Garlock seeks action on Iraq, Afghanistan memorials

Peachtree City resident Terry Garlock was the guest speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Peachtree City. Photo/John Munford.

Speaker: Latest generation of veterans deserves a place to grieve, heal and remember

America should get the ball rolling for a new war memorial to honor the veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peachtree City resident Terry Garlock said at the city’s Memorial Day ceremony.

Garlock, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who was shot down and severely injured, was the guest speaker for the event. He advocated for the memorials to be built immediately to recognize the efforts of those who serve.

“We should not wait decades to help those veterans and families build a memorial, a place that has nothing to do with glorifying a war but everything to do with remembering the ones who lost their life serving our country,” Garlock said. “We should help those veterans and families build a memorial that belongs to them and draws them together, their place to grieve and heal, their place to honor the faces frozen forever young in their mind. We should build those memorials now.”

Garlock noted that he is unsure if the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans “recognize how significant their sacrifice has been, how formative in their life their combat experience has been.” But he is aware of the power held by the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

As one searches “The Wall” for the names of a loved one, the realization sets in “that numbers don’t tell the story, that there are so many names, that every single name is a family’s heartbreak,” Garlock said.

And on The Wall there are some 58,267 names of those who died in the war.

The Wall also has the power of helping people grieve, even after all these years, Garlock said, as “long-concealed emotions are set loose to run free.”

Garlock also told a very personal story about two men he served alongside in the war whose names are inscribed on the wall: Pete and Harry, who like Garlock were 21 years old and helicopter pilots.

“We were Cobra gunship pilots in the war, and our worst nightmare was being trapped in the cockpit after a crash and still conscious while spilled fuel burned it fast and hot, a terrible way to die,” Garlock recalled. “That’s what happened to Harry.”

Garlock remembered that Pete “was on top of the world” when he got a telegram announcing that his wife gave birth to their first child, a son.

“Four days later Pete was supporting the third mobile strike force, trying to stop an enemy force crossing the Cambodian border into south Vietnam,” Garlock said. “Pete lost the firefight with an anti-aircraft gun and died a violent death in the cockpit when he hit the jungle trees at high speed.”

Garlock said his participation in the war taught him “the true meaning of loyalty and courage and trust” among service members who were mostly 19 to 25 years old.

“That’s when I learned to love and admire our men and women in uniform, but that doesn’t mean I like war,” Garlock said. “Every veteran I know who has been to war will tell you it’s a terrible business, that there is no glory in it.”

Garlock said he never knew anyone who willingly gave their life for their country, however.

“Those I knew who died wanted the same thing we all wanted, the same thing our troops want today in Afghanistan, to finish the job and go home to their family, to have children and watch them grow up, to get old while spoiling grandchildren,” Garlock said. “Those things we take for granted are lost to the ones who die young.”