DONALD L CORBIN

DONALD L CORBIN - PFC

  • HOMETOWN:
  • swedesboro
  • COUNTY:
  • Gloucester
  • DATE OF BIRTH:
  • November 16, 1946
  • DATE OF CASUALTY:
  • August 08, 1966
  • BRANCH OF SERVICE:
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • PFC
  • STATUS:
  • KIA
  • COUNTRY:
  • South Vietnam

Biography


Donald L. Corbin was born on November 16, 1946.  His home of record is Swedesboro, NJ.

He served in the US Army and attained the rank of Private First Class (PFC).

Corbin was killed in action on August 8, 1966.  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony held at Fort Dix, NJ.

Tabby

November 16, 1946-August 8, 1966
PFC, Army       Swedesboro, NJ

Some people called him "Weed", but most knew him as "Tabby".  His quiet nature, diminutive stature, and passion for reading led many to believe he was a loner.  He was the first to admit he was painfully shy, but those who knew him best will always remember the smile.

"Whenever I think of him, the first thing I see is him smiling," says family friend, Joletha Brown, now living in Carney's Point, NJ.  "He loved to dance.  And he was good, too.  But it seemed he was always smiling."

The Kingsway Regional High School yearbook for 1965 contains a photograph of Donald Corbin that astonishes the viewer.  The portrait shows what looks to be an eighth-grade adolescent, not a graduating senior.  But he appears ready to take on life with a serene confidence.

The caption below the photo reads:

"Weed" I'm hungry, what's to eat?...Dislikes remarks about his size...Unusually fond of eating and sleeping...pool shark...always cheerful...spends much of his time reading...Will miss 5B lunch...seeks a position in field of business.

His interests listed under the caption include baseball, chorus, sociology club, and an apparent attempt to overcome his shyness, public speaking.    

Just six months after that yearbook was distributed, Army combat medic Donald Corbin was attending to wounded soldiers in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam.

Tabby was born in Maryland and grew up in Swedesboro, NJ with his sister, Margaret and his mother, Dorothy.  Leena Braxton of Mullica Hill remembers Tabby as one of the younger kids in the neighborhood who seemed to spend most of his time alone.

"He never had any friends over and would hardly ever play outside," she says.  "I know he was an avid reader and collected comic books.  He would read anything that would interest him and go back for more.  And I don't think he ever had a steady girlfriend or even a car once he got older.  I was surprised when he joined the service right after high school.  I guess he wanted to get away."

            Lucy Broaddus, of Swedesboro, recalls the special relationship Tabby had with his mother.   "He always called her 'Dot'," she says.  "Once, when he was sick, he sent her to the library to get some books for him to read.  When she told the librarian who she was and why Tabby had not been in, the librarian gladly picked out several books she knew he would like and sent them home with Dot.  He really loved his mom, and she thought the world of him."

            "He was such a lovely child," Lucy continues.  "I wish the kids of today could have seen what a model young man he was.  He would do errands for you and loved playing games with the younger children.  He would read to them, and when my son had the measles, Tabby even rubbed cheeks with him, playing and saying that he wanted the measles, too.  But he never caught them."

Tabby enlisted in the Army and after basic training at Fort Dix, NJ, the Army sent him to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for medical training.  He completed his jungle training there also, and in November of 1965, he was off to Vietnam.  He was able to come home for a few days between his training schools and was very proud to be in the Army.

"He was so happy to be a soldier," Lucy says.  "He was really looking forward to going to Texas for his training there.  But they pulled his outfit out of classes after only a few weeks, and prepared them as best they could for Vietnam."

            Lucy remembers the last time Tabby talked with his mother on the phone.  It was the day he left for Vietnam. The call came to Lucy's house, since Dot did not have a phone of her own.

"Mom, isn't that something?  They are sending me to war," he said.

            Dot, suppressing her own anxiety for the moment, sensed he was upset and after an uneasy moment of silence, replied, "Are you worried, son?"

            The answer came quickly.  "Not unless you are, Mom."

            "At the time, it was the saddest day in all our lives," Lucy adds.  "I knew Dot was worried, but I kept telling her not to, that he would be okay.  I knew it was going to be rough.  You would hear about how many young men were being killed every day.  Tabby really was a child who had to grow up in a few short months.  And we prayed for his safety, but I guess God was ready to plant his garden and since he only takes the best...."  Lucy completes her thought in a tearful silence.

            When he arrived in Vietnam, Corbin was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, operating at the time in the central mountains of South Vietnam.  A photograph Tabby sent home shows him with three Vietnamese children, all hamming it up for the camera.  He is crouching down to level himself with his young admirers.  The children are obviously enjoying Tabby as he relishes being the center of attention.

            The combat medics and corpsman of Vietnam were the most respected and protected men of their units.  They were told to take any cover available when trouble started and not to engage in the actual fighting. Their life saving skills were much more important than any additional firepower they could provide.  Most were simply called "Doc", and they prided themselves on making "house calls" in the middle of battles, saving countless lives. They helped insure that everything possible was being done for the wounded and dying, most often sacrificing their own well being in the process.

In Tabby's last letter home, dated July 10, 1966, he requested Kool-Aid, but then held little back in describing the conditions he faced.

The last three days here were the hardest I ever spent in my life.  All we did was climb hills. Some of those hills are straight up.  My hands are all cut up from elephant grass and my feet are covered with blisters.  The leeches sucked about three pints of blood out of my legs and arms.

On August 2nd, elements of the 7th Cavalry began an operation called Paul Revere II, in Pleiku Province.  The goal was to diminish the enemy's food supply chain by cutting off sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Alpha Company came under heavy attack on the 8th of August, and after several hours of intense fighting, the unit was able to turn back the attacks.  In the battle, Tabby gave his life trying to save another.  He instinctively rushed to help a severely wounded buddy and was hit by small arms fire at a place called Landing Zone Juliett.

Less than a year later, an extraordinary courage and compassion brought a moment only two mothers could share.  Mary Monahon remembers the day in 1967 she was notified that her son Bobby was killed in Vietnam.  It was Memorial Day.

"I heard a knock at the door and I could see this little black lady standing on my porch," Mary says.  "When I let her in, she tells me that she is so sorry for me and that she really knows how I feel.  She said her name was Dorothy Corbin and that she lost her son the year before.  She gave me a great big hug and left without saying another word.  I thought the world of her. It's impossible to say how much that meant to me."

            After services at Saint Paul's UAME Church (now Mt. Zion AME) in Swedesboro, Donald Lee Corbin was buried at Beverly National Cemetery on August 19, 1966.  Five years later, the following poem appeared in the "In Memoriam" section of the Woodbury Times:

You are not forgotten loved one,

Nor will you ever be.

As long as life and memory last,

We will remember thee.

We miss you now, Our hearts are sore.

As time goes by, we miss you more.

Your loving smile, your gentle face,

No one can fill your vacant place.

Sadly missed by Mother and sister.

Joletha Brown states with a passionate and quiet pride,  "It's all very sad.  His death left a great void in our lives, which we still feel today.  But I'll always remember him as a very nice young man who enjoyed life and people.  He served his country to the best of his ability, he believed in what he was doing...and I will always remember that smile."

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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