PLATTSBURGH — When Leonard Latour opened the door of his Plattsburgh home one evening in June 1966, he knew something was wrong.
As the wind blew and rain fell from the dark sky above, before him stood a U.S. Army major and a priest. They had come with news of his 23-year-old brother Carl, who was serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
“I knew that was the end of it because they just don’t come over for a wounded person,” Leonard recalled.
The visitors told him that Carl had died a few days earlier, on June 24, when he was hit by hostile sniper fire.
“He only had, like, four months left to go,” Leonard said.
Carl’s death marked the first of a local in the Vietnam War, according to his brother.
ONE AT WAR; ONE HOME
Only a year and a half apart in age, Leonard and his older brother had a close relationship.
“We took care of each other,” Leonard said.
When Carl was drafted in 1965, he was eager to serve, according to his brother.
“He was a good soldier,” Leonard said.
In fact, Carl had hoped Leonard would also get drafted and join him in Vietnam.
“He was hoping I’d get there,” Leonard recalled. “He said, ‘I might be your sergeant.’”
The younger Latour, however, was unable to pass the military physical due to a bad knee he had acquired playing baseball.
“They figured I wouldn’t make it in basic training,” he said.
So instead, Leonard experienced the war through his brother’s letters.
Though Carl didn’t want his parents to know the scope of the daily dangers he faced, he shared some of those details with the younger Latour in private correspondence.
“He went through a lot of bad things,” Leonard said.