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Rodney Eugene Morgan
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Rodney Eugene Morgan

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him."

G. K. Chesterton

Rodney Eugene Morgan was born on August 28, 1950, in Simon, an unincorporated town located on the banks of the Guyandotte River in Wyoming County, West Virginia. His parents were Azzie and Martha Morgan; he had eight brothers, four sisters, four half-sisters, and six half-brothers. Rodney attended Long Branch Elementary School and went on to graduate from Baileysville High School.

Rodney grew up in a coal town, and he went on to be a coal miner after high school presumably following in his father's footsteps. At that time period, coal companies in West Virginia owned or ran most of the small communities and coal towns, where company housing took up most of the town and the company stores were the local markets available to the residents. Soon after high school, Rodney married Rosetta Sue Stevens, and together they had a daughter whom they named Alana Morgan. The Vietnam War had its beginnings in 1955, with the United States joining 10 years later in 1965. In 1970, with the president withdrawing troops from Vietnam in the efforts to pull out altogether, the draft was still in effect. Young male Americans were still being called upon to support and defend their country.

Private First Class Rodney Eugene Morgan was drafted in to the U.S. Army in the summer of 1970 as an 11B-Infantryman and attended infantry training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. At the completion of his training, he was sent to Vietnam on December 13, 1970, where he was assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. From 1966 to 1970, the 25th Infantry Division's (Tropic Lightning) mission was to fight the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong north and west of Saigon. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the 25th Infantry Division stopped the Viet Cong's attempts to seize Tan Son Nhut Air Base and participated in the defense of Saigon. In 1970, as part of President Nixon's withdrawal from Vietnam, the 1st and 2nd Brigades, 4th Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division-minus the 2nd Brigade-returned to the U.S. During the "withdrawal" period, most soldiers (and some units) were transferred to other places "in country." Other soldiers were given "a drop" or "early out" in their time of service and discharged as soon as they got back to "The World." Replacement troops no longer had to come totally from the United States; the Army could call on manpower from units phased out of the Vietnam Order of Battle. (Bruce Holzhauer, "2-12th Infantry-Vietnam: 1970," 2000-2013, accessed 7 April 2020,
25th Infantry Division (

25th Infantry Division ("Tropic Lightning") patch

According to Bruce Holzhauer's unofficial history of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, in January of 1971, with the drawdown of U.S. Army troops in Vietnam, the 2nd Battalion continued to battle the Communists in the Xuan Loc area of operation (AO) right up until the 2/12th's stand down, which took place in April 1971. However, elements of the 2/12th were still conducting reconnaissance patrols in search of the enemy to destroy and/or capture them along with their bunkers, cache sites, and supplies. On January 5, 1971, Alpha Company 2/12th Infantry with members from Delta Company received small arms and automatic weapons fire from an unknown number of enemy 13 kilometers southeast of Xuan Loc located at grid (YT565012) at 1315 hours-resulting in two U.S. soldiers killed and three wounded. Fire was returned with organic weapons resulting in one enemy killed. They evacuated three RPG rounds, three RPG boosters, one RPG launcher, 25 pounds of rice, one hammer, and a small amount of documents and clothing from the contact site. ("2-12th Infantry-Vietnam: 1971," 2000-2013, accessed 7 April 2020,

The two U.S. soldiers who were killed that day were Pfc. Eugene McKay III from Orlando, Florida, and Pfc. Rodney Eugene Morgan. Rodney was only 20 years old when he died, and his body was recovered and returned home to be buried. Pfc. Morgan might have only been in the Army for several months before he was killed in action (KIA), but he made a lasting impression on one of his fellow soldiers.

As a remembrance, an old friend from basic training, Lt. Col. Frederick Earl Joyce, wrote the following letter:


You probably don't remember me. I was in your infantry squad at Fort Jackson during the autumn of 1970, while we were undergoing training. Your child was born then.

