I’m reminded of a line from Huckleberry Finn that says something to the effect of “I see no sense in finding out things when I might never have a chance to use them.” The same thing might be applied to writing columns. For instance, who would have thought — when in my tribute to Dexter Kerstetter two weeks ago — I’d have to apologize for a suspiciously faulty memory by not including a reference to another Lewis County young man, Thomas James Kinsman from Toledo. That omission has been brought to my attention by more than a few local citizens.
But for those who are newcomers to our gem of a place in which to grow up, here are some of the details that you could find on Wikipedia — almost as quickly as if you continue reading the following. Specialist Fourth Class Kinsman was born in Renton in 1945 and after his family moved here he attended school in Onalaska. He was 22 when he enlisted in the Army in 1967. Like most GIs in those days, he soon found himself in Vietnam. The official statement of the action that resulted in him being awarded America’s highest honor can bring chills down your spine and here it is in its entirety.
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty Sp4c. Kinsman (then Pfc.) distinguished himself in action in the afternoon while serving as a rifleman with Company B, on a reconaissance-in-force mission. As his company was proceeding up a narrow canal in Armored Troop Carriers, it came under sudden and intense rocket, automatic weapons and small-arms fire from a well entrenched Viet Cong force. The company immediately beached and began assaulting the enemy bunker complex. Hampered by exceedingly dense undergrowth which limited visibility to 10 meters, a group of 8 men became cut off from the main body of the company. As they were moving through heavy enemy fire to effect a link-up, an enemy soldier in a concealed position hurled a hand grenade into their midst. Kinsman immediately alerted his comrades of the danger, then unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade and blocked the explosion with his body. As a result of his courageous action, he received severe head and chest wounds. Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his personal safety and profound concern for his fellow soldiers, Sp4c. Kinsman averted loss of life and injury to the other 7 men of his element. Sp4c. Kinsman’s extraordinary heroism at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the U.S. Army.”
After the required hospitalization he returned home and, in 1971, married Doris Binion. The couple had seven children. They stayed in Toledo where they farmed and where he died three years ago at the age of 72. I understand he preferred privacy about both his military and civilian status and in respect for those feelings I’ll stop here.
A couple of years ago I wrote about another Medal of Honor recipient that I met when our desks were next to each other in an office designated to sending out news releases. He had to be the luckiest man alive but retelling that will have to wait until another time.
And, a reasonably reliable feature of these columns is that you know you’re an old timer if you can remember the product described in the radio commercial with the phrase, “A little dab’ll do ya.”
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.