Rex Marcel Sherman
Corporal, United States Army
Date of Birth: 8 April 1951
Date of Casualty: 19 November 1969
Home of Record: ROMNEY, WEST VIRGINIA
Branch of Service: ARMY
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: BINH THUAN
A mother's journey
Woman traveling to Vietnam where her son died
Ann Sherman Wolcott has never seen the country where her first-born son lost his life.
She thought about it. She could have crossed the border during a trip to Indonesia but hesitated. When she worked for the Army PX, she once requested and was denied a transfer to Vietnam.
Only now is she setting foot in Vietnam, traveling there Saturday with a delegation of American veterans and their families.
"I really have mixed emotions about the trip," Wolcott says.
She is not sure how she will react to seeing the land, and possibly the spot, where her son died.
Rex Marcel Sherman was a 17-year-old high school senior in Romney when he enlisted in the Army, in the thick of the Vietnam War.
He was second-generation military, a blue-eyed, curly-haired kid who looked out for the underdog and grew up playing soldier.
"He wasn't old enough to have any experiences," says Wolcott, who now helms an organization for mothers who have lost children to combat. "He wasn't old enough to vote or drink. He didn't even have a car."
Corporal Sherman was 18 and in Vietnam only four months when he lost his life on November 19, 1969.
He was serving with the 75th Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade. The young paratrooper already had been appointed assistant team leader.
Sherman's unit was on patrol in Vietnam's Central Highlands when the ambush occurred. Sherman was shot multiple times by a Vietcong soldier who also was a teenager. His fellow soldiers later told Wolcott that Sherman went down fighting, brave and patriotic.
He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action.
They returned his body in a simple wooden box. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"First all, you're in shock, you're numb," Wolcott said. "I think in some ways I still am. . ..
"I had no fear when he went in, although I didn't like the idea. I trusted in my God to take care of him. When I heard -- I didn't want to believe it."
Just 36 years old when Sherman died, Wolcott
had three younger children to raise.
Formed in 1928, the group takes its name from the yellow stars hung by mothers who lost their children during World War I.
The organization provides support to mothers who have lost their sons and daughters as well as aiding the soldiers who do come back, partnering with veterans groups and volunteering in military hospitals.
Wolcott, who now lives in York, Pennsylvania, was elected national president last July.
With the Iraq war, she is busier than ever.
But when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund invited Wolcott to finally travel to the country where her son died, she said yes.
The group will number about 20, including veterans and volunteers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It will be led by memorial fund founder and president Jan Scruggs, said spokesman Alan Greilsamer.
While time will be allocated for sightseeing and official visits, a major focus of the 13-day trip will be the issue of land mines and unexploded ordnance that continue to maim and kill victims 30 years after the American military left Vietnam. The group leaves Saturday.
Wolcott's trip is being underwritten by Hughes Network Systems, a Maryland telecommunications firm, Greilsamer said.
It's not clear if Wolcott actually will see the location where Sherman died; she says she has always imagined the place.
"Mentally, I'm just going to try to focus on something good, something positive," she said. "I hope we can focus on Vietnam the country, not Vietnam the war."
"I don't hate people because we had a war with
them. I heard that the young boy who shot my son was shot after that. That's
war, but I found myself feeling sorry for that mother because I knew she
was suffering, too."
HANOI, Vietnam - Ann Sherman Wolcott will always remember the day nearly 35 years ago when an officer with a cross pinned to his uniform said her son had been killed in Vietnam.
Now, Wolcott is the first national president of the American Gold Star Mothers to visit the country.
"When you lose a child, it's so traumatic," Wolcott said Tuesday after arriving in Hanoi. "You never, never get over it, particularly in a place that is so far away."
She vividly recalled November 20, 1969, the day she got word that her oldest son, Army Corporal Rex Marcel Sherman, had been ambushed in the Central Highlands by the Viet Cong and fatally shot four times in the back.
Sherman had enlisted at age 17 as a high school senior from Romney, West Virginia, and served with the 75th Infantry Regiment, "Charlie Company," 173rd Airborne Brigade. He died after four months in the country.
Wolcott was working at the PX headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, when an officer asked to speak with her that day.
"I wasn't thinking," she recalled. "I thought, maybe my son's sick or maybe he was hurt because I never imagined — not one time did I think that anything would happen to him."
Nothing was the same for Wolcott after that, she said. The Vietnam War ended in 1975, when communist North Vietnamese forces invaded Saigon, then the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam.
"It really traumatized everybody. I mean you're never the same," she said. Of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, she said: "For every name on that wall — which is over 58,000 — not only every family member, but every friend and community is affected by it."
Wolcott, who now lives in York, Pennsylvania, joined the American Gold Star Mothers in 1973 and became national president last July. The group, made up of those who lost a son or daughter serving their country, was founded in 1928. It is named for gold stars displayed by families in honor of deceased veterans.
Eight Gold Star mothers have visited Vietnam, Wolcott said. And while she's not scheduled to visit the site where her son was killed, Wolcott said she hopes just being in the country where he died will answer some of her questions.
She came prepared with a nugget of advice from a veteran who served alongside her son and attended his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
He told her: "I want you to go outside and stand for 10 minutes in the rain and try to remember how we felt after lying in the rain all night or sometimes for days with mud all over us," she recalled. "Do that and think about what Rex went through."
Posted: 5 March 2004 Updated: 13 March 2004 Updated: 18 December 2005