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Thomas P. King  1969

Cullum No. 28230-1969 | 2/7/1971 | Died in Vietnam
Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

 


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<em>Thomas Pickett Byrd King</em> was born in New York City on 11 December 1946.</div>
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He died in the service of his country on 7 February 1971 in Binh Tuy, Vietnam. He was leading his platoon on a search and destroy mission that morning when an enemy force was contacted. Pickett died in the ensuing firefight. He is survived by his wife Katherine and his parents.</div>
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Pickett started to lay his plans for entering the Military Academy during his freshman year at high school. However, upon graduation from Clarke High School at Westbury, Long Island, he still had not secured an appointment. He entered Georgia Tech University, and after one year there Senator Jacob Javits of New York appointed him to the Class of &ldquo;69.&quot;</div>
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Pickett entered the Military Academy with a full and total commitment to the service in mind. He fully realized it could cost him his life, and in a conversation with his father he acknowledged this and said he was prepared to accept the challenge.</div>
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When he found out that he was too small for varsity football and too large for the one hundred and fifty pound team, he quickly discovered a love for parachuting. During his four years at West Point he became proficient in this sport and won many trophies. When graduation day arrived, he had recorded over five hundred jumps as a member of the parachute team.</div>
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His years at the Academy passed quickly for him. His total involvement with the parachute team kept him busy and provided him with many trips away from West Point for competitive jumps against other teams. All of this did not ever cause him to lose sight of his main purpose at the Academy, namely, to be trained as a leader of men in the most difficult of all professions, the Military.</div>
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On 17 September 1966, from the Academy, on a day during which he must have had a premonition, he wrote the following to his parents. &ldquo;Tonight, my thoughts have wandered to my purpose in life and what place I will occupy in the final roll call. In the last two years I have come to realize that I have one sole purpose in life. I am born a warrior and must live the life of a soldier. I believe in my heart that I can perform my calling as well as any man on earth.</div>
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&quot;I thank God for giving me the opportunity to train at the best military college in the world, that I might be able to lead my men courageously and successfully in battle.</div>
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&ldquo;Were I to die an honorable death while engaged in battle for our country and our way of life I would die a happy man.&quot;</div>
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So, it would seem as if fate had set his course early and pre-ordained its conclusion. He approached it with not a backward step.</div>
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After graduation there was a June marriage. He was married to lovely Katherine Stoltenberg of Minneapolis and reported to Fort Benning in August 1969.</div>
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During his parachuting at West Point he had injured one of his knees to such an extent that he was denied a chance to complete the Bangers course at Benning. He was fitted with a steel knee brace and assigned to school. He graduated at the top of his class and received a trophy.</div>
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Upon completion of the course at Benning, he was assigned to the 82d Airborne at Fort Bragg. While at Bragg he was awarded the following: &quot;THE OUTSTANDING COMMISSIONED STUDENT OF THE 82D AIRBORNE DIVISION AIR MOVEMENT OPERATIONS COURSE, CLASS NUMBER 7-70.&rdquo; He was responsible for writing the company AIR MOVEMENT Standard Operating Procedure. He also supervised, under this procedure a very successful military air drop and was awarded by General John R. Deane Jr., his first of two Army Commendation Medals&mdash;this while a junior officer.</div>
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In February 1970, he was reassigned to Fort Benning for another try at finishing the Ranger Course. Again the doctors turned him down because of his knee and advised an operation. This operation would have kept him out of Vietnam for at least the next eighteen months, possibly forever, at least in a combat role. But this was not Pickett&#39;s way. He had firmly committed himself to Vietnam. He insisted upon an assignment there. He got it and arrived in Vietnam in July 1970 and was assigned to &quot;E&rdquo; Company, 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (AM) and was immediately placed in command of a mortar platoon.</div>
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His letters home indicated a &ldquo;chaffing at the bit,&rdquo; as he longed for field duty. His superiors listened, and he was assigned to &ldquo;B&rdquo; Company 2/8 Cavalry, 3d platoon in search and destroy operations. He would write home and assure his wife and family that his sector was quiet and that he was quite safe. He insisted there was no cause for worry. He did not even inform his family that he had flown over twenty-five combat missions along with his ground patrol work. He was fully committed to doing all that was within his personal power to bring the war to a close.</div>
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In one of his letters, his praise of the men he was leading was magnificent. He insisted that they were the equal of any soldiers in the history of warfare. He believed in them to the utmost.</div>
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When his tour of search and destroy operations was ended and he was assigned to Headquarters Company, he again began to suffer from a feeling of not actively participating in the war. Although he knew he had enough combat time in his first six months in Vietnam to prevent him from going back out on search and destroy operations, he again prevailed upon his superior officers for another field assignment and was again awarded one. He again reassured his family of his safety.</div>
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He never wrote to his family of the horrors of war-although he had seen so much of it. He did write that he thought there should never be another war. He wrote that &quot;Little children should never have to go through a war.&rdquo; He realized that children were the big losers in any war. This affected him deeply. He was sensitive to the death of any of his men; yet, he insisted on being a vital part of the war. His was a total commitment.</div>
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Pickett enjoyed life. He and his wife Kathy worked at getting as much out of life as it had to offer. They loved to travel and did. They loved America and saw a lot of it. They hiked and camped among its great western mountains. Pickett always marveled at this great, beautiful land of ours. He was a man capable of a full devotion, and he proved it.</div>
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On that Sunday morning in Vietnam as Pickett led his people in search of the enemy, we know that he did it with a courage that he had always shown. Death came to him at 10:10 a.m. His mission had been fulfilled. The Autumn of his Life had come early. He joined the &quot;Long Gray Line.&rdquo;</div>
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His awards were: The Bronze Star; The Purple Heart; the Air Medal; the Army Commendation Medal with Cluster; the National Defense Service Medal; the Vietnam Service Medal, and the National Order of Vietnam Medal.</div>
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Now this eternal sleeper lies overlooking the Hudson. He dared to Dream the Impossible Dream. His Commitment was Total. We Thank God for the privilege of knowing a man such as he if only for such a short time.</div>
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Your Oath Has Been Fulfilled. DUTY HONOR COUNTRY</div>
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<em>&mdash;The Family</em></div>

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