McMahan, Robert Charles / A Personal Story - Focal Prism Vintage Content


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A Personal Story

By Victor Modlinski

Story Originally Written in June, 2000
Updated 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... heroes.

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 adversity.

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 remains of 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 now could 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... even now.


Victor Modlinski at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall - June 2, 2000

MIA Bracelet left at the base of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall.

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McMahan, Robert Charles / A Personal Story - Focal Prism Vintage Content