Casualty Reason:     Ground Casualty
Casualty Detail:       Multiple Fragmentation Wounds
 (another record says it was a grenade.)
Remains: Body Recovered.
When I told him about Jerome, Kirk Ramsey, told me that it could also have been a rocket. 
As far as we know Jerome was wounded on 18 March (the day after his 25th birthday.) His nephew James de Galley told Kirk Ramsey that Jerome sent a letter home saying that he was wounded near the Saigon River, and operating out of FSB Keene. James said (and this is what my brother David told me too) that the "army told us that his unit was completely overrun." I have not seen or heard anything else about this letter, and it may have said more or given other details. I don’t know.
Exactly what happened and where it happened we may never know. Jerome wrote to David, “since I began this letter (27 February) our company was given an alert. The nearest fire base camp about 10 miles away was hit with mortar and small round fire. This action is part of the new offensive on the part of the enemy. As a result we are anticipating attacks on our own perimeter.” Materials available on the 2/14th do not show any specific action on March 18. On the 25th, Bravo Company was part of a well-documented incident and lost several men, but not near the Saigon River. Those casualties were from small arms fire. Besides, Jerome would have been in the Cu Chi hospital on the 25th. The "old" guys would regale the new guys with their war stories. Kirk Ramsey recalls such a story about a ground attack a month before (in March). One night the VC crawled through the wire in the early hours and knifed two of the sleeping guards. And then there were the daily rocket attacks from the west, a place they called "Rocket City," just over the Cambodian border. It would be just one or a few a day, but was always a nuisance, arriving at suppertime. A grenade or mortar or rocket casualty could have happened anytime and anywhere. Jerome commented that “you could say my position with the mortar squad is more secure than if I were with the regular infantry. However, base camps are overrun, and the situation can be just as hot within as without the perimeter.” But none of those people I contacted, who would know such things, ever heard of any 2/14th unit being "overrun" in Vietnam. There was plenty of tense action and there were casualties, and they were in some tough spots, but never "overrun." It is unclear what the army meant by their description or why they told that to the family.

  Home Base - Cu Chi 1969

But obviously something happened. What that was I will likely never know, short of an eyewitness account, but remember, all this was almost a half a century ago. Maybe it was a grenade that killed him while out in the field, although there are those who were there at the time, and Jerome himself, who said that this was not likely. Maybe it was one of the daily rocket attacks on FSB Keene, and Jerome's description of "0perating near the Saigon River" was just a general geographic marker for FSB Keene. Maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, wherever it was, on 18 March, Jerome became a casualty and was evacuated to the base hospital at Cu Chi. It was while he was there that two weeks later the abbreviation DOW was attached to his name. He "Died Of  Wounds" on March 31. It was a Sunday. It was Palm Sunday. That's all I know, and thanks to a lot of people, I’m glad I know that much.

