Each year, we at the Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism call attention and honor to a patriot who has given the ultimate sacrifice.
Our annual award is named for a man who gave his life for country not long after his only son was born. Charles Kirby Wilcox, whom many knew simply as Kirby, was fiercely patriotic. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and upon graduation, married his high school sweetheart, Linda, and moved with her to Germany. But Germany was not where he should be in 1967, Kirby believed, and so he volunteered to go to Vietnam, even after several of his good friends had died there. “He was a focused man,” his widow, Linda Lindsay, said during an interview in February 2012. “He believed in his country. He was very dedicated.”
Their son, Curt, was six months old when in January 1968 military personnel knocked on the door of Linda’s parents’ house, where she was living. Nothing could have prepared her for this devastation: After only two weeks on the new job, Kirby had been killed Jan. 9, 1968, by an enemy grenade while leading his company on a search and destroy mission near Bong San.
Curt Wilcox Lindsay is 45 today. He was raised by his mother’s second husband, but learned at the age of seven that his biological father died in war. In recent years, he’s talked to dozens of people in a quest to know Kirby better.
“The fact that he begged his commanding officer to let him lead a troop through the jungle, he didn’t have to do that,” Curt said in a recent interview. “To me, that just adds to the demonstration of his belief in patriotism.”
Kirby would have been honored and humbled to have NEOPAT’s annual award named for him, Linda and Curt believe. Linda, too, feels honored.
“For those of us who have lost someone that we love … this is a recognition that they gave their life,” she said. “It’s a recognition that we went on and lived without them.”
“Of course, he’s a hero to me,” Linda added. “There were a lot of heroes in that war that were never even noticed. To single out Kirby for an award, I just think he would say that it’s not necessary because there were too many other heroes in that war and in every war.”
“But I understand you can’t recognize them all.” That may be true, but this year and into the future, NEOPAT aims to recognize as many of America’s heroes as it can, one by one.