Wayne Thomas Lundell
Wayne Lundell, the quiet unassuming kid that no one really noticed, was one of my best friends from the fourth grade at Four Corners Elementary school until he died in Viet Nam at the age of 24. He was due to be discharged from the Army in just three weeks.
One of my fondest memories of Wayne goes back to Eastern Junior High School. We created a fictional cartoon strip called the HAND-ME- DAN CORPORATION which was a take off of "hand-me-down". In it we drew the most beat up old cars you could ever imagine with broken windshields, flat tires, etc. and put them under our logo as vehicles available in our fictional used car lot. This is how we passed the time in some of our more boring classes. In my 1959 year book, Wayne wrote "Best of luck in the Hand-me-dan Corporation".
As we approached high school graduation, I had decided to join the service because my family could not afford to send me to college. When Wayne found out I was joining the Navy, he wanted nothing to do with it because he could not swim very well. Little did he know, many people who joined the Navy had no experience with being in water. Instead, he decided to work at the vending machine company where his father worked for many years. I returned from the service in 1963 and moved back into my parents home on Southwood Avenue in Four Corners as I prepared to start classes at the University of Maryland. Wayne was still working for the Macke Vending Machine Company but his life soon changed with his draft notice from the Army.
In late October of 1965, he sent me a letter saying how much he was looking forward to coming home again. He inquired about my interest in co-renting an apartment with him which was an interesting idea. Just weeks later, he died in the first large scale combat among American soldiers and the North Vietnam regular Army troops at La Drang in the Central Highlands. Wayne was one of 450 troops of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, of the First Air Cavalry Division, ambushed by an enemy force of more than 2,000. The
American forces lost 234 of their members during this battle. It became the largest loss of life of American troops as a result of any one battle in the entire course of the war. A later book titled We Were Soldiers Once...And Young told the story of this battle. A vivid movie adapted from the book was later released and starred Mel Gibson.
Wayne was the only member of Northwood High School lost in Viet Nam. As an only son, it was a profound loss to his family.
I will never forget this gentle man and am glad that I had the pleasure to be called his friend. For anyone visiting the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, his name can be found on Panel 3E, Row 84. http://www.virtualwall.org/dl/LundellWT01a.htm