Local American Legion Riders honor fallen veteran

When several Post 46 American Legion Riders noticed Darwin Judge’s grave marker sinking earlier this year they took action.

With the family’s permission, they put a new granite slab under it and added a flower vase and plaque. Judge is buried in the local Rose Hill Memorial Gardens next to his parents, Henry and Ida Judge.

Mike Ball of the Riders said plans are underway to also install a bench in Darwin’s honor.

“It was an honor to be involved in the project, and on behalf of the Riders, we were glad to be of assistance,” said Ball. “Rose Hill staff have told us that visitors come from out of town to pay their respects to Darwin.”

Lance Cpl. Judge, 19, of Marshalltown along with Charles McMahon, Jr., 21, of Woburn, Mass., had their young lives cruelly extinguished by a 122 mm North Vietnamese rocket, which scored a direct hit on their Post 2, Tan Son Nhut airport near Saigon.

Judge and McMahon were on guard, and were the last American servicemen to die from enemy action on Vietnam’s soil.

They died just hours before the beginning of the evacuation of Saigon, which ended April 30, 1975.

“After the U.S. withdrawal in 1973, about the only Americans left in South Vietnam were a few dozen Marines assigned to guard the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and four consulate offices in other cities,” according to CNN. “Judge had graduated from boot camp at the top of his class and probably was assigned embassy duty as a reward.”

Judge’s late mother, Ida Judge, talked with the T-R at the family home in April 2010, near the 35th anniversary of her son’s death.

She died in 2011. Her husband and Darwin’s father, Henry, died in 2002.

“Every place you look you find something that Darwin made,” Ida said, while holding several small wood and leather craft projects crafted by Darwin in Boy Scouts.

Darwin was an Eagle Scout.

“He was also making little things and he liked his Boy Scouts,” Ida said. “He’d say he was going to make something and he would work until he got it.”

Darwin made a grandfather clock which stood in the living room.

“He made that the last seven weeks he was in (high) school,” Ida said.

Ida said Darwin enlisted in the Marine Corp after high school.

“He wanted to be the best, that’s why he joined the Marines,” she said.

That effort continued in Darwin’s role in Saigon’s evacuation.

“He carried a little girl, a fellow Marine’s daughter, out to a plane,” Ida said. “I was told that she graduated from college.”

Respect for Darwin by his friends and those who knew him is compelling.

“Darwin was the type of boy who had questions for everything, wanting to learn and help other members of his troop,” his former Scoutmaster Mark Frank, of Sibley, wrote. “Let us not forget this young man and the freedom he stood for.”

Another friend, John Grindstaff, who graduated from Marshalltown High School with Darwin in 1974 shared these words: “He was always devoted to this country and I attempted to follow his patriotism. I have always felt a deep sense of loss from his passing and that of my brother-in-law who was also killed in Vietnam. He was a true hero and a great friend.”

Marshalltown did not forget their native son.

A large color photo of Judge and plaque, is displayed prominently near Marshalltown High School’s main entrance. A park on 12th Street is named in his honor. The Historical Society of Marshall County has a large display on its second floor dedicated to Judge, McMahon and all veterans.

The late Paul G. Norris, a T-R editor, wrote of Judge in his “Memorable People” book: “His accomplishments in his brief life reveal that Darwin Judge was an exemplary young man, the type destined for success in any field he choose — is further proof of the hoary adage that ‘the good die young.’

“Yet his death in serving his country in a cause in which he fervently believed is not a waste — except in the sense that all wars are wasteful — for in his brief years he achieved more success than many who have lived four times as long.”

“Way to go Riders!,” wrote Post 46 President Randy Kessler. “Way to honor a fallen hero! A perfect example of American Legion members continuing to serve.”

Darwin’s sister, Lori (Judge) DeSaulniers of Marshalltown was grateful.

“We appreciate everything they (the Riders) have done,” she said.

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Contact Mike Donahey at

641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com