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For Fosters, Memorial Day’s a time to remember
What motivated you to join the service?
That was the first question to three brothers who chose the United States Army for their careers. Each one had pretty much the same answer: I just knew I wanted to be a soldier. If the fourth brother were still around, no doubt he would have said the same thing.
So they all went, and they all fought. First was Roy Foster, the oldest, who was a combat soldier in World War II. Next came Darrell Foster, who joined the day before the Korean War ended. “They must have gotten word that I joined,” he said. Doug and Ralph Foster followed their brothers. None of them ever considered any other career.
Darrell, Doug and Ralph became officers and fought in Vietnam. Roy was an enlisted man. He died in 1986.
On his first tour, in 1965, Doug was a platoon leader in the unit made famous in the book and movie called “We Were Soldiers,” the story of the first major battle of the American phase of the war. One day, soldiers were clearing an area for a fire base, cutting brush and trees, when some gas caught fire and flashed back onto Doug. His platoon sergeant pushed him to the ground and held him nose down in the dirt, saving his face. Still, Doug spent the next nine months in a burn center and then was assigned duty near Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, where he was treated for 18 more months.
His next tour in Vietnam, in 1968, Doug commanded a company that “fought a pretty serious fight with a much larger force for possession of a hilltop,” he said. He lost a few men, but the enemy lost even more. “We stayed on the hill,” Doug said.
That was May 30, 1968. Back home, folks were observing Memorial Day.
So what are the Foster brothers thinking as another Memorial Day approaches? What does the day mean to them? Well, it’s not a day for celebration, Doug said. It’s a day for remembering men they served with, the brothers agreed, especially those who didn’t make it home.
It’s also a time to look forward to seeing your fellow soldiers again, men who fought side by side, who fought mostly for each other to stay alive. Doug and others have tracked down more than 100 of the guys he served with on his second Vietnam tour, and they get together somewhere in the world every other year. “To me,” he said, “that is the greatest thing ever.”
The three surviving Fosters — all originally from Gainesville, Ga. — are now scattered over three states: Ralph in Hinesville, Ga.; Darrell in Clarksville, Tenn., and Doug in Whitehall, Pa. Together, and with Roy, they put in 88 years of active military service.
They could have done a lot of different things with their lives. But they chose the military. This weekend, Memorial Day weekend, the brothers will be home with their families.
And their memories.
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.