Welcome! This month, we celebrate Randy Morrison, our brother who died in Vietnam. On March 29, 2022, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, the RLLA established the Randy S. Morrison Memorial Scholarship Fund at Oklahoma University. Read about his life and fund below.
From The ΔKE ΡΛ Literary Association
I want to thank, on behalf of all of us, the Brothers who worked tirelessly on the team I chaired, to launch the Randy S. Morrison Memorial Scholarship Fund. The work of George Otey, Bill Nation, Rich Burns, and Ron Sorter reminded me of a productive chapter meeting. I urge you to donate to Randy’s fund. The OU Scholarship Fund staff has been great to work with, and they look forward to answering any questions you might have. You can access our Frequently Asked Questions about Randy’s Fund here. See more below.
RANDY STANTON MORRISON
My first words must be these: Randy was a terrific man. My words can’t do him justice. I wish we had photos of him and his wife pushing happy kids in a stroller, but sadly, we don’t. We do have the conviction that our brother was more than his name etched on Panel 9W, line 108 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Yes, his death tends to define him, but we live our lives, short or long, and the truth is, we’re alive if someone remembers us. And I’ve found lots of people who remember Randy. I’ve recently discovered one that may surprise you.
Randy was born in 1944 and grew up in Oklahoma City. His dad was a 32nd degree Mason and Shriner, and his mother, Veda Grace, died when he was eleven. Randy graduated from Northwest Classen High School in 1962. When he entered OU, his creative interests led him to a major in Fine Arts, which included broadcasting. Focusing his classwork on radio, he eventually became station manager for KUVY, the then student-run radio station.
He pledged DKE in 1963 and, I think, found his family. Excelling in the behind-the-scenes world of the brotherhood, he helped set the stage for others to shine. He was always smiling and having a good time. Richard Legatski, his Little Brother, said it best: “He’d keep to himself, but whenever I needed his help, he was always right there. He was a good guy, in every respect.”
Randy was a worthy member of our brotherhood. Like many of us, he left his shell at the Deke house. I’ve got a feeling any reserve was self-confidence without the advertisement.
When he joined the Naval brotherhood, he made an impact:
“I worked with Randy in the OR at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. Once, during a power failure, Randy manually operated the heart-lung machine with a hand crank, saving the patient’s life. He was a very special human being.” – Darrell Templer, Navy Corpsman
In 1970, during Spring Break, Don Burand was alone in the Deke house and heard a knock at the door. It was Randy, saying, “I saw a car in the parking lot and thought I’d see if I could stay here tonight. I’m shipping out to Vietnam tomorrow.” Don told me, “We talked into the night, mostly about his girlfriend. He’d decided to wait until he got back from ‘Nam to become engaged but wondered if that was the right decision. That was the one thing on his mind.” How fitting for Randy to see Don’s car like a candle in the window and have one last conversation with a brother in the Deke house.
It’s here that the music changes. Randy landed in Vietnam in March ’70, a few days after I did. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines as a platoon corpsman, I to the Army’s 23rd Infantry as a platoon leader.
A week ago, on Randy’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial page, an old note from Roy Overbeck caught my eye. He’d been Randy’s platoon commander, and we’ve since had several profound conversations. Roy is honest, accountable, and selfless. His note asked any family members who knew Randy to contact him. I was the first family member who emailed him, for all of us. You might want to reread “Brothers in Deke” before reading what Roy had to say.
“When we went through his first village, Phu Non 5, Randy kept doing his best for the sick children and would not stop. I said, ‘Hey, enough is enough, let’s go. The CO’s telling me to get to our objective.’ He got right in my face and told me off. ‘Mr. O, I’m staying here ’til I’m done.’ He was an HM2, and I was a Marine officer, but I could not stand up to him. That’s when I knew what kind of man he was. Randy was an outstanding influence on my platoon. He was intelligent, brave to the point of foolhardiness, and a truly great Corpsman.
“A month later, we found an old shrine loaded with ammo. One of my Marines, Mike Moorhead, and I were doing a careful reconnoiter and triggered a booby trap, wounding both of us. Mike said, ‘I’m OK.’ His best friend and Randy hurried to help us, and there was a horrendous blast. The shrapnel went over my head, but it killed Mike, wounded the other Marine, and wounded Randy terribly. They put us all on a dustoff chopper to the Battalion Aid Station, and as we flew, Randy said four words, ‘I blame myself completely.’
“After the Aid Station, I didn’t know where Randy was. I couldn’t get those four words out of my mind. Days later, at the Japan Naval hospital, a Corpsman came looking for me and asked, ‘Do you know a Randy Morrison?’ I said, ‘Yes! Is he here? I have to see him.’ He told me Randy was in the ICU and only lucid periodically. I said, ‘He can’t die thinking it was his fault.’ So, I gave him a note to give to Randy or read to him. It said,’ It wasn’t your fault. I was the CO. It was my responsibility. Mr. O.’
“A few days later, I was in the solarium; I remember it had an enormous sunroof. A Corpsman walked toward me, and I could tell from his face. He said, ‘We lost Randy this morning. But we read him your note, and he knows that Mr. O said it was not his fault.’ I went to the chapel and cried for an hour.”
Don Burand, Terry Miller, and Joel Ketonen attended Randy’s funeral. Joel told me he saw Randy’s girlfriend there. Don didn’t know her but remembers seeing a girl Randy’s age. “You know how funerals like that are; you’re not sure who people are or what to say to them. I always wish I’d asked her if she was Randy’s girlfriend. I could have told her his last thoughts before shipping out were of her.”
An officer is responsible for everything his platoon does or doesn’t do until the end. Roy and I have both found tremendous closure in our conversations about Randy. We’ve also located Mike Moorhead’s family, and Roy is reaching out to them.
“Now you know Randy received his fatal wound in the VERY best of company as possible… What a hideous waste, one great young man, trying to save his brother, another great young man.” – Roy Overbeck
At this point in our lives, I guess Roy and I are just two old platoon leaders who perhaps see our lives more clearly. We’ve both seen our blood mixing on a chopper floor with others’, whipped by the wind into the jungle below. Vietnam was a wasteland. But when the world reduces in size to a perimeter of men you will die for, we would both want Randy to be there. His kind-heartedness, resoluteness, and iron spine made him a man among men.
Yesterday, on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, the Rho Lambda Literary Association approved two motions. One was to establish the Randy S. Morrison Scholarship Fund at OU. The second was to give the Randy S. Morrison Award to Roy Overbeck. (I was honored to receive that award in 1971). We will arrange for a Deke chapter in North Carolina to present him with this award.
Randy’s Scholarship Fund is open now (see below). I would humbly ask you to donate what you can in the name of our brother who “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life,” gave everything he had.
You’ll make your donations to Randy’s Fund directly to the Oklahoma University Scholarship Fund.
You can use the button above to arrive at the correct OU website page: (http://www.soonerconnect.com/morrison).
Our goal is “$25 by 25,” to raise $25,000 by 2025 when we hope to have a new Deke colony at OU. We‘ve raised $3,000 already. If you can give $1,000 or more, great. You can easily create periodic payments at the OU site, too. A monthly $50 donation for 20 months would also be great, but we thank you for whatever amount you donate.
I need to thank these Brothers for contributing to this newsletter: Dave J., Joel K., Richard L., Terry M., Don B., Rich B., Bob T., Bill N., and George O. And, of course, Roy Overbeck. I simply ran out of space to use all your memories. Leave a comment if you wish, or contact us here. Keep an eye out for May’s newsletter, and Happy Easter!
Kerothen, The Commo Crew RIP, Randy