Red Clay Newsletter of the Veterans who served at Khe Sanh Combat Base, Hill 950, Hill 881, Hill 861, Hill 861-A, Hill 558 Khe Sanh Village, Lang-Vei and Surrounding Area


Home      Red Clay Index
In Memoriam  

David L. Caldon
 Lt./Col. 2/26


The Altmeyer Funeral Homes

David L. Caldon  Lt./Col. 2/26

David Lee Caldon, 65, passed away in his home December 14, 2007.

Mr. Caldon retired from the United States Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel and served two tours in Vietnam.

He was the recipient of the Silver Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Gold Star and
18th Award, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Achievement Medal with Valor, Presidential Unit Citation with Bronze Star, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal with two Stars.

He was an investment associate with Merrill Lynch for the past 21 years and attended St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church in

He is survived by his wife, Susan P. Caldon; two sons, Christopher C. Caldon and wife Heather of Virginia Beach and James P. Caldon and wife Alisha of Ramona, California; four grandchildren, Delaney, Caitlin and Noah Caldon and Alexis Williamson; father, Clifton Mailes Caldon; brother, Brian Edward Caldon and wife of East Berne, New York; sister, Janet Kochanowski and husband Jack of Avon, Connecticut; and several nieces and nephews.He was predeceased by his Mother, Eleanor Esterbrook Caldon

The Visitation will be held at Altmeyer Funeral Home, Southside Chapel, Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m.. The Funeral Mass will be held at St. Stephen Martyr Catholic, 1544 S. Battlefield Blvd., Chesapeake, Wednesday at noon with Monsignor Michael D. McCarron officiating.

Burial will take place in the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in , Friday at 10 a.m. Memorial donations may be made to the American Society.

                                  Photo source:

Ernesto "Gooie" Gomez
Cpl. HMM-364 and HMM-262


Ernesto "Gooie" Gomez Cpl. HMM-364 and HMM-262

On November 26, 2007 "Gooie" received a full Military Funeral conducted by the Marines of Henderson Hall in Arlington National Cemetery.

From across this nation 70 plus individuals gathered to pay their last respects. 

In addition to Gooie's family there were, numerous Vietnam veterans that "Gooie" had served with from HMM-364 and HMM-262. Two men representing Colonel Dabney's Warriors of Hill 881S, two active duty Marines who had served with HMM-364 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the photographer who captured the essence of Hill 881S, a representative of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and a contingent of the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Club.

The President of the United States
Takes Pleasure in Presenting
The Navy Cross

Ernesto Gomez
Corporal, United States Marine Corps

For Services as Set Forth in the Following


For extraordinary heroism while serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 25 January 1968, Corporal Gomez was the Crew Chief aboard a CH-46 transport helicopter assigned an emergency medical evacuation mission on Hill 881 near the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

The pilot proceeded to the designated area and landed in the zone as two Marines began leading a casualty, whose head and eyes were covered with bandages, toward the helicopter. When the entire landing zone was subjected to intense enemy fire, the two men were forced to drop to the ground.

Observing the blindfolded casualty attempting to reach the aircraft unassisted, Corporal Gomez unhesitatingly left the helicopter and rushed across 25 meters of fire-swept terrain to the side of the injured man. Quickly pulling the Marine to the ground, he selflessly used his own body to shield his comrade from the hostile fire impacting around them, and as the enemy fire continued, he took cover with the casualty in a nearby rocket crater. Corporal Gomez remained in this exposed area until another crew member rushed to his assistance. Then the two Marines, protecting their wounded comrade from further injury, carried him to the helicopter.

The Pilot was quickly informed that the injured Marine was aboard, and the aircraft lifted from the hazardous area for the medical facility at Khe Sanh. Corporal Gomez’s heroic actions were instrumental in saving his companion’s life and inspired all who observed him.

By his courage, selfless concern for the safety of his fellow Marine, and unswerving devotion to duty at great personal risk, he upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Corporal Ernesto "Gooie" Gomez's
Internment Arlington National Cemetery



Pat Donovan, who flew many missions with Gooie, one of which earned him a Navy Cross also, submits the following in remembrance:

Carleen, we are with you now and always recalling Gooie's voice at Hill 881S who now lives on at the Marine Corps Museum. You are all in our thoughts and prayers of praise for the life and presence of Gooie who remains with us always.

