To: E Company Rangers
From: Rick Stetson
Attached is a photo of the plaque that will be attached to Dunlop Barracks at Fort Benning, Georgia. Those who served with SSG Johnston Dunlop can attest that the brave and dedicated member of the 9th Division’s long range patrol company is most deserving of the honor of having the Echo Company, 1/50 Infantry Battalion barracks named for him.
The 50th Infantry was organized June 1, 1917 at Syracuse, New York, which incidentally, is the state where Dunlop was from. The unit was assigned to the 6th Armored Division in WWll which was part of Patton’s Third Army. In Vietnam, the 1/50th was assigned to ll Corps as General Reserve and worked with the 1st Cav, the 4th ID and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. For a period of time, the 9th Division’s long range patrol was assigned to the 50th Infantry although the Rangers never worked directly with the unit.
The 1/50th participated in ten major campaigns in Vietnam. On May 5, 1968, the battalion had 18 soldiers KIA during the battle of An Bao. The unit has an active veterans organization that sponsors a wreath laying ceremony at their memorial in Fort Benning’s Sand Hill area of the post. When the 1/50 decided to dedicate their battalion barracks to heroes who had served in the unit, four soldiers were selected who had died in Vietnam, two who lost their lives in Afghanistan and one who was KIA in Iraq. Jim Sheppard, the unit’s historian, recommended Johnston Dunlop as the soldier whose name should be attached to the Echo Company barracks.
The ceremony last week to honor the fallen soldiers took place under threatening skies as sounds of automatic weapons from distant ranges filled the air. We were seated in front of a bronze memorial featuring an inverted rifle with helmet on top and a pair of combat boots to the front. To the rear was a glass container with soil from Vietnam where the Battle of An Bao was fought.
After a prayer and the singing of the Infantry and Army songs, a bio was read about each soldier after which family members were asked to stand and be recognized followed by those present who had served with the fallen soldier. Johnston’s niece, Cindy Dunlop, her husband, Jim Gallagher and their sons, Takoda and Ryan, were then escorted forward where Cindy unveiled the plaque that will be placed on the Echo Company barracks.
The guest speaker was LTG (Ret) Carmen Cavezza who delivered appropriate remarks that were kept brief as a light rain had started to come down while he spoke. A large wreath containing red and white flowers was placed in front of the memorial and it was announced that the wreath speaks to the “beauty and brevity of life.” Taps was played and then we moved inside for a lunch of MRE’s which have come a long way from the C’s and lurp rations we ate in Nam. Each MRE contained a heating element to warm the meal so that C-4 is no longer required.
After lunch, E Company First Sergeant, Gary Stout, invited Cindy, her family and me to tour the E Company barracks. When we reached the modern Army barracks that housed the entire company, we noted there was already a sign in front letting people know this was Dunlop Barracks, the home of Echo Company. We climbed steps to the second floor and stood in front of a framed unit photo taken in 1967 of E Company Rangers during our organization day at Bearcat. The 1/50th is now a training battalion “turning civilians into soldiers.” It was moving to realize that as the young soldiers pass by each day and see the photo of Dunlop and the other members of E Company Long Range Patrol, the sacrifices made in Vietnam will not be forgotten.
Part of the bio read about him at the memorial ceremony stated, “At the age of 29, Staff Sergeant Johnston Dunlop died a Warrior’s death in …Vietnam. He gave all he had and then some in his quest to complete the mission. As a result of his gallant actions while engaging the enemy, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Through his selfless service and dedication to duty he made the ultimate sacrifice in upholding the highest traditions of the Ranger Creed, ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.’ Staff Sergeant Dunlop by way of his gallant actions truly exemplified the Ranger Motto, ‘Rangers Lead the Way.’ “
It is fitting that Johnston Dunlop’s name on the E Company barracks will continue to inspire future generations of soldiers. Our sincere appreciation goes to Jim Sheppard and his fellow veterans as well as the active duty members of the 1/50th for the impressive dedication and memorial ceremony and for remembering one of our own.