VERNON POST - LCPL
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- October 10, 1942
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- February 13, 1968
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Vernon Post, Jr. was born on October 10, 1942. His home of record is Wenonah, NJ.
He served in the US Marine Corps and attained the rank of Lance Corporal (LCPL).
Post was killed in action on February 13, 1968.
October 10, 1942-February 13, 1968
LCPL, Marines Wenonah, NJ
Donna Zyck from Hanover Park, Illinois made a pilgrimage to Holmdel, New Jersey in May of 1995. Her mission was twofold. The occasion was the dedication of the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It had been twenty-seven years since her fiance, Vernon Post, had been killed in Vietnam. She was joined by Vince Nejman, of Philadelphia, who served with Vernon during his first tour of Vietnam and was responsible for introducing the two.
First, they went to remember and honor the sacrifices made by Vernon and the other fifteen hundred and twenty-two New Jerseyans. But they also needed to re-connect with their own pasts, heal some deep wounds and in their fondest hopes, somehow re-establish contact with Vernon's family, with whom they had lost contact over twenty years before.
"I thought, 'Okay, this might be some closure,'" Donna now says. "We were prepared to wait until evening to see the memorial because we didn't have tickets. But after the ceremonies, a Marine major gave us two tickets. We were in the first group after the dignitaries."
Donna and Vince attended the ceremony in the huge amphitheater at the Garden State Arts Center. When they arrived at the memorial, Donna rubbed her hands across Vernon's name etched into the dark granite. Time passed quickly as she meditated and grieved. She cried often as the memories came flooding back. She and Vince waited near Vernon's panel for as long as possible, hoping that someone else among the thousands in attendance would pay some particular attention to Vernon's name.
"All these people, all those faces," Donna recalls. "I kept asking myself, 'Is that Vernon's brother? Could that lady over there be his mother?'"
The day had been emotional and even uplifting, but Donna still felt a silent emptiness as she and Vince walked the pathway back to the main parking lot, which was host to several fast food stands, picnic tables and organizational displays.
"As we got to the tent area, Vince needed to sit down to rest his back before the drive back to Philly," Donna says. "That's when I spotted the In Touch sign."
'In Touch' was a computer based locator service of the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, based in Arlington, Virginia. The goal was to connect veterans with family members or friends of the fifty-eight thousand men and women listed on the Wall in Washington. Volunteer staffers traveled to dedications and similar events providing their data base and making some of the contacts that have become part of the healing legacy of the Wall.
Donna approached the volunteers after reading a brochure and asked about Vernon Post. The woman tapped a few keys on her keyboard, looked at the screen and told her there was one inquiry on file; not from a family member but from an author researching a book. Donna's hopes then soared when the volunteer told her that the author and his wife had just returned from the memorial site and were eating lunch at a picnic table about twenty feet away.
The volunteer called the man over for what Donna later described as "the meeting of a lifetime". Having made contact with Vernon's mother and brother just two weeks earlier, the man was able to supply Donna with their addresses and phone numbers. After an hour of talking, tears, laughter and a round of hugs at the picnic table, Donna said her good-byes, gathered her thoughts and emotions, found a telephone and completed the last step of her mission. She and Vince drove back to Philadelphia and then to Monroeville, NJ, later that evening for a reunion with Leona Erber, Vernon's mother, Lou Erber, his stepfather and Jack Post, his brother. Donna also met Jack's wife, Joyce and their son, Vernon's nephew, Neal.
"What an incredible day," Donna says. "It was a cleansing of my soul. It told me I really was on a remarkable journey and that I don't know where to or when I'm going to get there. But I know Vernon has everything to do with it."
Vernon Post was born in Woodbury, NJ, on October 10, 1942. He was the middle son of three born to Vernon Post, Sr and Leona Erber, now of Mantua. His father was killed while working as a truck driver for Morris Nursery in Hurffville in 1952. Vernon grew up at Lake Garrison, Elmer and Clayton before Leona met and married Lou Erber. Jack, the oldest of the three, joined the Air Force, while Lou, Leona, Vernon and the youngest son, Jimmy, moved to Florida where Lou worked in hospital administration.
"Everybody thought the world of him," Leona says. "He had a personality everyone liked. He loved to fish, go camping and skating. And he really looked up to Jack. Vernon was lost for awhile when Jack went into the service."
"Vernon was a quiet individual," Lou Erber recalls. "He was always smiling. And he always liked to monkey around with mechanical things. He'd take something apart just to see if he could put it back together again."
Vernon's aunt, Evelyn Geitz of Wenonah, NJ, recalls her nephew fondly. "I remember how he smiled," she says. "He had a big beautiful smile, like his dad, and big dimples. He was a very quiet guy that everyone loved. He never said a mean word about anyone."
