Son finally gets fuller picture of ‘SGT. MAC’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mike Mc-Cullough has been trying to find information about the man in the family photo albums alongside his mother.

The man whose picture sits in a frame on her china cabinet.

The tall man with the piercing blue eyes, similar to his own.

The man who was his father.

“I used to sneak around the house and look at the old photo albums and newspaper articles that my mom had,” he said. “I’ve always been wondering just who my dad was.”

Sgt. 1st Class Alfred McCullough was killed in Vietnam when Mike was 1 year old.

“I wonder how I would have turned out had he been around,” Mike McCullough said.

After his father’s death, his mother moved the family from Germany to Colorado Springs, never remarrying.

Mike McCullough was 37 when he started going on the Internet to search for information about his father. Now 40, the Pikes Peak Community College employee hit pay dirt over the weekend after he and his mother were invited to attend a reunion of his father’s unit in Louisville.

Silver-haired men gathered around a table to meet and share their 40-year-old memories and thoughts about “Sgt. Mac.”

Alfred McCullough served in the Army for 12 years and was 33 when he was killed by small-arms fire in Binh Tuy, South Vietnam.

He is buried at Fort Riley in Kansas.

He left behind five children; Mike is the youngest.

“I knew right off the bat that was Sgt. Mac’s kid when I looked in those blue eyes,” Ron Betz said. Alfred McCullough “was a tall quiet man with a thick reddish mustache. I remember he died in the morning. We lost three men that day.”

Retired Sgt. Edward Brown Jr. added, “He was a gentleman’s soldier. He brought his point across in a smooth way. He was a real good man that took good care of us.”

Both men served under Alfred McCullough in Blackhorse 11th Armored Cavalry A-Troop in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

The McCulloughs were contacted by the Blackhorse 11th Armored Cavalry Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia this year.

The organization aims to honor those who fought and died during Vietnam. It formed Operation Embrace last year to locate, notify and welcome the families of men who died into the “Band of Brothers,” said Charles Schmidt, president of the organization.

Mike and his mother, Johanna, represented one of about 60 families that attended alongside the 1,500 members in Louisville over the weekend.

Johanna McCullough, 72, brought military photos and newspaper articles to the reunion, including an article about her receiving her husband’s Silver Star for service in combat.

“There are more photos I can bring next year” when the unit will reunite again in Chicago, she said.

“When I saw ‘McCullough’ on the name tag I thought, ‘That’s Sgt. Mac’s boy!’ and gave him a big hug,” said Jack Morrison, 59. “I didn’t cry, but I was close.”

“McCullough was my platoon sergeant,” Morrison said. “My memory is not what it used to be, but I told him (Mike) what I could about his father.”

It was far more than Mike McCullough had known before going to Kentucky.

“I do wish there was more discussion about my father when I was younger, but I’ve discovered it’s never too late to learn about your family,” he said.

Mother and son said the weekend brought them closer.

“It’s so nice to know our family was not forgotten,” she said.

Mike said all he wanted was to get a bit of information about his father.

“And now, through these men, I have a stronger bond to him,” he said.

(Published in the Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette on September 10, 2007)