"Ballenger finds some closure in namesake nephew of friend" by: Ron Ballenger

Contributed photo
Ron Ballenger, left, with George Mummert, who was named for his uncle, at his gravesite.

   EDITOR’S NOTE: Ron Ballenger is a lieutenant for the Sheriff’s Department and an active member of the Philip Parker VFW Post 2438.

   On July 8 1969, in a firefight in Vietnam, a young man lost his life and died in my arms.  
   That young man was George Leonard Mummert.    
   George had been assigned duty on an observation post and was hit when a firefight started.   
   His companions all ran back to our perimeter leaving George behind.   
   Knowing there were six on the “OP,” I counted the men as they jumped over me into our perimeter location.  
   I asked the last man “Where’s Mummert?”   
   You see, I had finished my hour of perimeter guard the night before and, though tired, stayed with George for his hour, so I had got to know something about this “new guy.”  That man said “he’s hit, we think he’s dead.”   
   Lying flat on the ground in the firefight, I turned my head and said to Richard Washington, “They ‘think’ he’s dead.”  
   Without hesitation, Richard said “We gotta go.”  
   I grabbed my helmet and M16, Richard only grabbed his M16. We ran out into the dense jungle without knowing exactly where the “OP” had been set up. 
   Luckily, George moved a little. We had run almost straight to him. We picked him up and carried him to our perimeter.   
   The firefight was still going on so it took a bit to work our way back.  
   Once in the perimeter we hollered for a medic and one was at our side quickly.  
   Opening George’s shirt we could only see one wound at the top of his chest.  
   While the medic worked, I asked George if he wanted a cigarette.   
   Not real logical, but you are trying to do something for your fellow soldier.  
   George nodded “yes” so I lit a cigarette and held it to his lips, (I didn’t know if he even smoked).   
   Someone spoke to me, I looked up and when I looked down, George was gone.   
   We carried George with us on to the helicopters which had come to relocate our company to another area.   
   He remains were left on the helicopter when we landed in another part of the Vietnam/Cambodia border jungle in Long Binh Province.
   Fast forward some 47 years and a man named “George Mummert” calls me at home.  I was startled to say the least.   
   You see George was the last man killed-in-action (KIA) I could remember, though there were many more after he died.   
   I had cut off remembering after George.  
   This George Mummert explained he is the nephew of the man I served with and was named for him.   
   We have grown to know each other over the years but had not met.  
   On the 50th anniversary of George Mummert’ s death, George Mummert (the nephew) and I, with other family, went to his grave site in Hanover, Penn., to commemorate the anniversary of his passing. 
   In the tradition of laying a coin on a fallen brother’s head stone I left a Texas state quarter there.   
   During our visit I was able to relate some details the family had not known.   
   They listened and told me that they were thankful to have the new details.

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