Related websites:

 Gooie's  Poetry 

HMM-262     HMM-364     Popasmoke message Board    



James W. Warner
 Lt./Col. HMM-364


Published in the Orange County Register on 3/16/2007
Purple Foxes HMM-364

James W. Warner Lt./Col. USMC

Lieutenant Colonel James W. Warner, a decorated veteran of the United States Marine Corps, died on March 13, 2007 at the Western Medical Center in Tustin, CA. He was seventy-four.

Born in Redwood falls, Minnesota, the son of Verona and Roy Franklin Warner, he graduated from Redwood Falls High School, and then attended Hamline University in St. Paul in 1951, leaving school to volunteer for the Korean war. Training as a naval aviator in Pensacola, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Among his early assignments as a helicopter pilot, he won the coveted duty of flying President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Promoted to the rank of Captain, his outstanding service was recognized with an award for Honorable Service at The White House.

A Major during the Vietnam war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, for heroism in combat on March 15, 1968. At war's end, he became Director of Facilities Management at the Marine Corps. Air Station, Santa Ana, and won a commendation for "exceptionally meritorious service". Retiring from active duty in 1972, he entered the University of California at Irvine, majoring in Classical Civilization. In an unprecedented action, the Classics Department, including the entire faculty and fellow students, commended Lieutenant Colonel Warner. They wrote: "All differences in age, background and outlook between you and your fellow students evaporated in your obvious enthusiasm for the acquisition of knowledge. Your presence in the classes and in the Department in general has been greatly beneficial".

His late wife, Rosalie Ogden Warner, passed last year. Lieutenant Colonel Warner is survived by his sister, Judith and her husband, Marvin Penski, his daughters, Leah Labrador and Louise Griffin, and his sons, James Warner, Jr. and Daniel Warner. His grandchildren are Kelly, Theresa, Sarah and Wendy Warner, and Spencer James Griffin. Col. Warner's wishes will be granted and his ashes will be flown to Avalon Harbor where they will join his beloved wife Rosie of 49 years. Catalina Island was their home away from home.

Funeral services will be held at the Saddleback Chapel Mortuary at 1pm on Saturday, March 17th.
Published in the Orange County Register on 3/16/2007.

Photo source:


McFarland, Forrest “Spanky” Jr.
15th Aerial Port Squadron
US Air Force

The Chronicle
Colfax, LA.
12 October 2006

McFarland, Forrest “Spanky” Jr.

Services for Forrest “Spanky” McFarland, Jr. were held Tuesday, October 10, 2006 in Blanchard St. Denis Chapel, Natchitoches with Rev. Wayne Morrow officiating. Burial was in Fern Park Cemetery, Natchitoches with military graveside rites.

Forrest “Spanky” McFarland, Jr., 59 of Natchitoches died Sunday, October 8, 2006 in his residence.

He was a native of Robeline. He was a former weather traffic controller in Butte, Montana. He was a member of Trinity Baptist Church. He was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion. He was a member of Renaissance Organization, an old west theatrical gunfighter group. He was a veteran of Vietnam Era serving in the U.S. Air Force having served in Khe Sanh and Da Nang.

His mother, Gloria Lee Solomon; his father, Melton Forrest McFarland, Sr. preceded him in death.

Those left to cherish his memory include his daughter, Shelia Baecht and husband, Jimmy of Pittsboro, Texas; son, Russell McFarland of Denison, Texas; grandson, Taylor James of Becht; step-father, Allen Solomon of Natchitoches; two sisters, Kathleen McFarland and husband, Richard of Natchitoches and Betty Willet and husband, Robert of Dry Prong; four brothers, Richard McFarland and wife, Kathleen, Joe Solomon and wife, Brandy, Tommy Solomon and wife, Laura and David Solomon, all of Natchitoches.

Reprinted with permission from The Chronicle, Colfax, LA.

    Jim Melanson
Bravo Co 1/26

By Tony Melanson
Son of Jim Melanson

My Dad, Jim Melanson was born April 30, 1946 of Wilson and Helen Melanson in Manchester NH. He was 61 when he died on December 15 with my sister Karina and I by his side.

He graduated from Weare High School in 1964 where he played basketball. My Dad loved basketball, and actually was a huge fan of the Boston Celtics during the Larry Bird era. I remember watching those games with him and enjoying every moment.

