One of my emails notified me that a Michael Crescenz, a classmate of mine, will be buried Monday May 12 in Arlington Cemetery. He was killed 40 years ago, in Viet Nam. Ah, it’s been many years since I thought of Michael, and even then I remember him as a young boy, not as the man he was when he died.

It’s often mocked, but outside of the elites, there is another America, where love of country isn’t seen as silly, and that includes accepting the responsibility to defend your country. In the 1960’s the fight was against murderous insurgents trying to overthrow a corrupt government that was allied with the US.

So many of my friends went to war, and some didn’t come back. One who didn’t return was Michael, who was buried with his family in the local cemetary. Visiting the cemetery to place flowers or pray is common, and his parents wished his grave to be nearby for family to visit.

But after his parents passed away, his brother convinced the family that Michael’s body should be moved to Arlington. And so, last week his body was disinterred in a small ceremony that included family and friends, and Monday, his body is to be moved in a convoy with various State Police motorcycle escorts and the Patriot Guard Escorts.

But why Arlington? Isn’t that for VIP’s? photo

Ah yes. But Michael was a winner of the Medal of Honor.

In the morning his unit engaged a large, well-entrenched force of the North Vietnamese Army whose initial burst of fire pinned down the lead squad and killed the 2 point men… Immediately, Corporal Crescenz left the relative safety of his own position, seized a nearby machine gun and, with complete disregard for his safety, charged 100 meters up a slope toward the enemy’s bunkers…

His actions allowed his unit to survive.

A medic in his unit gives this description in a local newspaper:

“He definitely stood up that day and broke the logjam we were in,” says Stafford,….While Michael drew the enemy’s fire, Stafford advanced to help a wounded soldier who couldn’t pull himself to safety. As Stafford tended to the man’s injuries, Michael put himself between the medic and the enemy. That’s when Michael was killed.

“Things happen so quickly in a war, and you wonder why certain things happen to some but not others,” Stafford says. “I figured out after many years that it just wasn’t my time.

So Stafford and the unknown soldier live, but Michael died. And somewhere there is an answer to all of these things, but in the meanwhile, family and friends cope and trust in the Lord that all things will work for the good in the Lord’s time. memorial

photo from the Catholic Standard and Time.

In the meanwhile, the family is comforted that Michael will rest with his friends in Arlington, a hero among other heroes.

The common view among the elites about the VietNam war was that it was a “mistake”; I am not so sure that history will agree with the story, especially if the history is written by the Cambodians, ethnic Chinese or VietNamese Catholics and Buddhists who fled the massacres and terrors of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

And if today I live in a moderately peaceful Philippines, it might be because the “holding action” against communism enabled countries like Thailand, Indonesia,  Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines to enact carrot and stick policies that stopped these governments from similar communist takeovers.

So, sleep in peace, Michael, and I’ll remember you and your family at Mass tomorrow.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket


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