Meet The Men From MPK Who Died In Vietnam
● By Rebecca K. Abma
In 1969, Midland Park earned the sad distinction of having the highest death rate in the state for losses in Vietnam: nearly one man per 1,000 citizens. Mayor Cornelius A. Pontier sent the following Western Union Telegram to the White House on June 29 of that year:
"Dear Mr. President: It is with great sadness that I request your attention to the record of eternal sacrifice made by eight young men of the Borough of Midland Park, New Jersey, in the Vietnam cause. As Mayor of this town of 8,500 fine citizens, I feel the measure of sacrifice to be disproportionate and inequitable in comparison to the numerical population of our community. We are ever mindful of our duties and responsibilities, Our loyalty to God and Country is beyond reproach. While the young men called from our midst seek only to do for their Country, they deserve a fair chance. I, therefore, beseech you, in your capacity as Commander-In-Chief, to cause the war record of this community to be examined and then in justice, save us from further grief, for we have truly given our full measure of devotion. Respectfully, Mayor Cornelius A. Pontier."
Here's a look at the men from Midland Park who perished during the Vietnam War:
1st Lt. Alan Zimmerman: Helicopter Shot Down on Feb. 2, 1967
Zimmerman was attempting to evacuate a wounded soldier in the Bien Hoa Province when his helicopter was hit by enemy ground fire. The chopper crashed and burned, leaving all six men on board burned beyond recognition. He had been in Vietnam for less than five days and married for one month to Margaret "Peggy" Williams. He was 23 years old.
Zimmerman, Midland Park High School Class of 1961, grew up on Hill Street and his father, Roland, served on the borough council. He is remembered as a leader who gave 100% in everything he did: co-captain of the football team, ran track and made All-State Band on the bass clarinet. After high school, he attended University of Maine where he was an ROTC Cadet. He was commissioned into the Army in June of 1966.
He is buried at George Washington Memorial Cemetery in Paramus.
Army Specialist 4 Norman Goble: Enemy Fire on Nov. 21, 1967
Goble was on perimeter guard duty in the Binh Duong Province when he was attacked by enemy fire. He died of multiple fragment wounds two weeks before his tour was to end. He served in Vietnam for just under a year. He was 20 years old.
Born in Hackensack, Goble went to school in Washington Township and Ridgewood before coming to Midland Park. He graduated MPHS in 1965 and was drafted into the Army the following March. In June 1966, he got married, and in December of that year, he left for Vietnam. During his tour, his wife, Margaret, gave birth to their daughter, Patricia.
In addition to his wife and newborn, he was survived by his parents, J. Wesley and Anne Goble and four siblings. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He is buried in George Washington Memorial Cemetery, in Paramus.
Cpl. Wayne Golon: Multiple Fragmentation Wounds on Feb. 5, 1968
Golon was killed while receiving medical attention in the Gia Dinh Province in South Vietnam. The First Aid tent he was in was shelled, killing him and the medic who was treating him. He was 23.
The son of a WWII veteran who was born the day his father deployed for France, Golon was drafted during his final semester at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He opted not to seek a deferment until graduation.
Raised in Midland Park, Golon graduated from MPHS class of 1962, where he made the varsity baseball team his freshman year and played varsity football, according to a recollection written by his father, Frank. "He starred for four years there and was being watched by a scout from the Cincinnati Reds," he wrote. A remembrance posted on his Vietnam War Memorial page notes he drove a little green MG. His Military Record states his hometown was Bergenfield, where a park was named in his honor.
He was posthumously promoted from Private First Class to Corporal. He is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Hackensack.
PFC Brian Wedlake: Small Arms Fire on May 2, 1968
Wedlake died in the Quang Tri Province in South Vietnam during an extended series of enemy offensives. The 20-year-old Marine rifleman was killed outright from small arms fire.
