The effect of war deaths lingers in families for years

It was a Saturday afternoon in October, nearly 40 years ago. Two men came to the door. Everything changed.

The Hammond family, minus their eldest son, was home in Marysville. They were tuned in to a college football game.

“As soon as my dad got up to answer the door, everything became kind of a blur,” said Mark Hammond, 57, now a teacher at Marysville’s Cascade Elementary School.

Robin Hammond, the youngest of the family’s three boys, was 13. “I remember like it was yesterday,” he said. “We were listening to the Husky game. Dad saw the guys at the door.

“Dad asked, ‘Is he wounded?’ They shook their heads,” said Robin Hammond, 52, of Arlington.

Marine Cpl. Jack Michael Hammond was killed in action on Oct. 18, 1967, in the area of Quang Tri, Vietnam. A 1965 graduate of Marysville High School, he had lettered in football, baseball and track. He had studied art at Everett Community College.

Left with their grief and memories were his parents, Jack and Hazel Hammond; Mark, Robin and their younger sister, Jill; and the 20-year-old Marine’s fiance, Carleen Arnold.

Today – day after day after day – comes news of Americans killed in Iraq. Sometimes we see their faces. Often we don’t. Three more, five more, the headlines become routine. The lasting toll is anything but routine.

There are 58,249 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The names no one sees are the brothers, sisters, wives, parents and friends of the dead from that divisive war.

Decades after their loved ones’ sacrifices, these people have permanent holes in their lives.

Army Spec. 4 Guy Allen Davison was a 21-year-old graduate of Everett’s Cascade High School when he was killed Aug. 25, 1968. After a year in Vietnam, he had volunteered for a second tour. He’d been back in Vietnam three months when he died.

His older brother, Ron Davison, carries a burden no one should bear. “I was all for the war in Vietnam when it first started. I don’t know if I advised him to go, but I felt strongly we should be there,” he said.

Davison, 63, who lives in the Three Lakes area east of Snohomish, said he was a father figure to the family’s younger children. “They took my advice,” he said.

Their mother suffered from depression after Guy’s death, Davison said. “And I live way up in the sticks. It’s nice, but I live like a hermit.”

Davison can trace one of his best memories of Guy to a lake near his home. “He was home on leave. Out of the blue, we went on a picnic. It must have scared my mother, we swam across the whole lake. It was the last time we were all together,” Davison said.

The subject of Iraq makes him angry. “I don’t want to talk politics, but every 10 years or so they get us in a war. I was against this war from the start,” Davison said.

Mark Hammond said his parents were never the same after Jack’s death. “My dad was in the Navy in World War II. After the death of my brother, they became very bitter about the war,” he said. “And my mom had very strong feelings against the Iraq war. She saw all these families going through the same thing.”

The Hammonds’ mother died earlier this year; their father died 11 years ago.

Robin Hammond holds on to thoughts of the big brother he idolized. “To me, he was everything you’d want an older brother to be. I looked up to him, everybody liked him, he was fun,” he said. “Once Jack threw a pencil at me. It broke off in my belly. The lead is still in there. He gave me a quarter not to say anything.”

Through the decades, the family has felt cheated out of what might have been. “We’ve missed out on his kids, all the holidays, there’s a void there – forever,” Robin said.

“With Iraq, it’s like replaying the whole thing again,” Mark Hammond said. “The losses are a daily reminder. You know what these families will be going through.”

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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