Even in the
Vietnam jungle, more than 8,000 miles from Williamsburg, people
knew Lee Galloway was special.
There were so many
ways to know.
of one kind or another that was always hanging out the back
pocket of his fatigues, ready to be pulled out the moment he had
a spare second or two. The quick wit, never directed at hurting
but at helping the soldiers he led to get back on top. The
natural ability to lead his men into danger, then care for them
during the mission so that they might walk out to enjoy another
book, another joke.
A stand-up sense of
honor, which prompted him to take to the pages of the student
newspaper in 1964 and boldly lay out the reason for students to take
over the Honor Council from administrators. "Honor," he wrote as a
junior, "is a personal thing. No amount of punishment will change a
person's ways regarding honor."
The shock of red hair,
which made his York High School classmates call him "Howdy Doody"
back during the heyday of the class of 1965.
That red hair, when
his commanding officer saw it crowning the dead soldier's body
before him, made him say, "It's Lee Galloway," and be certain.
Galloway was a
first lieutenant in the Army on March 27, 1971. He'd just returned
from R&R in Hawaii, where he'd vacationed with his parents. The end
of his tour was coming soon, which relieved his folks and big sister
even as they were proud of his courage and abilities. The military
had been the family's globe-spanning career -- Galloway attended
first grade at a Formosan school -- but their son's VMI diploma was
a family first.
Galloway and his
platoon were dropped by helicopter into what had once been a heavily
populated area, now barren from war. Vegetation once kept in check
by villagers had gone wild, a thick screen for the enemy's tunnels.
Galloway and his men -- "blues," in the language of the Army's 1st
Cavalry Division -- quickly engaged the enemy. One of his men was
hit, so Galloway scrambled up to help. An enemy soldier took aim,
then fired a single bullet cleanly through Galloway's neck.
He died instantly,
his potential unfulfilled and the book he was reading -- the classic
"A Soldier's Story" -- unfinished.
"He looked out for
his men," said his commanding officer, Robert Letchworth, a 1955
Hampton High graduate who retired a lieutenant colonel.
thought he was great. And he was a fine leader. It seems a lot of
times when you're in combat like that it's the good who die young."
After his death,
Galloway's platoon collected $310 for VMI to purchase books in their
"This donation was
the idea of the men he led, and it was their desire that it be used
in a capacity related to your library," then-Maj. Letchworth wrote
to the VMI president. "Lt. Galloway was an avid reader."
That he was so
well-regarded didn't surprise his classmates from York High. They'd
elected him "best all-around" from their class, an honor classmate
Amy Moore says "really sums him up."
after his death, Galloway remains special. His name and the years he
lived and died grace plaques at the places that were important to
him in life.
The flagpole at Queens
Lake swimming pool, where he'd been a lifeguard. The York High
School corridor outside the principal's office. The VMI library,
which has a room named for Galloway and other graduates killed in
Vietnam. In it hangs an oil painting of each, Galloway's striking
hair calling attention to the sense of purpose that played on his
still-boyish face. Patrick Konopnicki, Galloway's best friend at
York High, hopes people will see his friend's name in these places
and wonder about the person.
Just so some don't have
to wonder, Konopnicki and his classmates put their dollars behind a
scholarship in Galloway's name. The Class of 1965 has awarded it
annually since the mid-1980s to a York senior who possesses
Galloway's patriotism, wit and love of reading.
Sallie Gill, says all the memorials still touch her, even 31 years
"I don't know of
anybody who was so loved by so many ordinary people," she says.
Making sure that
someone extraordinary receives the Galloway scholarship is important
to the Class of 1965. Moore, who taught at York for 28 years before
moving over to Grafton, recalls one recipient. Although the school's
honor awards committee had tapped him for the Galloway, Moore didn't
know him well and wondered whether the award had gone to the "right"
A few weeks later,
the student told Moore that he and his family had gone to The Wall
for the first time.
They'd made the
trip specifically because of Lee Galloway.
"He told me, 'We
walked up to that wall without even looking up his name. I stood in
front of a panel and the first name my eyes fell on was Lee
Galloway,' " says Moore.
"That was the proof
to me that he was the right one. And, he has red hair."