By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
The search for the final photograph on a list of Vietnam casualties from Harnett County has come to a successful end.
Charles Watson, the cousin of Staff Sgt. John Morgan, telephoned The Daily Record Tuesday to report he was in possession of a photo; one that had been in his family since he was about 8 or 9 years old.
Now a copy of it will become part of a new addition to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. In 2012, ground was broken on The Education Center at The Wall. As a part of what is planned for the center, a visual display putting faces to the 58,000 names that are forever emblazened on the granite tribute, Staff Sgt. Morgan will join the remaining casualties from Harnett and other North Carolina counties in a digital See Photo, Page 3
The cousin of Staff Sgt. John Morgan, who was killed in Vietnam in 1966, poses as he displays the family photos and momentos that fill his mantle. Among them is the one Mr. Watson provided a copy of to be placed in a memorial in Washington, D.C.
Daily Record Photo/Rick Curl Photo
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display slated for the center.
“This was the last picture of those from Harnett County that we’ve been searching for since 2005,” said Jim Reece, who along with his brother, Tom, were collecting the photos when he found out about the discovery.
“We’ve been working to get every photo and get them off to Washington, D.C. There are only 16 left and I’ve been searching up and down the East Coast trying to find a picture of him.”
While the picture is an important part of the search for the two men who were spearheading the search for the North Carolina vet’s photo, it may not be as important as the man himself.
While he is gone, he is certainly not forgotten. Mr. Watson still has memories of the man who once wrote to his mother warning her to tell the children back home to not come to Vietnam. It was a place he described in the letter as the worst place he had been.
Mr. Watson’s memories go back to his early childhood when his cousin would drive him and the other children in the family around in his new car.
“Back in 1955 he bought a brand new Pontiac, with the spare tire on the back and everything,” Mr. Watson recalled. “Everytime he would come home he would stay with us.
“So he used to take us kids for a ride in his car. He was like a brother to us.” Riding in Staff Sgt.
Morgan’s new car was only one of many memories for Mr. Watson, who is now 70 years old. “I have some good memories of him,” he said.
“He was one of my favorite cousins.” That becomes even more apparant when you see the smile that crosses his face as he reminisces about John.
“When he came home, he would always make sure he came and visited us,” Mr. Watson said. “My favorite, what I really liked about it, he took a lot of time with us and he would always take us for a ride. We always enjoyed that.”
Also Served In Korea
The rides are the most vivid because of the amount of time he wasn’t around. Staff Sgt. Morgan served in Korea prior to going to Vietnam.
“He didn’t really do too much with us because he was gone a lot,” Mr. Watson recalled. “I knew he had this picture album and he left it with us, he gave it to my older sister. I used to take it down and go through and look at the pictures he had in there.”
Over the time, and with his mother’s passing, the album disappeared and went the way of most things — to the place nobody seems to really know.
Mr. Watson shows a lot of respect for his cousin when you ask about what kind of man the staff sergeant turned out to be.
“As far as I could tell he was a pretty good guy, to be honest with you, he was a pretty good guy,” he said happily. “I never saw him drink anything. He was just a great guy to me.”
He describes his personality as one of a caring man and one of a giving man.
“He had a good personality,” he said laughing, “he gave us money.”
The last time the two were together was early in 1966 when Mr. Watson was about 17 years old.
The young Mr. Watson was at work when his cousin came to tell him good-bye.
“I remember he came out there and talked to me to tell me he was leaving because he was driving a 1964 Chevrolet, two-door with a white-green top,” he said. “So that was the last time I saw him.”
He arrived in Vietnam in January and on June 30, while he was serving with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division, he was killed in action. The official report said he was struck with multiple fragmentation wounds, likely from a weapon known as a rocket propelled grenade. He had served 18 years. “We actually got two notices he had been killed in action,” Mr. Watson recalled. “The first time they said he got killed we were living in Bearsville and we found out that wasn’t true,” he said. “The second time we found out we were living in the mother’s house of the man that ran the Piggly Wiggly. We got word that he had gotten killed the last time and it was true.”
After notification it took two weeks for Staff Sgt. Morgan to make his final trip home.
“I remember going up to the funeral home where we viewed the body and the embalming job didn’t look so good,” he said. “He was a lot darker (complexion) than he really was.”
As it turned out it wasn’t the saddest part for the family.
“The saddest part about the whole situation was when they start blowing ‘Taps,’” he said. “The guy was behind a tree and he started.”
While the sting from the memory of his loss has dimmed somewhat over time, Staff Sgt. Morgan still has a special place in Mr. Watson’s home. His picture stands proudly at one end of the mantle in what he calls his “play room” next to pictures of other family members.
“I keep it in the front room, that’s my playroom,” he said. “He’s always in there with me, I’m always looking at his picture. I thought a lot of him.”