CHARLES S SICKLER - PFC
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- November 18, 1948
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- January 13, 1968
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Charles S. Sickler was born on November 18, 1948. His home of record is Ewan, NJ.
He served in the US Marine Corps and attained the rank of Private First Class (PFC).
Sickler was killed in action on January 13, 1968.
November 18, 1948-January 13, 1968
PVT, Marines Ewan, NJ
"Steve was the first boy to kiss me," Debbie Kimmel (nee Kincaid) of Vineland says. "We were freshmen at Clearview High School. His smile is what I remember most. He was such a happy and outgoing guy."
Charles Steven Sickler was raised with his two sisters, Judy and Jeri, in Sewell, Hurfville and Barnsboro, NJ. He was living in Ewan when he entered the service.
"I remember him as 'Little Stevie'", says Ed Senior of Monroeville, NJ. "What he lacked in size, he more than made up for in his heart. He was loyal to those of us who were his friends. And he always had a bevy of girls around. He was a big asset to me and the other members of our group of guys from Pitman. We got to know several girls from Clearview, thanks to him. Cars, racing and girls. They were the things most guys who we hung around with had in common."
"He was well-liked, always had a smile, and never bad mouthed anyone," remembers Jim Fellon, of Thorofare, NJ. "Although we weren't the best of friends, I always liked Steve. In our senior year, we talked about getting drafted and going to Vietnam."
June Friel, of Mullica Hill, NJ., dated Steve in high school. She now organizes reunions for the Clearview High School Class of 1967. "He was just an all around good guy," she recalls. "He never had a problem asking anyone out. He was funny and he was popular with everyone."
Mike Prickett of Sewell, NJ. says, "He was only about five feet six or seven inches tall and a little overweight. He had light brown hair that he was always brushing out of his eyes. I don't think he was too interested in sports. What stands out in my memory is hanging out in the pear orchard on my parents' nursery, sneaking a beer after work and making plans to meet up later on...maybe at a dance at Clearview, or at the Steer Inn in Woodbury, or perhaps a party at someone's house."
Ed Senior recalls the fun everyone seemed to have when Steve was involved. There were the races they had with their cars, the pranks they played on each other and a real strong sense of camaraderie and belonging. Ed also remembers a legendary party at Steve's house.
"It was the party of all parties," he says. "I believe it was New Year's of 1965. Steve lived in what most of us would have considered a mansion. It sat back off the road a way on a large piece of property. The word went out and spread like wildfire about a week before. The music was provided by Johnny Sessoms' band. The place was packed. It was definitely a night to remember. Everyone who was at that party had a great time."
"Soon after arriving," Senior continues. "We were all amazed that Stevie's parents were out for the evening and we had the place to ourselves. Stevie was supposed to be babysitting his twin sisters. They were sitting on the staircase and of course, threatening to squeal on him. But they were soon chased back upstairs to bed."
Harrison 'Brace' King, now living in Canyon City, CO, remembers the party. But he also talks about his childhood memories of Steve and his family.
"It was a hell of a party," he says. "There had to be over a hundred people there. I've never seen so many good-looking girls. As youngsters, we lived two doors apart. We would play 'Hide and Seek' and baseball. His father would bring a pony over for us to ride. And his sisters were adorable. He was the typical all-American boy. He was sharp and wanted to be the best...and he was."
Bruce Hunter of Sewell, N.J., spent a lot of time with Steve, also. He says, "His family was very hospitable. And he was as loyal to them as his friends. He was just fun to be with. He would sometimes get picked on because of his size but stood his ground every time. He had an excellent outlook on life and enjoyed every minute."
After graduating from Clearview in June of 1967, Steve weighed his options relating to military service and the war in Vietnam. The Marine Corps prides itself on looking for 'A Few Good Men'. In Steve Sickler, they found one.
"I feel he went into the Marine Corps because of his size," Hunter says. "He felt he had something to prove."
Ed Senior agrees. "He thought it was his patriotic duty to serve, but he went into the Corps to prove himself. He believed that what he was doing was for God and country and he wanted to be a part of the best."
In September of 1967, Steve entered the Marine Corps. After boot camp and advanced training in military law enforcement, he left for his first duty assignment, Vietnam. On December 22nd, he arrived and was assigned to Company C, 3rd Shore Party Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. The unit provided convoy security in Quang Nam Province, in the northern sector of South Vietnam.
On January 13, 1968, just twenty-two days into his thirteen-month tour of duty, Steve was killed when a mine exploded under the vehicle he was riding in.
Ed Senior recalls the devastating effects of Steve's death. "I got to know Steve's father, Charlie, afterwards," he says. "It hurt him too much to even talk about Stevie. And he never would. I don't think he will ever get over losing him." Charlie also suffered the loss of his first wife and Steve's mother, Barbara Jane Matlack Sickler ten months later.
The sentiments expressed by most of Steve's friends reflect the impact he had on their lives, but also they carry the bitter message of a noble effort gone bad.
"I was saddened by his death, both then and now," says Mike Prickett. "He was a good, clean cut American kid who deserved better than a death sentence from the American government."
Brace King adds, "The hippies were the ones who were right, in a way. The government gave those guys who went to war the shaft. And they were the heroes."
"It was such a waste to lose thousands of young men in Vietnam," Jim Fellon says. "I'll never forget Steve or the sacrifice he made."
At the thirty-year reunion of the Class of 1967 from Clearview High School in October of 1997, June Friel and the committee honored Steve's memory with a beautiful display consisting of his yearbook photo, American flags and a name tracing from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"It was a great way to remember the sacrifice he made for all of us," June says. "Hopefully, our classmates will always appreciate what he did for us."
"Steve's death affected me greatly," Ed Senior states. "It made me think about my options at the time. Like many others, I had the war and a sense of responsibility to our country to think about. I ended up enlisting in the Navy for six years and volunteered for the Nuclear Submarine Service. I thank God, and Stevie, for being the reasons I received one hell of an education, in both life and the electronics field, that I have today."
"I will always be grateful to those men and women who so valiantly gave their lives in defending our country so that we all may be free," he continues. "That war was so shamefully lost by our government. As for Steve, it's very difficult to put into words. I can only imagine what I would say to him if I could."
"Semper Fi, Stevie. I, and many of your old friends, will always remember you. And I will continue to look after your family as I would my own. Thanks, little buddy, you were a positive force in my life and I still miss you every day."
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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