"He was real good with my kids," remembers his brother, Jack. "He always found time to play with them. My kids were always glad to see him. He would wrestle with them and play ball."
Lou remembers Vernon being fifteen and Jimmy, just eleven, when they wanted to go into the grass cutting business. "I bought the lawn mower with the understanding that they were going to pay me back five dollars a week until it was paid for," Lou says. "I donated the rakes and some other things and they got started. Well, they only charged a dollar sometimes just to get the job. And they worked very hard but after awhile found they couldn't pay me because of expenses being so high. And then one day, the lawnmower wouldn't run and before you knew it, Vernon took it apart. After sometime, he said, 'Sorry, Dad. All I can pay you back is three dollars.' It was funny. They were going to be tycoons overnight and there I am with three bucks and lawn mower parts spread all over the garage floor. They learned some good lessons there."
Vernon became interested in the Navy when he was seventeen and living in Florida. He had been a below average student with an undiagnosed case of dyslexia when he became frustrated with school and left before finishing the tenth grade. He joined the Navy in September of 1960.
After his enlistment was up, Vernon became a civilian and for a few months lived with the Geitz family in Wenonah, but soon became unhappy with civilian life and joined the Marine Corps in June of 1963.
Vernon served his first tour of duty in Vietnam from October of 1965 to November of 1966. He was then assigned as a Marine guard at the Philadelphia Naval Base. He stayed with Jack and his family in Monroeville or with friends in Philadelphia.
Donna Zyck recalls the first time she and Vernon met. "We had lived in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia from 1961 to 1963, and knew the Nejman family. In 1966, I returned from Chicago for my grandmother's seventy-fifth birthday and also to visit the Nejmans. At their house, there was a 'Welcome Home' poster up for Vince and his buddies. Vernon was the second name on the poster and I asked who this 'Vernon' was. They explained that he was a buddy that had been in Vietnam with Vince."
"Later that day," Donna continues. "Vince and Vernon arrived. The first time I saw him, I thought he was really cute. He was somewhat quiet and shy. He had a sensitive side that to me, seemed unusual for a Marine. He had beautiful hazel eyes, deep dimples and a wonderful smile. Later that night, there was a party at the house and it took him two hours to get up the nerve to ask me to dance. A short time later, he was asked by someone what he wanted to do when he got out of the service. He said he wanted to start a nursery. Vince's sister and I exchanged funny glances. We thought he was talking babies but he was talking trees. Whenever I pass a nursery, I think of him. He loved working in his Uncle Brud's nursery."
Donna and Vernon grew close; too close for Vince. One night, Vince and Vernon went to a bar but returned after less than an hour. Donna remembers Vince coming home very upset with her.
"Vernon walks in with Vince right behind him," she says. "Vince yells at me, 'You've ruined the best drinking buddy I ever had!' And then I told him, 'I didn't say or do anything'. He came back with, 'Vernon said he'd rather be home with Donna, so here we are!' Vince was not happy but I sure was."
By late 1966, the Vietnam War was covered nightly by the networks and had a very disturbing affect on Vernon. "He was very quiet and didn't talk about Vietnam much," Jack says now. "But he used to get upset when they showed film from Vietnam on the news. He said, 'Those are my buddies over there getting killed.' He felt he shouldn't be here. He felt he had better go back over. So when he volunteered to return, I didn't try to talk him out of it."
Donna could not bring herself to the same understanding. In February of 1967, she flew to Philadelphia for a weekend visit with Vernon.
"On the first night, he wanted to take a walk," she recalls. "We walked around Bridesburg for about a half hour when he suddenly says to me, 'They're sending me overseas.' I asked where and he said, 'Vietnam, but just for a few months.' I knew they wouldn't send him all the way over there for a few months and he answered that it would be thirteen months."
"I just knew he wouldn't be coming home," she says. "I had a real bad feeling about it. I cried but hid it until we got to the corner and he noticed my tears in the glare of the street light. He shook me and told me to stop crying. I said I couldn't. So he kissed me, long and hard. And then we walked home silently. Later that night, I cried so much I thought my eyes were going to fall out. That's when I lost it."
"I was very angry; with Vernon, with the Corps and with our country. He had already served a tour there and I couldn't understand why he volunteered to go back. Before he left, we had agreed I would meet him in San Francisco when he got back. As the time for his return neared, he wrote me not to meet him, but to wait for him in Philly because he would worry about me being out there all alone. I wasn't supposed to worry about him in combat, but he could worry about me going to San Francisco."