Born on Armistice Day 1947, Wedlake grew up in Midland Park, where his mother, Frances, was a teacher in the public school system. A graduate of MPHS Class of 1966, he was on the football, basketball and track teams. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1967.
Remembrances posted on Wedlake's Vietnam War Memorial page recount they day the Marine car drove through Midland Park to the school where his mother taught to notify her of her son's death. "We were all devastated and deeply saddened by the death of this wonderful, handsome bright young man," wrote Donna Shields Herrmann, who worked with Mrs. Wedlake.
He was survived by his parents, William and Frances, and two siblings. He is buried at Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah.
PFC Roger Roetman: Friendly Fire, July 2, 1968
Roetman was accidentally shot and killed by his sergeant during patrol along the Korean cease fire line, according to a report in the New York Sunday News in July 1969. Because his death did not occur in Vietnam, he is not listed on the Vietnam Wall but rather on the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
On official military archives, Roetman's home state is listed as Washington, however, he is remembered to have come from a long-time Midland Park family, who lived on Center Street and was a member of MPHS Class of 1966. No other biographical information could be located as of press time. (If you have any info about Roetman, please email email@example.com.)
Cpl. Steven Foster: Complications From Battle Injuries on Aug. 24, 1968
On July 30, 1968, Foster was performing his duties in Quang Tri Province, near the Cua Viet River, as a radio technician for a Marine Headquarters and Supply Company. He was hit with shrapnel which resulted in wounds that covered his back and chest. It was 19 days before he was scheduled to come home.
He was flown to the USS Sanctuary off the Vietnam Coast to the 249th General Hospital, Camp Drake, Japan. His father, Charles, was flown to Japan to be at his son's side. Foster was able to remain conscious, and speak to his father before succumbing to his injuries. He was 20 years old.
Foster graduated from MPHS in 1965 and earned three varsity letters. He is remembered as a serious-minded and dedicated individual, a tremendous kid and an outstanding football player who was well liked by his teammates.
He enlisted on his 18th birthday. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He is buried in Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah.
Capt. Cordell Rogers, Complication From Injuries, May 27, 1969
On May 13, Rogers was injured in an explosion in the Quang Tin Province, and sent to a military hospital in Japan, where he died of complications from his injuries. He was 30 years old.
He was a career Army Officer (1963 to 1969) who had volunteered for his third tour of duty. Raised in Midland Park and called Corky by friends and family, he played footbal at Pompton Lakes High School in the 1950s.
Rogers left behind a wife and two children in Iowa. He is buried at Remsen Cemetery, Remsen, Iowa.
Capt. Michael Parmerter, Gunshot Wound on June 22, 1969
The last of eight men from Midland Park to die in the Vietnam War, Parmerter's cause of death is listed on the virtual wall as non-hostile, ground casualty, other causes. However, a news report at the time of his death recounts Parmerter was killed while fighting with an Airborne Unit during his second tour of duty. His death garnered national attention attention after Mayor Pontier sent a telegram to President Richard Nixon. Multiple news articles reported the story with footage from his funeral being shown on NBC News as a background to an interview with the mayor.
According to his Vietnam War Casualties Record, the cause of death was suicide. As recounted online by his younger brother, Keith, Michael and another officer were returning to Khanh Hoa Province after a night of heavy drinking when a Vietnamese woman approached, saying something in Vietnamese. He ordered her to stop several times, but she did not. Fearful she had a grenade, Parmerter shot and killed her. When the men checked her, she did was unarmed. Parmerter was so remorseful, he shot himself.
He was remembered as a smart, fun and friendly guy, who drove an Austin Healy Sprite roadster automobile, and drank Scotch whiskey. An article in the New York Daily News from July 6, 1969, reported Parmerter graduated from Midland Park High School in 1962 and enlisted in the Army in 1966, during his senior year of college. He is buried in Florida Cemetery in Florida, NY.
Did you know any of these men? If you have more details, information, anecdotes or photos you'd like to share, tell us in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.