A Memorial Day Reflection

By Anthony J. Lauinger

Editor’s note. Monday is Memorial Day which brings to mind this powerful story written last year by Tony Lauinger. For the past 22 years he has been vice president of National Right to Life. He and his brother Joe were college classmates at Georgetown University. Joe was killed in action in Vietnam in 1970.

The article below, which first ran May 29, 2017, is part Memorial Day tribute, part college reunion reflection, and part insight into how one of National Right to Life’s officers came to get involved in the pro-life cause.

Memorial Day this year shares the same week as an event that would have been very significant for Joe Lauinger– and is for me, Joe’s classmate in the Georgetown class of 1967. The event is our Georgetown 50th Reunion. The members of our class were each asked to submit a reflection on these past 50 years. I submitted the following.

One of the more realistic movies about Vietnam was based on a book with the poignant title, We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. Reflecting on the past 50 years, we might be excused for a little plagiarism: We were Georgetown students once, and young.

After graduation, I reported to Navy Officer Candidate School. Then came a tour on a patrol gunboat, and later a stint with Georgetown Alumni Association. I married Phyllis White of New York in 1971 while she was in medical school at Columbia. We moved to Oklahoma, where our first child was born in October of 1972. Three months later an event occurred that has overshadowed my life ever since.

Phyllis and I have been blessed with eight children. Phyllis, the heart and soul of our family, put medicine on the back burner during the children’s formative years, and our kitchen became the center of her universe. It’s where the kids came not just for nutritional sustenance, but for spiritual guidance, academic encouragement, emotional support. Phyllis was always there for them – literally and figuratively.

Our children all went to Notre Dame, and our three sons then went on to Georgetown for grad school – one for a medical degree, one for a doctorate in philosophy, and one for a master’s in sports industry management. One of my great joys this past half-century has been coaching my three sons and their buddies in youth football and basketball. We called our little teams the Irish Hoyas. Coaching has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding things I’ve ever done.

I began with a reference to Vietnam. A number of Georgetown students of our era served there; some did not come home. One who didn’t return was our classmate, my younger brother, Joe. Joe’s death in 1970 was one of the two most shattering tragedies I’ve ever known. He was so full of life, and love, and fun. My happiest Georgetown memory of Joe is of his singing with the Chimes. One of Phyllis and my sons is named for Joe, as are two of our 16 grandchildren.

For me, the single most consequential – and devastating – event of the past 50 years was the 1973 Supreme Court decision approving the killing of children in the womb. The death toll from Vietnam was 58 thousand young Americans killed. The number of young American lives taken as a result of Roe v. Wade is 60 million. That is the legacy of Roe v. Wade

Following that Supreme Court decision, Phyllis and I started meeting with a small group of friends in our living room and formed a local pro-life group. That led to involvement in our fledgling state group, Oklahomans For Life, of which I’ve been president since 1978. For the past 21 years I’ve been vice president of the National Right to Life Committee.

Other involvements have included serving on the Board of Directors of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Institute, and on the Executive Advisory Committee of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.

Yes, we were Georgetown students once, and young. We were blessed to have had the opportunity to attend this great University. Each of us has our own distinct story, but we also have much in common. Shaped by varied influences, we’d agree, I suspect, that one of the major intangibles that defines who we are today can be traced to this place, and to that time a half-century ago – to the life lessons learned while we were at Georgetown.

By the world’s measure, we are “old” – while some of our classmates, like Joe, are forever young. May we benefit from the wisdom of age and from God’s grace to live out our lives as our Creator asked so we might all one day be reunited forever in the arms of the Lord.