Carlos Gohagin places a flag at the McCullough Cemetery gravesite of his brother Rayford, who died while serving in Vietnam in 1969.
Carlos Gohagin places a flag at the McCullough Cemetery gravesite of his brother Rayford, who died while serving in Vietnam in 1969.

‘More than a brother’

Published 2:31pm Sunday, May 26, 2013

Carlos Gohagin couldn’t wait for his younger brother Rayford to get back from Vietnam in the spring of 1969 because he planned to take him fishing.

Rayford never grabbed a pole.

The 22-year-old son of Joseph and M. Lucille Gohagin was about a week away from being discharged from the U.S. Army when his group was attacked by the enemy while setting up a Fire Support Base, Airborne, 25 miles southwest of Hue in Vietnam, reads a letter sent to Rayford’s wife, Connie, by his commanding officer, Andrew P. Sugarick.

“We figured he’d already be on his way home,” Carlos said. “We weren’t expecting news like that.”
In the letter, dated May 3, 1969, Sugarick wrote that Rayford, a Specialist 5, “was an outstanding non-commissioned officer.”

“He was hard working and conscientious in all that he did and his personal courage and leadership on the battlefield won him the respect of all the officers and men in this (101st Airborne) battalion,” he wrote. “Like you, we will deeply miss him.”

The letter arrived after the family was notified of Rayford’s death. Reading it was tough, Carlos said.

“It was like being told again,” he said.

Rayford was awarded a Bronze Star “for heroism in ground combat against a hostile force in Vietnam,” reads a letter dated July 19, 1969. Rayford was mortally wounded by an enemy satchel charge while trying “to obtain a better firing position” for his M-16, the letter continues.

Carlos said Rayford was already supposed to have been discharged at the time of his death, but he extended his service for a month. In letters to the family, Carlos said Rayford had already identified where he would be discharged.

“That’s how close he was,” Carlos said.

In addition to the planned fishing trip, Carlos said his family had a planned a party for Rayford, a brother with whom he shared a deep connection.

“He was more than a brother,” Carlos said. “He was a brother, brother. He was one step closer than a brother.”

The eldest brother of the Gohagin clan, Howard, said he and his brother try to visit Rayford’s grave at McCullough Cemetery as often as they can. In addition to putting an American flag at the site every Memorial and Veterans’ day, Carlos said they visit about a half dozen times a year.

On a trip to the cemetery Friday morning, Carlos brought his 7-year-old great-grandson Brodie Rolin along. Howard made the trip also.

“(His service) is something you have to be proud of,” Carlos said. “This is a reminder of what he gave up for us.”

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