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David Rickey Carson
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


David Rickey Carson

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Thomas Jefferson

David "Rickey" Carson was born on September 8, 1947, in Lesage, Cabell County, West Virginia. His parents were Raymond Alexander Carson (1915-1990) and Agnes Pearl Holley Carson (1919-1983). He was the younger of two brothers; he had an older brother, Ronald Steven Carson. The town of Lesage is about 12 miles north on Route 2 from Huntington, West Virginia, as it is located on the banks of the Ohio River.

Rickey grew up like any other kid in West Virginia probably playing sports and fishing. His dad worked for the U.S. Postal Service delivering mail in the Lesage/Green Bottom area. Rickey attended public schools and graduated from Barboursville High School in 1967. Growing up, America was in the post-war era of World War II and was involved in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. West Virginia's economy was doing great, and coal mines, which employed over 167,000 workers, were booming. The state had also adopted the state song "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home" and the state colors of blue and gold.

On August 5, 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared that the country had entered the Vietnam War. The U.S. had approximately 23,000 troops in Vietnam, and, by the end of 1965, the numbers increased to over 180,000; by 1967, U.S. troop strength was around 480,000. During the Vietnam War era, between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military drafted 2.2 million American men out of an eligible pool of 27 million.

One of Rickey's classmates said that "he wrote in my yearbook that he wanted to take me to the movies one evening that summer." Unfortunately, their date never happened as Rickey was drafted into the U.S. Army in the summer of 1967.

Rickey was an 11B-Infantryman, so after his basic training and advanced individual training, he started his tour in Vietnam on November 29, 1967, with the rank of specialist fourth class (SP4). What is interesting about his career is that as an 11B he was assigned to the 550th Ordnance Detachment, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, 29th General Support Group, U.S. Army Support Command (Saigon), 1st Logistical Command U.S. Army Vietnam. He lived on a compound in the Province of Gia Dinh north of Saigon known as Camp Red Ball. He was part of a group that called themselves and their company the "Rock Raiders." According to George Gaudiello, who served with Rickey, he was "truly one of the guys when it came to hanging out at Camp Red Ball and had a sense of humor."

In late January 1968, during the Lunar New Year (or "Tet") holiday, North Vietnamese and communist Viet Cong (VC) forces launched a coordinated attack against a number of targets in South Vietnam against U.S. and South Vietnamese targets. Saigon was the main focal point of the offensive, but a total takeover of the capital was not intended or feasible. They rather had six main targets in the city which 35 battalions of VC were to attack and capture: the ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam) Joint General Staff compound near Tan Son Nhut International Airport, the Independence Palace, the U.S. Embassy, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the Long Binh Naval Headquarters, and the National Radio Station. Because it was Tet, the sound of firecrackers exploding masked that of gunfire, giving an element of surprise to the Viet Cong attacks. The U.S. and South Vietnamese militaries sustained heavy losses before finally repelling the communist assault. (David T. Zabecki, "The Battle for Saigon," accessed 16 April 2020, On Wednesday, January 31, 1968, with the Tet Offensive well underway, Rickey and his battle buddies came under attack. There are not a lot of details surrounding his death, but we assume that he was either killed at Camp Red Ball or possibly he was part of the U.S. Air Force Defense Force for Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Either way, tragically just two months into his tour at the age of 20, he was killed in action. Spc. 4 David Rickey Carson and two others-Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Biegel, 411A (ammo tech) and Spc. 4 Manuel "Ponch" Flores, 55B (ammo specialist)-from the 550th Ordnance Detachment died from hostile actions that fateful day. ("Tet 68 at Camp Red Ball," The Patriot Files, accessed 16 April 2020,

Spc. 4 David Rickey Carson's remains were recovered and returned home to where he was buried at White Chapel Memorial Gardens in Barboursville, West Virginia. His sacrifice had earned him the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. Spc. 4 David Rickey Carson is memorialized at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Panel 36E, Line 1, and at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia.
Military marker for David Rickey Carson in White Chapel Memorial Gardens. <i>Find A Grave</i> courtesy Paul Clary

Military marker for David Rickey Carson in White Chapel Memorial Gardens. Find A Grave courtesy Paul Clary

On Monday, March 1, 2004, the West Virginia Legislature introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 49 and Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 53 which "requested the Division of Highways name the bridge located at U. S. Route 2 and Nine Mile Road, Cabell County, the 'David Rickey Carson Memorial Bridge.'" Spc. 4 David Rickey Carson gave his young life in the supreme sacrifice for the cause of freedom on a battlefield in a country far away; and his life should not go unnoticed. Let's never forget his sacrifice.

Article prepared by MAJ (Ret) T. Brad McGee, Seth Parsons, and Grant Davis, George Washington High School JROTC
April 2020


David Rickey Carson

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