To honor the 49th anniversary of his father’s death in the Vietnam War, “D” Shannon wanted to place a letter at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Unable to travel there himself, Shannon began making calls but discovered how difficult it can be to navigate the many layers of bureaucracy.
So, on a whim, the Kalispell resident called Republican Congressman Steve Daines’ office. Shannon was thinking a Daines staffer might be able to run the letter over to the memorial on lunch break. Maybe it would be a good chore for an intern.
“I thought it was going be the guy who makes the copies in the office and I was grateful for that,” Shannon said. “But Steve said, ‘No, I want to do this.’ It was very heartwarming for me. I was blown away by his commitment to do it.”
On March 15, exactly 49 years after U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kenneth Shannon was killed in action, Daines participated in a color guard ceremony on the National Mall to honor the late Shannon, who was the 122nd American killed in the Vietnam War. He served in the 114th Aviation Company.
Daines’ office said Erik Oehrtman, a Kalispell native and family friend of the Shannons, planned the ceremony.
“I am humbled that the Shannon family allowed me to participate in this ceremony and to honor Lieutenant Shannon’s sacrifice,” Daines, noting he’s the son of a Marine, said in a statement. “Montana has a strong heritage of military service, which is exemplified by the generations of service found within the Shannon family.”
As part of the ceremony, Daines followed up on his promise and placed the younger Shannon’s letter, along with a flag, in front of the memorial bearing Kenneth’s name. And on that very same day, an even younger Shannon – D’s son and Kenneth’s grandson – officially began his service with the U.S. Marine Corps.
The fact that those two momentous moments occurred on the same day five decades apart gave the letter’s March 15 placement a great deal of personal meaning for D.
“It was very emotional,” he said. “I’m deeply grateful.”
Shannon said he’s proud to see his son and thousands of other young Americans stepping up to the challenge of serving their country.
“In today’s culture, there are still young men and women saying, ‘I want to go serve,’” he said. “That amazes me. I’m thrilled that there are young people willing to make those sacrifices.”
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