one of maybe a dozen little boys growing up together in the same
Decatur neighborhood in the 1950s, smiling in a team photo in
their navy-and-white Cubs Little League outfits.
Hannans / AJC
Pfeifer of the Mableton Marble Co. installs a Vietnam
memorial honoring Allan Callaway, who was killed by a
land mine in that war. The monument will be at the
DeKalb County Courthouse.
Allan Callaway was a dark blond, brown-eyed kid, the son and
little brother who delighted in all-out water warfare with the
garden hoses on the front lawn.
He was a mechanic who built his own go-cart, faster than the
ones that came from Sears, and later had no hesitation about
tinkering with the innards of a U.S. Army tank to make it fire
He was an Eagle Scout and No. 1 graduate from
Non-Commissioned Officers School.
And Callaway was the soldier platoon leader Tim Kerns
remembers riding off to his death in the South Vietnamese plain
near Cambodia with a wide grin and a jaunty thumb's-up.
Hours after that cheerful goodbye, on Feb. 21, 1969, Callaway
stepped on a land mine strong enough to blow up a 52-ton tank.
Callaway, who was 24 when he died, will be honored today when
the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association unveils a
memorial in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse in downtown
Decatur. The group has put up such memorials to individual
Atlantans throughout the metro area for Memorial Day annually
Callaway was leading three tanks, his acting as an escort for
the second, which was towing one that had been disabled by a
mine. They were traveling from near the Cambodian border toward
the town of Long Binh for repairs.
It was a clear morning and a smooth-running assignment, said
John Van Nuss, who was driving the second tank, until Callaway
stepped onto a road, packed with red clay reminiscent of his
home, and detonated a buried mine.
"It was a total surprise and an accident. Nobody knew
when these things would happen," Van Nuss said. "Every
tree, anthill, pile of grass -- you never know."
Callaway, the son of former Decatur Mayor Pro Tem Roe
Callaway and Lois Callaway, was posthumously awarded the Bronze
Star with a V Device and the Purple Heart.
Several of Callaway's friends insist that his final resting
place is not, in fact, beneath the small, flat granite marker
that bears his name in the northeast quadrant of Decatur
Cemetery, just in front of his mother's grave and with a
view of the Glenn Lake baseball field where he once pitched a
Little League no-hitter.
Callaway's spirit, they say, is with them.
"It's been over 33 years, but Allan has always held a
special place in my heart," Kerns said. "One of the
residuals of war, sometimes sad and sometimes happy, is that we
remember our fallen brothers -- some of us every day. So, in a
very good sense, Allan is with us always."