Veterans’ families share bond at The Wall That Heals
PADUCAH — A woman from Massachusetts traveled to The Wall That Heals at Carson Park to honor her brother and the Paducah veteran who tried to save him.
Maureen Murphy-Payne says her brother, Richard “Dick” Murphy, of Norwood, Massachusetts, was killed by a sniper in Vietnam on June 15, 1968. The same sniper also killed two Navy hospital corpsmen who tried to provide aid to Richard — William Mercer, of Los Angeles, and James Dale Cruse, of Paducah.
James posthumously received a Navy Cross for his valor.
James’ brother, Fred Cruse, still lives in Paducah. Over the weekend, he and Maureen were able to talk and catch up while they were both volunteering at The Wall That Heals. Maureen says her family and the Cruse family have formed a strong bond after learning of James trying to save Richard.
“The courage that they displayed, you know, we’re all so appreciative of what they gave up, just to think what their lives would have been, you know? So we’re so appreciative because we all live every day with our freedoms, and it’s always said but there’s a huge cost to it,” said Maureen.
Maureen says she was just 13 years old when she learned about her brother’s death from her father.
“One of my older brothers came in, and we all tried to console the three younger boys. I mean, we were in pain as well, obviously. But we were caring for our siblings,” Maureen recalled.
And even 50 years later, Maureen still fondly remembers her brother’s personality.
“He was very fun-loving. He was a good boy, never got into any trouble, and as I mentioned to you, he was a protector,” said Maureen. “It’s very sad when I think of everything that our family has missed not having Dickie here in our lives.”
On Saturday, Maureen placed tributes at the panel with her brother’s name. Just a few lines above Murphy’s name is Cruse’s.
“I know they’re together in heaven and they’re looking down on us, and they would want us to do what we’re doing here — speaking their names so that they live on forever,” said Maureen.
Maureen says her family first learned about their connection with the Cruse family during a police convention, when one of her brothers talked with James Cruse’s nephew. The two families have been in touch ever since.