Vietnam veteran honors wife at Florence National Cemetery

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Thousands of flags wave in honor of Memorial Day at the Florence National Cemetery, and for some who come to celebrate this holiday, it truly is a time filled with memories.

Vietnam veteran Richard Tumlin spent Sunday afternoon at the national cemetery where he reflected on his time served in the military and the woman who lured him away from returning to service.

Tumlin was drafted into the United States Army in 1970 when he was just 19-years-old.

“It’s 24/7. you know,” recalls Tumlin. “You’re always in the military when you’re there. I was in Vietnam for 11 months, so I know what it’s like.”

Tumlin’s trip to the Florence cemetery wasn’t to celebrate his own service, however. He was there to honor his late wife, Melba, the one woman who could pull him away from the military and war.

Tumlin honors his wife who passed away in November 2016.

“She was the reason I did not stay in probably,” smiles Tumlin. “I met her right after I got in, and I got off duty in March and we married in August and now 45 years later…” Tumlin’s thoughts drift to just a few months ago.

Tumlin’s wife of more than four decades suffered a heart attack in November 2016, so now, Tumlin comes to the site of the waving flags to remember his life with Melba.

As Tumlin builds his own Memorial Day traditions, he says he’s glad that the community continues to celebrate and honor the lives of those lost defending our country and he hopes the next generation will carry on those traditinos.

“One of my grandsons is thinking about the military, and I hope he goes. It will be good for him,” predicts Tumlin.

More than 12,000 flags were placed in Florence National Cemetery, one for each grave marker.