McMAHAN, ROBERT CHARLES
A Personal Story
By Victor Modlinski
Story Originally Written in June, 2000
with Photos and Links on May 26, 2019
I have never met Robert Charles McMahan,
a man that bravely gave his life
for his country.
I admire his courage, his resolve and
dedication in protecting the ideals of freedom.
He made the ultimate sacrifice for what he believed in.
How many of us would dare do what he did?
I would... if it meant the difference between living
free or under oppression and persecution. Many of us today fail to appreciate the many
freedoms that we as citizens of the United States enjoy, we take
them for granted... and many times we forget those brave warriors that
fought to preserve them.
I for one, will remember Robert Charles McMahan and celebrate his
valiant efforts in the most unpopular of struggles in our history...
The Vietnam War.
I learned of Robert Charles McMahan purely by
chance... I was freelancing as a photographer back in June of 1986,
when I was hired to photograph the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans
parade in Chicago on Friday, June 13th.
It was quite an experience for me... a total eye
opener. I was somewhat familiar with the history of the war in
Vietnam, a history that has over the years has been skewed by misinformation and
that continues to
be misrepresented in books that educate our children today.
Yes, it was an unpopular war, but it truly was a
noble cause in the hearts and minds of those that fought in this
conflict. We should remember all those that perished and those that
were fortunate enough to return.
These were men and women
that served their country, right or wrong, with honor, dignity and
dedication. They were deceived and betrayed by the men in power at
the time - they fought bravely and with uncommon valor with their
hands firmly tied behind their backs
They returned home not as heroes, but as villains
and "baby killers" in the eyes of the same people that
sent them into that hellhole to fight. Their welcome home was not to
come for many years... when the real truth about the war was learned
and we as a nation grew up enough to embrace and appreciate them.
That's the lesson I learned on that June 13th, 1986 -
and how ironic
it was... that this day was Friday the 13th. I think it truly was a
lucky day, a day we all grew up a
little and saw these men and women for what they really were...
I realize now how lucky I was to be there... a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn the truth about
those that fought in that war. Guess what, they were people just
like you and I - not mean and nasty murderers, not "baby
killers", rapists, maniacs or criminals. They were just regular
folks caught up in the events and circumstances of the history of their
time. Victims not of their own doing or faults, but of a government
with a foreign policy out of control.
At the end of the parade, in Grant Park, there were
many tents and booths with food and drink for all to enjoy. I met
many people and made many new friends... we partied hard and a really good time was had by
all! It truly felt like these warriors, these good people, my new
friends... finally received the welcome home they deserved.
One of the booths at the park was selling MIA bracelets for a
donation of $5.00, with the proceeds going to one of the Vietnam
Veterans organizations. I purchased one of the bracelets there...
and it was the one with the name of Robert Charles McMahan.
I put it on that day and wore it all the time...
every day and night, through good times and bad. It became a sort of
good luck charm, it helped me many times when I was down - when
things seemed to be hopeless, it reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice
someone else had made. A constant reminder that gave me hope and comfort,
that gave me the strength to push forward and overcome
I wore that bracelet for 14 years...
Then in May of 2000, while searching around on the
Internet, I happened upon some information - some new info posted about the
Robert Charles McMahan that had been recovered. It turned out that Robert Charles
McMahan indeed had returned home... it was time for me to put his bracelet where
it belonged, he was no longer missing and there was no point in my wearing it any longer.
On June 2, 2000, during a business trip to
Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Veteran's
Memorial Wall. I took the bracelet off for the first time in 14
years and left it at the base of
the panel where his name appears.
On May 26, 2019, while watching the Memorial Day
Concert in Washington, D.C. on PBS, something told me to search
the Internet again to see if there was any new information about Robert.
I was completely astonished to find multiple web
sites with his name, his history and yes... photos. I
finally get a glimpse of the man whose name I had worn on a
bracelet for fourteen years.
I literally fell back in tears...
Yes, the long journey had finally come full
circle and the voyage was now complete.
Thank you for always being there for me Robert...
HONORED ON PANEL 39E, LINE 36 OF THE WALL
Victor Modlinski at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall - June
MIA Bracelet left at the base of the Vietnam Veteran's