The Names Of Fallen Soldiers

At left: Flowers and U.S. flags at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. At right: Visitors read names on the wall.
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C., they started reading the names on the Vietnam Memorial -- more than 58,000 names.

The memorial is 25 years old and it's the most visited place in Washington. I go there often and when I do, I look for the name Richard Schroeder.

Schroeder went to my high school. He was a wrestler; nicknamed Moose. He served as a corpsman in Vietnam and was killed when he volunteered to go out with a marine reconnaissance unit.

Had he lived, I wonder what Dick Schroeder would be doing now. His father owned the funeral parlor in our hometown. Like other medics, he was called Doc.

Might he have become a physician?

How would America be different now if those 58,000 hadn't died?

Which one would be running for president?

Which one would have cured a baffling disease?

Which one would have my job?

We owe a lot to the people who serve. The least we can do is remember them.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.