He served as a Marine from 1966 to 1968. Upon his dispatch to Khe Sanh in Vietnam he served with Bravo Company, First Battalion, 26th Marine regiment. He reported in July of 1967 and was an Infantryman in the second platoon. To quote his commander Ken Pipes “His service during the 77 day Siege of the Khe Sanh combat base exposed him to the single most intense, sustained, extremely dangerous and stressful fighting of the Vietnam War”.

Over time my Father learned to be proud of his Vietnam service and later in life you would almost never see him without one of his Vietnam caps perched on his head. Once a Marine, always a Marine To say he saw active combat would be an understatement.

For his service he received the following medals:

Purple Heart with 1 Gold Star
The Combat Action Ribbon
The Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star
The National Defense Service Medal
The United States Vietnam Campaign Medal with at least two Bronze Stars
The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Frame
The Republic of Vietnam Civic Action Ribbon with Palm and Frame
and the Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with Device

His commitment to our country, the Corps and to our freedom is incontestable.

On August 30th 1969 he was wed to my Mom, Donna who is here today. What a hope for the future she would bring into his life. The hope she supplied would always light his life. Thanks Mom.

He graduated from the NH Technical College and began a career as a welder. He fathered two children, Karina on September 7 1972, and I on April 16 1971.

He moved to Oregon for a few years in 1987, returned to the New Hampshire around 1992 where he would live in Belmont, and then Concord for many years. For a brief time in the final two years he lived with Karina and her husband Robert where they lovingly cared for him as his health was becoming increasingly fragile due to liver disease. He then lived at Epsom Manor Nursing Care facility in Epsom NH.

For those of you who knew my Dad you saw many facets of a man.

His humor was really special. Jump up and sit down sort of funny. In fact it was only a few days ago that I connected with a combat marine who served with my Dad and his humor was one of the things he mentioned with emphasis. Combat and funny don’t usually mix. I remember seeing him make other people laugh with dry side-stepping wit. Even my friends found my Dad’s humor contagious.

He was charming. I think his genuine gentle spirit, appreciation for people, and his humor endeared him to those he met. This was so true at Epsom Manor Nursing Home. You should have seen the way they loved my father.

He was creative. Did you know my father has a patent to his name? We had dropped ceilings and wood paneling in our house…necessity being the mother of invention he patented a special picture hanging device that would clip to the frame of the dropped ceiling to keep us from banging holes in that really sacred and special wood paneling…that wood paneling is still there…with holes I might add.

He was an outdoorsman. He would fish for just about anything. Have any of you sat on a 5 gallon bucket at night with a flashlight fixed to a bobber waiting for a catfish – or hornedpout as we call them - to bite while listening to the hiss of the gas lantern and the only thing between you and the swarm of mosquitoes was the smoke from your dad’s stogie? Ok. That was a family outing.

Have any of you stayed up in the evening getting your ice fishing traps untangled so you could go out at dawn on a winter morning, cut through 30 inches of solid ice with a chisel and wait for the flag to spring up? Ok. That was a retreat. Have any of you been struck by lightning…twice at different times…while camping? My Dad was…and I am not exactly sure what that was all about…but twice??

He was a thinker. He loved poetry. Some of his poetry was published in the Union Leader. He loved art and things that were delicate and beautiful.

He was creative. In fact I credit him with my innovative spirit. I also remember this picnic-basket-with-pulley contraption he set up. We lived on the second floor of a duplex and he rigged this thing up so we could have BBQ’s outside without carrying all the stuff up and down the stairs.

He was content. He never was one to complain. He found pleasure in the simplest of things. Give him the Boston Herald, a Stogie, a few diet cokes, a front porch, sunshine and a scratch ticket…and he was in the lap of luxury. His favorite meal was a fried fisherman’s platter. He loved a fire in the fireplace on Tremont street in Concord and later at my home in Vermont.

He was a survivor. Oh my goodness. The stories we can tell. He was a survivor to the very end. Even on December 14th as he was dying he said to me OH MAN TONE…IM HAVING A BAD DAY. He was a master of understatement too.

He was troubled. He struggled with debilitating mental illness, no doubt a result from his experience in Vietnam. He was a drinker much of his life and nearly all of mine. It took a little piece of everyone, but it certainly cost him the most. God’s grace has been alive in the people who loved my Dad. Thank you for loving him.

