Charleen Carroll listened intently from her front row seat hearing memories and tributes to her brother Brock Elliott who was the first soldier to die in the Vietnam War from Manteca as some 800 students Thursday crowded into an outside assembly quad at the school named in the fallen Marine’s honor.
Carroll said she hadn’t missed but a couple of the tributes to her brother over the years at school built in his name on land where he once played with friends as a boy.
Elliott was a rifleman and point man with his advancing team when he was killed May 26, 1967 by a sniper. It was almost a year to the day later when Marine Pfc. David E. Gore, of Manteca, was killed on May 24, 1968. Gore’s Gold Star mother Dorothy sat with Carroll during the hour-long ceremony in the school quad. The names of Gore and Elliott along with 15 others from Manteca that died in Vietnam are set in plaques on individual rocks at the entrance to the elementary school.
Brock’s sister – one year his junior – said they were always together and even cruised Yosemite Avenue from the Foster Freeze at Walnut Avenue to the west to Ed Bumgarner’s Patio hamburger stand at Fremont Avenue (now Johnny’s Restaurant) to the east of their Manteca High School. She said he was always happy and could easily make people smile. Both went to Yosemite Elementary School on Yosemite Avenue, graduating from Manteca High in 1965 and 1966 respectively.
Brock and his friends swam and played in the irrigation ditches once located where the Brock Elliott School campus stands today.
“There was a stand of bamboo here and we would all play in this area. The boys would swim in the second and third irrigation ditches as this was all just farmland where they could make their little hideouts,” she recalled.
Their older brother Larry by four years had been in the military in Turkey but was out of the service when Brock lost his life.
“He liked to fish – he liked to hunt – our family vacations were all about trout fishing,” she added. “He was a great and wonderful brother – everyone loved Brock.”
Brock’s sister made note that the other 16 families with sons or brothers who had fallen were all present at the event on Thursday.
Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen whose names were read off at the microphone by individual students included Charles White, Fredrick Lopez, William McJimsey, David Gore, Jessee Rodriguez, Carl Borgen, Joseph Tafoya, Robert Davenport, Joseph Lewis, Bruce Soares, Larry Motley, Jack Landers, James Lowry, Gale Butcher, Jr.; Leslie Morgan and Captain Grant Uhls. All were 19 and 20 years old except for White, 29, and Uhls, 25.
Brock had enlisted in the Marines at the San Francisco Recruiting Office right after graduating from Manteca High at the age of 17. His father had served with the Marines in World War II and had been wounded in the battle of Guadalcanal.
When he arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Brock and his future brother-in-law Michael had been in the same area of operation but with a different Marine company. Brock’s Battalion had been participating in Operation Union II, a search and destroy operation against the 21st NVA Regiment operating near the vicinity of Binh Son, some five kilometers from Que Son. Michael was at the Brock Elliott tribute with his wife Charleen on Thursday.
The presentation of the colors at the event was carried out by the student cadets of the Lathrop High School JROTC Color Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Nolan Bagley, student council president. The National Anthem was offered by the Brock Elliott School Band who later played “We Will Not Forget,” and “Call to Valor” followed by “Rock America.” The band was under the leadership of Melissa Manalastas. Master of ceremonies for the event was fifth and sixth grade teacher Lenn Macky standing in for Principal Debbie Rugger who was ill.
Guest speaker was U.S. Army Reserve Major Clark Burke, deputy superintendent of the Manteca Unified School District who said he was touched at the playing of the National Anthem.
Major Burke served some 20 years in the Army with three different commands and taught Military Science at the University of California at Davis. He told students that the military teaches valuable traits including loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, honor and integrity.
He said the military has sent him all over the world on assignments where he has seen war, poverty, hopelessness and desperation, having also seen love, compassion and personal courage.
“Our country is a place of dreams and opportunities,” he said. “Sometimes the road to the future may not be clear to everyone. Selfless service is seen every day from teachers to families. It doesn’t have to be a career or a uniform. It can be a simple act in helping parents, community and helping one another.”
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Brock’s great niece Ella Juarez presented Brock’s sister with a bouquet of flowers.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.