In June of 1967, Vernon was assigned to Golf Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, operating in the northern coastal area of South Vietnam. His duties consisted of days or weeks of patrols around the base camp area. Sometimes there would be heavy contact with the enemy, sometimes there would be boredom and horrible weather conditions to deal with. His unit also provided escorts for convoys traveling through dangerous mountain passes.
In his letters, Vernon never mentioned the war or his duties. Donna remembers a gradual increase of his writing, not in frequency but in length. "There were times when I wouldn't hear from him for weeks because he was out on patrols," she recalls. "Naturally, I would worry myself sick. At first, he would stop at the bottom of the page, as if he was not allowed to go any farther. Later, he was writing six to eight pages. I teased him about writing the 'Great American Novel'."
"And he always mentioned Jack's children. He loved those kids. He wanted a daughter just like Vicki. When I talked to Jack about his letters, he couldn't believe it. He showed me one letter they received. It said, 'Hi, I'm fine. Hope you all are, too. Vernon.' Donna takes a deep breath and continues. "As his tour was nearing the end, I thought we had it made...I was wrong."
Jack Parsons was a nineteen-year old Marine corporal in February of 1968. He also was a member of Golf Company and probably Vernon's closest friend. His recollections describe a comrade, a war veteran, a trusted leader and a genuine hero.
"Without a doubt, Vernon Post was a legend," Parsons said in a 1989 interview with Gloucester County Times columnist, Bob Shryock. "He was a machine gunner and he was the best in the company at what he did because his gun was never done. His gun would be the first talking and it would never stop. If you were out on a night patrol, you wanted him with you. He was always there. It was nice having an older guy to look up to. He was just one of those quiet guys who did his job and did it well. He said he did his talking with his machine gun."
On the night of February 13th, their company was on convoy duty through Hai Van Pass in Quang Nam province. The famous Tet offensive was in its second week and there was every reason to believe contact with the enemy could be expected. Vernon was in the first truck, Parsons the second. The lead vehicle was about 250 yards from the top of the pass when the ambush erupted.
The point element is always the most vunerable in an ambush and that was exactly where Vernon wanted to be. Vernon was killed instantly in the opening seconds of the firefight.
"I knew right away he was dead because I couldn't hear his gun," Parsons said. "He had no chance."
Thanks to that column in the newspaper, Jack Parsons was able to locate Vernon's family twenty-one years after his death. Then Gunnery Sergeant Parsons had been assigned to Woodbury as the Marine recruiter. He remembered that Vernon was from the area and had searched in vain for a connection to his family. Shryock's column changed all that. The link was made and Parsons was able to meet and spend some time with Jack, his wife, Joyce and more importantly, their children.
"I told them that I thought it was important for them to know that their Uncle Vernon wasn't just another name," said Parsons. "And that they could tell their grandchildren that they had an uncle who was a hero in Vietnam. I think it's important for a family to know, because so many thought it was a useless war. Vernon was a man who gave his best all the time. When lesser men wanted to be on the tenth or twentieth truck, Vernon always wanted to be on the first."
Leona has experienced the dreadful loss of a child twice in her life. In 1972, Jimmy died from aplastic anemia, possibly connected to his military service in Southeast Asia. Her words and her faith mesh to provide a safe place to take her shattered heart.
"The only thing I can say and I've said it from the beginning is that God is good. Vernon could have been a vegetable or in a wheelchair, not knowing a thing. And Vernon liked life too much to be sitting in a wheelchair. So I thank God for that. He wasn't drafted or anything. He went back to Vietnam because he wanted to. He wanted to be with his buddies. It devastated us all when it happened. We looked for him to come home and he didn't."
Vernon's death was also devastating to Donna Zyck. Her life continued, she eventually married and had two children, but it had taken a tragic turn at a very young age. Her dreams were also ambushed. And Vernon was the point man, as he always was. Reaching back thirty years to heal and to love again has been a wondrous journey. She is closer now to Vernon's family than ever.
"She calls us all the time now, checking up on us," Lou Erber says. "We love her. She's like a daughter-in-law to us. Vernon and Jimmy both were sons to me. So I think she's special."
"The whole process has brought a much needed peace to my heart," Donna says. "And I know that Vernon is in a much better place and someday, we will be together again. I know he's guided me on this journey."
Vernon Post, Jr. was not a life long Gloucester County resident. He spent half his life either in Florida or the military. There are no local yearbooks with his senior picture, no tales of athletic feats or of Boy Scout awards. But the impact of his life, his courage and his devotion to everyone he knew and loved continues even now. He was quiet and he gave his life doing what he wanted to. And like the Marine he was, he simply let his actions speak for him.
Excerpt from They Were Ours: Gloucester County's Loss in Vietnam
by John Campbell
Used with permission of author
Sources: John Campbell and NJVVMF.
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