A Gold Star Daughter and the Vietnam Pilot/Crewmember Memorial

Posted on October 30, 2019



  Dickie Jelich-Langworthy giving speech          The Jelich,Tuttle,Frost, Langworthy Family

On Sunday the 29th of September 2019, Charlie Troop 1/9th Cavalry loaded up the buses and headed to Arlington National Cemetery. Our first stop was at the new Vietnam Pilot/Crewmember Memorial. Lead by our Grandchildren carrying the Colors we walked upto the Memorial. Colonel Galen Rosher gave a speech about what this memorial meant to him as a Pilot and as a Commander of Charlie Troop in Vietnam.

John Anthony Jelich was Killed In Acton on April 1, 1972. He left behind a wife of 22 with a 11 month old daughter and  she was also 7 months pregnant with their son. Tina Jelich taught his children to love their father. She taught them how to be strong by her actions. After 10 years of being a widow, Tina, married a great man, Norman Frost. Norman assisted in raising both Dierdra (Dickie) and John Anthony Jelich II (Jake).

On this day, (September 29th) Dickie gave a speech about what this memorial meant to her.

Thank you all for being here today. As the proud daughter of John Anthony Jelich, I am humbled to be a part of this ceremony. When Patrick asked me if I’d like to say a few words at this memorial, of course I said yes. I would pretty much do anything for Pat and Carol – they do so very much for all of
us! So thank you both for making this day happen.

So a few months went by, and I had yet to sit down and put pen to paper. I’m still in the incubation period, I told myself. The words would come, I assured myself. Then I got an email from Patrick, “how is your speech coming along, do you know what you’re going to say?” And I replied “yes, I have an idea”but in reality, I didn’t have an idea. I just knew that I had a whole heck of a lot to say but I wasn’t entirely sure what that was.

My father, John Jelich, was killed in action when I was 11 months old, and my brother was still in my momma’s tummy. That statement is one I must have repeated at least a thousand times during my 48 years on the planet. Every time I said it, I strived to make it sound matter of fact since I always dreaded how the person I was telling that to would react. The LAST thing I have ever wanted from anyone who unassumingly asked me about my dad was for them to recoil in shock, and with a pitying look…utter ”oh my gosh, I’m so sorry”. But my response was always, “thank you, but it helps to know that he was doing something he loved and believed in”. But it WAS an uncomfortable topic for me to talk about …and yet I tried to remain stoic when asked about it.

Not that I didn’t have breakdowns about my father’s death. I probably have cried myself to sleep at least another thousand times. Especially during those transformative times in a person’s life when you just need to know that your dad is there, rooting for you, empathizing with you, agreeing with you that that guy you had a crush on was bad news all along, that you were the most beautiful bride he had ever seen, except for your momma. But I decided that I couldn’t spend my life dwelling on the “what ifs” and needed to focus on the “what ares” and I’ve done that to the best of my ability especially after watching my momma’s exquisite example of how to live a happy life, in spite of tragic circumstances. And I knew that my father would have wanted nothing less than for me to have a happy life.

I suppose my grief related to my father’s death is something that I have, for some reason, felt like I needed to protect and keep to myself. It’s mine and mine alone. Just as my mother’s grief relates to her memories of her husband and father of her children, and my brother’s grief relates to being the son that a father never got to hold in his arms. As I was writing this, I realized that my struggle has always been that I wanted to remember someone I don’t have any memories of. And though my family has done an incredible job telling my brother and I how wonderful our father was, with stories of how smart or how kind or how brave or how funny he was, those memories are still, not ours. But they did help me understand the kind of person my father was, and that
went a long way in helping me understand who I was grieving for.

Which leads me back to Patrick’s question – what does this memorial mean to me?

This memorial represents an endpoint for all who have traveled the journey, the gnarly and complicated path of war. It’s for the soldiers who made it home alive, for the families and friends whose loved ones didn’t, and for those who are too young to know the atrocities, and the triumphs, of a war like this. Who, by no fault of their own, take for granted the sacrifice given by our armed forces, and who know little of the indelible pain that war reaps. May their journey to this site grant them the opportunity to sit with a memory that may not be theirs but stands as a collective one for our nation – and helped shape who we are. This memorial has given me the gift of closure and I’m so very honored to be here with all of you. Thank you for your selfless service to our great and amazing country and know that you are remain in my heart, always.

After Dickie gave her speech, Lucy Bieneman, sand Tim McGraw’s song “If you’re reading this.” Dickie walked up to Lucy and said she had never heard the song before but she knew her Dad wrote it for her. Dickie brought along with her her husband Cort and her son Vaughn.

John A. Jelich II has grown into a very good man. Along with his beautiful wife, Beth, he brought along his two sons. It just so happens that one is John Anthony Jelich III while the other one is Brooks.