Sorry, Son, Foam's Dead
Now the story is going to sound like it’s all about me. I don’t really like that, but for me it is part of the story of the picture. In the spring of 1969 I was a student at Northwestern Prep. While Jerome was living, fighting, and dying half way across the world, I was reading Cicero’s Orations in the relative safety of a Prep Latin class, trying out for the varsity baseball team, listening to likes of the Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night and CCR on the record player, and who knows what other dumb stuff a 16-year-old guy does in high school at Prep.
I had gone home for the weekend. Mom gave me the news that Foam had been wounded. It is a vivid memory. I was standing in the living room at home and remember asking something like "how bad is it." I think she said that she didn't know, but that wasn't true. I could tell something was up. She was visibly upset, even seemed angry, as she disappeared up the stairs. I can count on one hand how many times I saw my Mom like that. I can't remember her exact words but as she hurried up the stairs she was mumbling something which, I think, may have been her way of venting the same emotions as Jim Miller's telegram. "Why?"
David has his own memory of getting the news. Mary Lou called him in New Ulm sharing the few details they had. He quickly fired off a letter expressing his concern and offering a friend’s encouragement. It included the expectation that Jerome would be home in due time to heal and get on with life. Jerome never got the letter. It came back, over a month later, unopened and sealed in an envelope with the short but regretful news that they could not deliver the letter – “official records of the Department of the Army, as of 2 April 1969, indicate that he was reported to have deceased on 31 March 1969.” For 47 years that haunting returned letter remained unopened - until now. Thanks, David!
All the details of what followed are unclear to me, but the day and the way I found out that Jerome was dead is not. Again, I had come home to Zion from Prep – Easter break. A group of us often carpooled and a regular pick-up point was the restaurant (Motor Inn) and adjacent supper club (the Clown Room) my Dad managed at the intersection of highways 41 and 173 just west of Zion. My friends, Dave Peschke, John Barenz, and (I think it was) Steve McNeil were with me as we slid into one of the front window booths in the restaurant waiting to go our separate ways. I got up and went to find my Dad who was in the Clown Room, which was separated from the restaurant by a double swinging door. Dad was behind the bar setting up for the night's business, and the owners, Jerry and Marge Lefco, were sitting at the bar. (It's crazy how I remember those meaningless details.) Whatever else was said in those few moments, I don't remember, but I did ask, "How's Foam?" Maybe it was just me, but there was an awkward pause and everyone just looked at me. Then, and it seemed almost matter of fact, my Dad simply said, "Foam's dead, son. I'm sorry!" That was it! I guess he thought I knew that. But I didn't know that. The awkwardness, almost embarrassment, that I felt at that moment is something I can still feel.  I just stood there. I didn't know what to say or do at that moment. It seemed like they just went back to what they were doing, and I just turned around, and went back through the swinging doors to the restaurant booth and tried to tell my friends what just happened.
       My Dad didn't mean to do it, but I was not only stunned, I was hurt, and angry. I didn't say anything to anyone about how I felt. For some reason I didn't want to let on what I was feeling. You just didn't do that. That wasn't cool. Besides, this was not about me, and he wasn't my friend. I knew David would be upset. And I couldn't imagine how the de Galleys felt or what they had to go though. It was so unexpected and abrupt. Was I that naïve? (Yes!) You just didn't think he would die. At least I didn't. I will never forget that afternoon, and I still get a funny feeling when I think of it.
            I have learned that the way David found out was worse yet – an even more vivid memory for him. He too was coming home for Easter break – from New Ulm. As soon as he got to Sem he went to the lower level phone booth to call Mary Lou and tell her he was back. (Yes, children, I said a phone booth! This is 1969 remember!) At that moment a classmate walked by … well, let David tell it: “before I could make the call, Adie Harstad said, ‘sorry to hear about Jerome.’ The look on his face told me he had died, and the look on my face told Adie that I didn’t know.” Of course, David was stunned. Adie felt terrible and apologized.

          On Friday, 10 April, Mom and Dad, my sister Mary, and I drove to Milwaukee for the wake at St Paul’s – 73rd and Burleigh. All I remember about that night is that the church seemed dark, there was no one there at the time (which doesn't make sense to me now, but that's what I remember.) It was just the three of us, and Pastor de Galley, and the flag draped casket. I only vaguely remember David being there that night, or Mrs. de Galley. That's weird. I can tell you though, I wanted more than anything to come back the
next day for the funeral. But it wasn't going to happen. I was just 16, had just got my license, didn't have a car, and since Mom and Dad both had to work, there was no way for me to get there. Mom and Dad could sense my disappointment, and said they were sorry. I knew that David was my only other option, but he was staying in Milwaukee. Besides, there was no way he needed and wanted to have to worry about me at the funeral, and rightfully so. I got that, and I do remember feeling there was no way I wanted to mess this up for him. Foam was his friend. I sucked it up and said (albeit reluctantly) that I understood. I did, but I didn't like it.

Funeral card with 30 March DOD - a misprint??

        David shared with me some things about the funeral that make me both sad and glad. It was bad enough that a 25-year-old man had lost his life, and bad enough that parents had to bury their son. The 10 days of waiting for Jerome’s body to get shipped home was hard enough on everyone, but during that time the de Galleys received any number of nasty hate phone calls from the anti-war crowd. (Milwaukee and Madison had strong anti-war movements during this time.) David reminded me that bomb threats forced the church to be evacuated a couple of times during the visitation. There had to be a strong police presence at the church and along the route to the cemetery. That makes me sad. I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the radical so-called “peace” movement. Although I do understand the anti-war sentiment, and there is a time and place for it, I do not understand this, or what kind of people would do something like this.
            What makes me happy is when David told me what happened the night of the funeral when all of the anticipation, and emotion, and tension of the day, and the past couple of weeks, was released. The pallbearers (Jerome’s brothers James and Leon, brother-in-law Dick Schultz, and buddies Tom Liesener, Kurt Mahnke, and David) got together and spent the night in the de Galley dining room playing sheepshead and drinking beer. (By the way, that dining room, and whole house for that matter, were designed by Jerome!) I don’t play sheepshead, but I would have liked to have been there for that and heard those conversations, stories, and memories that night.

