By Kevin Kelly
AUGUST 29, 1969: As the “H Company” platoon leaders huddled in the darkness of the Quang Nam Province in South Vietnam, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Michael Quinn was tasked with leading his infantry unit on a reconnaissance mission to seek a water supply and identify enemy troop movement. Stealthily executing their directive, Quinn and his troops happened upon a large invading enemy force heading in the direction of “H Company.” Realizing that the only way to alert his fellow marines of the dire situation was to draw fire on his position, Quinn dispatched members of his unit back to “H Company” and engaged the enemy. While that fateful decision resulted in Lt. Michael Quinn making the “ultimate sacrifice,” it also prevented the loss of many lives.
Fellow Marine John Krga recalls: “I had the honor and privilege of serving under Lt. Mike and remember that fateful day all too well as a group of us volunteered to retrieve him, hoping he was still alive. I am not surprised to see that Mike’s memory lives on through the people he touched just as he lives on in me.” Lt. Michael Patrick Quinn is honored on Panel 18W, Row 8 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Noted for his academic and athletic achievement, Michael Quinn accomplished so much in his 23 years. He was a product of his working-class upbringing and a wonderful ambassador for Charlestown where looking out for your neighbor, respecting elders, hard work and “having your friend’s back” were ingrained in him, and his friends, at an early age. Michael graduated from Boston Latin High School as a Scholar Athlete and was selected to the Wolfpack hockey and football Hall of Fame. He also captained both teams and established a reputation as a ferocious competitor. Michael furthered his academic and athletic legacy at the College of the Holy Cross where he, once again, achieved Hall of Fame status in both hockey and football. Michael’s collegiate career epitomized his “Townie” upbringing where the two-sport captain never forgot “where he came from” and always sacrificed for the good of the team. The offensively skilled defenseman (14 goals, 22 assists) not surprisingly led his hockey team in penalty minutes, more likely the result of sticking up for a teammate.
After graduating from college, Michael attended Officer Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia and finished first in his class. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968, assigned to “H” Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division and deployed to Vietnam. Weapons platoon commander Lt. Michael Quinn gave the “ultimate sacrifice” on August 29, 1969 while on patrol near DaNang. He was recognized for his bravery and awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in service to our country in Vietnam.
To continue Mike’s legacy, the Lt. Michael P. Quinn Scholarship was established in 1969 by his friends (most notably Eddie Johnson, Stephen Driscoll and Ronan Fitzpatrick) and family. The criteria for the scholarship include promise of academic success, substantial athletic achievement, responsible citizenship and financial need. Over the past 50 years, more than $200,000 has been awarded to “Townie” high school graduates looking to pursue a college education.
In my opinion, there is no higher honor than being the parent of a Quinn Scholar and there is no place I would rather be than in the company of Michael’s family and friends at the annual Quinn Scholarship banquet. While the anguish of Michael’s loss is still palatable so many years after his passing, the inspiration of Michael’s legacy – recounted annually by Quinn Scholarship committee members and esteemed guest speakers – is something I will always treasure. GOB BLESS MICHAEL QUINN and GOD BLESS MICHAEL’S FRIENDS AND FAMILY!