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Vietnam veteran's photo added to virtual memorial

May. 29, 2013 - 09:55AM   |  
Deloris Arrington Moore remembers that her brother, Army Cpl. Samuel W. Arrington Jr., who died in Vietnam on Feb. 6, 1967, liked to wear his uniform. 'He was just proud to serve,' she said.
Deloris Arrington Moore remembers that her brother, Army Cpl. Samuel W. Arrington Jr., who died in Vietnam on Feb. 6, 1967, liked to wear his uniform. 'He was just proud to serve,' she said. (Amanda Sowards / Advertiser)
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MONTGOMERY, ALA. — Samuel Winford Arrington Jr. knew he wouldn’t return home from Vietnam.

He told his family that after he was drafted as an 18-year-old out of high school. Although he didn’t come back, part of his spirit remains with his family in the photographs, letters tied with ribbons and many memories they retain.

“He loved wearing this uniform,” his sister, Deloris Arrington Moore, said while looking at his military portrait. “He was just proud to serve. Very proud to serve.”

Montgomery native Army Cpl. Samuel W. Arrington Jr. died when he was 21 years and 14 days old.

On Sunday, the Montgomery Advertiser reached out to the public to help find Arrington’s photo, which was missing from the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund online memorial. Arrington’s entry on the website includes a graphic seeking help from site visitors with locating his photo.

The website indicates Arrington’s name is located on Panel 14E, Row 126 of the physical Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Dave Stever, an Air Force veteran who spent a year in Vietnam, sent the Advertiser a map to Calvary Baptist Church in the south Montgomery County community of LeGrand, where Arrington is buried.

After seeing a photo of Arrington’s tombstone in the newspaper, Arrington’s sister, who lives in Montgomery County, responded and supplied a portrait of her brother donning his full military uniform.

“Thank you for remembering him,” Moore said Tuesday of her brother. “We have all the letters that he wrote when he was in Vietnam. My mom … had a box with all the letters he wrote. They had a ribbon tied around it.”

Arrington spent his last nine months of service in Vietnam, where he died Feb. 6, 1967, in Long An, South Vietnam.

Born on Jan. 23, 1946, he was the oldest of Samuel Winford Arrington Sr. and Mattie Arrington’s four children. He had a brother, Leonard, who passed in 2006, his sister, and another brother, Stanley, who lives in Atlanta.

All three brothers were drafted.

“We wrote each other every day,” Moore said. Samuel Arrington “wrote the whole family.”

One of the last items Samuel Arrington received in Vietnam was a cake his mother sent to him for his 21st birthday. He relayed a message home that it arrived, albeit crumbled.

“I received a letter the day he passed away, and the day after,” Moore remembers. “All of us were very close. He was just really kind. He let me go with him … He taught me how to drive a Volkswagen.”

A soldier gone

Moore was a senior in high school when she walked in her classroom just as the final bell rang in the morning. After she rushed in her classroom, she was told to report to the main office. She thought it was because she was tardy.

She arrived to the office to find her brother, Leonard, checking her out of school and walking her outside where she saw her father and a military vehicle. Nobody told her yet, but she knew.

“My brother used to warn us about stuff like that,” Moore said. “He said, ‘If they come, that’s the way it’s going to be.’ Nobody said a word. I got home and everybody is crying. I just knew.

“That’s the way they did it. They just picked everybody up and took them home. My mother was hysterical.”

“My brother always said he wasn’t going to come back. He felt like he was not going to come back. He told us all that.”

Mattie Arrington grieved for a long time, Moore remembers.

“It affected all of us,” Moore said of her brother’s death in Vietnam. “It’s like it was yesterday. Really and truly.

“It’s so fresh in my mind. Every time we have a holiday, or at a family gathering, it’s fresh in my mind. It’s something you learn to deal with, but you never get over it. I think about him all the time.”

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