Memories and Memorials
So that was that. Life went on and Foam slowly faded into my memory banks. But he never went away completely. A couple of things come to mind. There was a Sunday dinner. After Jerome's funeral David and Mary Lou grew close to the de Galleys (like I said, that's what David does), and spent a lot of time with them. Sometime in 1970 or 71, I really can't remember exactly when, but David and Mary Lou were invited to the de Galley's for Sunday dinner. I was along and so was my then girlfriend, Carol. We had spent the weekend in Milwaukee with them. It’s funny, that both David and I remember few of the details of that weekend, but Carol and Mary Lou do. (maybe that’s because although Carol and Mary Lou had never met, they shared a bed that night and David and I had the hide-a-bed in the living room! Funny.) But anyway, in Pastor de Galley's office there was the picture of Jerome, the flag, and the purple heart, in a little display on a table. I couldn't take my eyes off it, and I want to pick the medal up, and I wanted to say something, ask about it, and Foam. I didn't. I was afraid. David kept the same picture in his office. Once in a while we'd talk about it, but not much. Of course, in 1971 David named his first-born Paul Jerome. 
In 1976 after my vicar year I got to preach at St. Paul’s. Sitting in the sacristy and being up front made me think of that night in 1969. Years later when I was a pastor in Appleton a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall came to town and set up in the City Park. I went because I wanted to see Jerome's name. Then years later David's Rachel was graduating from the Page program of the House of Representatives in Washington DC. David and I (and my Sarah) drove out there. We went to the Wall and found Jerome's name there too. That was good.
Finally, over the years when I grew weary of the way too many people observe (or fail to observe) Memorial Day I began my own little private and personal tradition of remembering the people I knew who made the ultimate sacrifice. So I try to remember Jerome for a moment on that day. Silly to some, I suppose, but meaningful to me.
Again I think of one of my favorite proverbs: "You live as long as you are remembered."  SO ... I remember Corporal (posthumously promoted) Jerome Anthony de Galley.
Paul Jerome Dolan at the Wall

Back to Why
Jimmy Miller asked why? Only he really knows what he was asking, if he was actually asking anything. Like I said, he was probably making a statement more than asking a question. Jim is gone now too, joining Jerome in the certainty and comfort of the Lord’s presence. I guess I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to think that Jim would not mind me sharing his struggling spirit of 1969. It is reproduced below in his wonderful hand-written letter to David in April of 1969:

I don’t know what David told Jim, but his subsequent words at least in part offered some comfort and reassurance to his struggling friend. And before he himself died in 2001, also much too young, Jim had found some peace and some answers to his own question.
People always ask why? It could be the generic one-size-fits-all "why do bad things happen to good people" or the more personal "why me" or "why now?" Survivor's struggle with "why him and not me?" People ask "why war?" My generation still asks "why Vietnam?" We would ask "why Jerome?" Mark Goeglein from Prep days commented that he has “a hard time seeing Jerome as a soldier, in combat. He was such a gentle soul.” I can't say that it's the "why" question that sticks with me, but Jerome certainly does. And he probably always will. 
This little vignette turned out to be not so little and not even a vignette anymore. That was not the plan, but the story took on a life of its own and kept going. Maybe some of the information is uninteresting and irrelevant. I am sure that there is more to the story, and there are others who know more, know better, or remember other things. But this is my story - the story that for me goes with the picture of Foam. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Late Jim de Galley, Nephew, posted this remembrance on Tuesday, May 14, 2002

     Young and Old
When all the world is young, lad,
   And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
   And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
   And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
   And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,

   And all the trees are brown;

And all the sport is stale, lad,

   And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
   The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there,
   You loved when all was young.

      (Charles Kingsley  1819-1875)

Thank you for your sacrifice and courage.
We love you, we miss you, we remember you.


Purple Heart - National Defense Service Medal – Vietnam Service Medal - Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and 25th Infantry Division patch

Jerome is buried at Wisconsin Memorial park, Brookfield, Wi - Section 23B 5th row from the West 3rd Column in from the South


  1. Learned a lot I did not know or didn't remember. Thanks Johnny. Sad times.

  2. I'm glad you wrote this.
    I appreciated reading this little piece of history.

  3. Agreed. An important story! So much I didn't know. And amazing to me to have seen you think about and look through so much stuff about Jerome while I was home, and to now see a result of all that reflections! Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a great story- powerful and sad. I appreciated getting a smaller glimpse into what it was like to live (and bury a friend) during those rocky Vietnam War days. It's awesome that cousin Paul gets to carry on the legacy of this special family friend. Your insights into Uncle Dave were another thing that stood out to me. I love your description of who he is, how he connects with people, and how much his friends mean to him. Also, I'm not sure I've heard any stories from when you and mom were dating, so that little Sunday dinner tidbit about mom and Mary Lou sleeping together stood out to me. Thanks for writing this. All of it. It was a good read.