You know, he was a man chasing freedom. Freedom for his country, freedom in the outdoors, freedom of expression, and freedom from pain and mental anguish. That pursuit of freedom made the man we know, and took the man we love. Surrounding us here are symbols of freedom. The first time I drove in I was struck by the rows of American flags waving. I was impressed with the beauty of this place. It is an honorable and fitting place for those who have fought for freedom.

Many of you here have served in the military. Some of you have seen active combat and have fought for our freedom in foreign places. Some of you have experienced personal sacrifice in some way because of this noble pursuit. Perhaps others of you are a child, brother, sister or spouse of one of those who have put themselves on the line for freedom. We thank you and are grateful for your service, sacrifice and support and that you have come to honor a good soldier and a loving man.

My Dad was captivated by this thing called freedom. He fought for freedom, He hoped for freedom as he began a new life with Donna after his tour in Vietnam. He lived it out through his love for the outdoors. He saw freedom born in new life through his children Karina and I.

Ironically, he is more free now than he ever was while here on earth. This is often used as a trite cliché. But I can assure you it is not trite, nor a cliché. It is the most powerful truth known to human kind. True freedom is everlasting, breaks bonds and lets you discard the baggage of life. That’s what my father wanted more than anything - to drop his own baggage and live a life of freedom.

I want you to close your eyes for a moment. When I say the word freedom what comes to you mind first? Maybe it’s an American Flag waving against a bright blue sky, a peak athletic experience, financial freedom, a 4th of July parade, an adventure to the deep wild, or the Statue of Liberty. These are all good things. But for each of us, including me, freedom can be just a symbolized concept.

Sometimes those things that we think will make us most free make us most captive.

What does true freedom – the kind from God himself - What does that look like in our lives? Where does our freedom come from? Can you count on it? Is it infallible? Because my father made a profession of faith in Jesus and chose to believe in Him, our hope rests in God’s promise that he is now experiencing true and complete freedom in eternity.




Charles passed away on January 24, 2008 at the Tennessee Veterans State Home in Humboldt. He had turned 85 on January 9. He leaves his wife, Joyce Callaway Grimes; his daughter, Deborah Anne Marston; his son, Charles K. Grimes Jr.; his sister, Dorothy Owens; eight grandchildren and seven great- grandchildren and Rosie his pet Chihuahua. Ken Grimes was born in Memphis, Tennessee on January 9, 1923. He spent his childhood in Memphis and attended Humes High School, succeeded by Elvis Presley two years later. He enlisted in the service near the end of World War II and volunteered for pilot training. He qualified to fly the B-17 just before the end of the war but never flew a mission. His military career spanned nearly 30 years during which time he served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. He became a command pilot and reached the rank of Colonel. His final combat tours were served in Vietnam flying missions in the C-131 including dangerous low-altitude parachute extractions in Khe Sanh during the siege of 1967-68.

After retiring from the military in 1973, he worked for 5 years at Boeing Corporation in Wichita after which he fully retired to become a passionate golfer. Ken had a parallel academic career beginning as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama where he received his BS in engineering. He later obtained a Masters degree from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering from Caltech. He became an instructor at the Armed Forces Institute of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and headed the Structure and Materials division of the Flight Dynamics Laboratory there. He was married to his first wife, Celena M. Grimes in 1941. In spite of the vicissitudes of three wars and periodic separations, they remained a devoted couple for 45 years, living together as newlyweds, parenting two children, and enjoying an early retirement traveling to Hawaii on three occasions. Perhaps their most cherished role was as grand-parents. He steadfastly took care of Celena throughout her long bout with pulmonary disease. Ken was remarried to Frances Larrison Grimes in 1987.

Their life together was tragically cut short when Fran succumbed to ALS in 1999. Subsequent to Fran's death, Ken was extremely fortunate to meet and marry Joyce C. Nichols in 2001 with whom he happily shared the last several years. The visitation was held on Saturday evening, January 26 from 6-8 p.m. at Memorial Park Funeral Home. The internment took place in Memorial Park Cemetery at 2 p.m. on Sunday January 27 under a military honor guard.




Back To Top


This website is owned by the Khe Sanh Veterans Inc.
maintained by Tom Eichler and John "Big John" Pessoni
Copyright 2009 Khe Sanh Veterans Inc. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form

This Web designed to be viewed with Internet Explorer version 5.0 or above and a screen resolution of 1024X768