We had not been in the combat zone a month when you were killed before North Vietnamese Army bunker. My company was in another location, sitting in the heat and dense jungle brush, with nothing to do, when you died. My overwhelming sense of boredom was broken by our helicopter flight back to the fire support base and McCray's news of what happened to you. As fate would have it, I did not know, nor do I now remember, well, the American soldiers who later died in my presence. So your name is the only one I truly pause to look at when I visit [the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.].

I do so with the same wonderment I always have when I search for a reason as to why a young coal miner, who left a wife and child behind, to fulfill an obligation in his nation's military draft, did not return home alive, and a teenaged boy, who volunteered for combat duty, instead of following his high school classmates to college, did. I need to tell you, now, thirty-six years later, at the close of my active service in the Army, that my memory of you played a role in my decision to accept a commission at the end of my college years.

Also, I want you to know I have found a way to pass this sentiment on to your family, as well. I want you and your family to know that your young death and their premature loss helped to make me want to be the officer that all Rodney Morgans, and now, increasingly, their female comrades, deserve to have appointed over them. Because your memory conspired with the events of the past thirty years to insure that I continued to serve in the Army, despite varying degrees of success and failure, I have decided that I must give this American flag, which the Army just gave me, to your family. The Army told me it was flown over our National Capital [sic] Building. So I am passing it on with a prayer that those who elected by the people, to work in the building at perfecting a government of and for the people, will remember the sacrifices of citizens like you, everyday-especially with regard to matters of war and peace. In paraphrasing a recent statement by Senator James Webb, I will always pray that they all will realize they owe those that are now following you in armed service to our nation the ". . . sound judgment, clear thinking, concern. . . " and "guarantee that the threat to country. . . equal[s]. . . the price . . . called . . . to pay in defending it. . . That '. . . the judgment of our national leaders. . . be right, that they . . . measure . . . with accuracy . . . the value of . . . lives against the enormity of the national interest. . . " that justifies any order ". . . to go in harm's way." Therefore, I believe this version of our country's Stars and Stripes must acknowledge the purposeful meaning of you and your loved ones' sacrifice, which I have often relied on for inspiration, while trying to fulfill the military duty I felt called to perform, to the best of my God-given abilities.

Lt. Col. Joyce (September 11, 1952-September 30, 2010) served in the U.S. Army from 1970 through 2007. His wife wrote the following personal note: "My husband, upon his retirement from the U.S. Army after 37 years of service, wrote the letter above. He never forgot the young soldier Rodney Eugene Morgan that he served with for such a short time. Rodney's death made such an impact on Fred and influenced his career as an officer for years to come. Unfortunately, Fred was also a victim of the Vietnam War. . . 37 years later. He developed a series of cancerous tumors, linked to his exposure to Agent Orange, which took his life on September 30, 2010. Our teenage daughter's insight into her father's death responded with, ''Dad was KIA. . . 37 years later.' His fellow military officers said he served with dignity and was a soldier with integrity. He is surely missed by his family and by his fellow soldiers. Our hope is that he is sitting with Rodney in heaven remembering those special moments that they served together."

Rodney's remains were recovered and returned to the U.S., where we believe that he was buried at the Morgan Cemetery in Simon, West Virginia. He is memorialized at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on Panel 5W, Line 27, and is also honored at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia. The West Virginia Legislature introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 4 on January 18, 2007, authorizing the West Virginia Department of Highways to rename Bridge 10251 on Charley Hatfield Road, State Route 6, as the "Rodney Morgan Memorial Bridge."

After Rodney died, it was only a year later when his wife died. They left behind their only daughter Alana Morgan-who is still alive today-who was born while Rodney was at Fort Jackson. Pfc. Rodney Morgan's commendations include the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross. His unit received the Army Presidential Unit Citation.

Article prepared by Bryce Sullivan, Abigail Stradley, and Zoey Bader, George Washington High School JROTC
March 2020


Rodney Eugene Morgan

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