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The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

MC Vietnam vets return to tell their story

Elle Menke
Once a year, MC alums who are Vietnam veterans speak to MC juniors.

On Tuesday, April 29th, MC held an annual assembly for the juniors in Mr. Brooks Nevrly’s and Mr. Tim Baffoe’s English 3 classes for them to meet these alumni veterans. These juniors have been reading the novel “The Things They Carried” by Vietnam War veteran Tim O’Brien. The assembly helps students better connect to the meaning of O’Brien’s words by having alumni come to talk to the class. This year, five veterans returned to MC to address the juniors: Jerry McGovern ’65, Dennis McAdams ’65, John Potocki ’65, Tim Burke ’65, and Bob Moody ’66. 

“I think the Vietnam War will be a permanent part of history for a long time to come,” said McGovern, the father of current math teacher Mr. Dave McGovern ’90, and the grandfather of junior Aidan McGovern and freshman Gavin McGovern.

The assembly first started in 2019 when Mr. Nevrly asked the principal at the time, Mr. John Haggerty, about Vietnam veterans in the area. This is where Mr. Nevrly got into contact with Terry Stadler ’65, who is connected with MC veterans, which led to the assembly then and continued in the spring of each school year since.

“This is a vein of Mount Carmel lore and history that not a lot of people know about,” said Mr. Nevrly, “When we bring it to light once a year, I think it gives those guys a sense of worthiness.”

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Each one of the five this year has their own story, like Moody, who is the grandfather of current sophomore Danny Moody. Mr. Moody served as a mortarman with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division atop a fire support base on a hill surrounded by communist forces.

McGovern served as a Marine rifleman with Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment where he saw some of the most intense jungle fighting in American history. Burke was a forward observer, someone who called in artillery support, with the 9th Infantry Division during the middle of the Tet Offensive of 1968, which was the turning point of the war.

Photo of Jerry McGovern on patrol near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone in the fall of 1966. The photo would appear in the October 1966 edition of Life Magazine.

“As you read on the Vietnam War over the years, there are [false narratives], but we’re talking what we did when we were there,” said McGovern. “That gives people an extra insight in what it was really like. You can read the books on it all you want, but a book is a book. To hear everybody talk about their stories, that a different kind of a thing that last for a long time.”

These are just a handful of men who saw combat, but there are over a hundred MC alumni who served. While these veterans share similar stories, they also share one thing with the students they were talking to: they all went to Carmel.

“MC molded my whole life,” said Potocki. “I keep coming back because MC did a lot of great things in my life, so if I can give back, I’m going to bring back whenever they ask.”

Most of the men who were in attendance were from the Class of 1965. Many of them were sent to Vietnam, either through volunteering or being drafted. The class lost a total of four in the war, the most out of any other class. In total, fifteen MC alumni died in Vietnam:

Private First Class Lester Kersten ’62, Army, died on 11/27/1965

Lance Corporal Richard A. Maul ’63, USMC, died on 07/16/1966 

PFC Thomas E. Bromley ’65, USMC, died on 02/20/1967

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Tighe ’48, Army, died on 04/23/1967

Private Lawrence Dunlap ’67, USMC, died on 06/01/1967

Hospital Corpsman Patrick J. Sweeney ’65, Navy, died on 07/18/1967

PFC Daniel Miller ’66, USMC, died on 08/02/1967

Colonel Charles P. Claxton ’51, USAF, missing in action on 12/29/1967, accounted for on 03/10/2000

PFC James T. Clair ’65, Army, died on 01/03/1968 

Sergeant Donald Mate ’65, Army, killed on 05/18/1968 

Specialist 4 Thomas C. Connolly ’65, Army, died on 05/24/1968 

1st Lieutenant Alfred Schroeder Jr. ’60, USMC, died 09/18/1968

PFC James A. Gazze ’62, Army, died on 03/12/1969

Staff Sergeant Gerald C. Miller ’63, USAF, died on 04/25/1969

Staff Sergeant Paul G. Guimond ’67, Army, died on 07/14/1970

Three of the men listed did not officially graduate from Mount Carmel: Donald Mate ’65, Thomas E. Bromley ’65, and Lawrence Dunlap ’67. Dunlap died on the same day he would have graduated from MC. These men are included on the list of fallen men in the main hallway of the McCarthy Wing.

The assembly brings together two generations to understand history and the idea of storytelling.

“Our reading unit is based upon the importance of storytelling, specifically the American identity in terms of storytelling in how American history has been passed down through stories,” said Mr. Nevrly. “American history when it was first started was through storytelling.”

How to carry the legacy of those who served is a question that is asked in the English 3 classes, and this assembly helps answer that. For the past six years, that answer has been that these men enjoy returning to their home on Dante to educate the future generation on how it felt to fight in Vietnam.

“The first time I walked in these doors for a class was 1961,” said McGovern, “Now today is 2024 and I haven’t left yet.”

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About the Contributor
Jack Breakey '24
Jack Breakey '24, Staff Writer
John “Jack” Breakey is a Senior at Mount Carmel High School. Jack resides on the South Side of Chicago in the Morgan Park neighborhood. He also attended grammar school in the neighborhood at St. Cajetan School.  Jack is a member of Caravan Broadcasting Network as their Senior Producer and also a member of the MC Model UN club and a Peer Leader. Outside of school, he’s a member of the Chicago Fire Department Gold Badge Society. For hobbies, Jack enjoys bike riding, watching movies, playing video games, and researching government. One of Jack’s favorite pastimes is listening to music. He is a large fan of rock and roll, especially Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett, and the genre of bluegrass. This influence came from his father, Thomas Breakey, Mount Carmel class of 1982, and an active Chicago firefighter. His father has been a large inspiration for Jack, who has become a better man because of his father. Jack's dream job is working in international relations or national security. He researches current world events and conflicts while also being a student of history. Who knows? Jack might become the real Jack Ryan one day.