Remembering Sgt. Melvin Wink

By on November 9, 2011

Sgt. Melvin WinkSgt. Melvin Wink

June 1, 1970 will always be a sad day for the Wink family, who are longtime residents of the Brownstown area. On that day, U.S. Army Sergeant Melvin Ralph Wink of Troop A, 3/4 Cavalry, was killed in action during an ambush near the Cambodian border.

In contrast, May 28, 2011, will always be remembered as day of inspiration and enlightenment. Only a few days shy of 41 years later, the Wink siblings along with numerous other family members, enjoyed a sunny afternoon picnic at Roland Memorial Park in Akron in the company of Vietnam veteran John Brady and his wife.

Brady not only knew Melvin, but had been on patrol with him at the time of the attack. Previously, the Wink family had only known precious few details about the circumstances of Melvin’s sacrifice. Brady provided an in-depth account of the day’s events, which served to give a measure of closure to Melvin’s three brothers, two sisters and his widow.

Members of the Wink family had always wondered if any veteran would be willing to share any information about Melvin. At the same time, Brady had always wondered how he could go about attempting to contact Melvin’s family.

Thanks to the efforts of David Olsen, also a Vietnam veteran and administrator of the Vietnam Veteran’s 3/4 Cavalry website, some members of the family were put in touch with Brady early in the year.

E-mails and phone call exchanges led to the idea of planning a lunch date, where immediate family members could meet and chat with Brady. However, what initially started out a simple luncheon turned into an all-day affair complete with a spiritually uplifting stop at the site of Melvin’s grave in Lititz. It proved to be a day of closure for Brady as well.

"I’m a strong believer of fate, and to this day, I feel that Melvin is still looking over me [the Alpha Company, First Platoon]. All looked up to Melvin, for he had a very calming effect on us. He was so kind and soft-spoken. He had such a leadership quality to him that gave us a sense of security," Brady reflected. "He always made sure we had all our equipment on and was always on the lookout for the enemy."

Brady shared many stories and facts throughout the day. Among the most profound piece of information was that Melvin had a hand in saving Brady’s life. While on patrol hunting for weapon caches and stockpiles, Brady was seated next to Melvin on the transport vehicle. When Wink noticed movement ahead, he immediately advised Brady to take his position in the tank. Right after Brady had moved, the transport vehicle came under fire and the first of at least three rocket-propelled grenades hit in the exact spot where Brady had just been seated.

Brady believes it was shrapnel from the third RPG that fatally wounded Melvin as he returned fire.

"It was so comforting to [discover] that from Melvin’s bravery, a life was saved, possibly more than one," commented one of Melvin’s sisters.

"I want to believe in my heart of hearts that he did not die in vain. I have feelings of guilt that I made it home and he didn’t," Brady commented. "I was so angry, confused, sad and bitter the day he died; and I looked up to the sky, clenched my fists and asked God ‘Why? Why? Why?’ I have made peace with God and I now understand that there is a reason for everything; and God is in control of my life."

In addition to stories, photographs, letters, medals and fellowship were shared among everyone who attended. Family members were extremely grateful for Brady and his wife for making the almost seven-hour drive from New York to Pennsylvania.

In fact, Brady has become almost like an extended member of the family, with several members calling him "Uncle John". The day was the start of what is expected to be an ongoing relationship, as e-mails, phone calls and Facebook messages continue to be exchange on a regular basis.

Upon his return to New York, Brady related the trip’s outcome of his next meeting with his psychologist he has been seeing to address post-traumatic stress.

"Everyone was so nice and accepting and helpful to me, and I was honored to talk with them after so much time went by," Brady said. "I had wanted to tell them how much I think of Melvin to this day and that he saved me. It was so amazing and healing to be able to do that."

It’s a sentiment that both the Wink family and Olsen share. They encourage any Vietnam veteran, especially members of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, to visit the following websites, where family members can reach out to veterans who welcome contact: More WINK, page A18

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