Tarleton State University Police Officer Malinda Spence has never had the opportunity to visit the hallowed black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and see her father’s name inscribed.
But a rubbing off Panel 9W commands a place of honor in her De Leon home. How it got there reflects admiration for a colleague, homage to an era, and brotherhood for a fallen comrade who gave his all for his country and his best, his daughter, to a university in Texas.
U.S. Army Warrant Officer Alex C. Spence Jr., a native of Tonawanda, N.Y., and a member of the 1st Aviation Brigade, died June 20, 1970, after his UH-1C helicopter reportedly evaded enemy fire, struck several treetops and lost power, crashing in South Vietnam’s Kien Hoa Province.
He was 23. His baby girl was 3.
He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, N.Y. His name is among the 58,000-plus U.S. armed forces members listed at the memorial.
Tarleton assistant police chief Alvin Allcon learned of Malinda losing her father during a casual conversation on campus earlier this year. Allcon served in Vietnam with U.S. Naval Reserve forces from 1972-74.
“I’m not sure why, but she informed me that her dad had died in Vietnam when she was young,” Allcon said. “I asked if she had ever been to D.C. and the memorial, and when she said she had not, I told her I would try and get her a rubbing of her dad’s name if she could give me some info on its location.”
It is difficult for Allcon to explain the feelings he has processed over the years, but he still remembers how his generation was treated when he was in the service.
“This started out with me just wanting to do the rubbing of Malinda’s dad’s name, but then it kind of grew, and I wanted it to be something special for her,” he said. “In being able to do that, it helps me process all of the emotions I have. I was not a combat veteran, but I realize I sometimes hold resentment due to everything that happened back then.”
Allcon went to D.C. in May for National Police Memorial Week, representing the university for fallen Tarleton Officer W.A. Hail, whose name was added to the National Peace Officers Memorial. Allcon made the graphite rubbing of “Alex C. Spence Jr.” and took a few pictures of Panel 9W.
Back home in Stephenville, he had the graphite rubbing, his photo of Alex Spence’s etched name, and three nighttime images of the memorial by Tarleton photographer Kurt Mogonye arranged into a collage, matted in army green.
Army Warrant Officer Spence’s daughter joined the Tarleton Police Department in August 2015, after stints with the Fort Worth, Colleyville and Dublin police departments. She’s now in her 20th year working in community law enforcement.
On July 26, Allcon called her to the police station from her campus patrol duties and presented her with the keepsake.
She never saw it coming.
Visibly emotional, she said it would be proudly displayed in her home.
“I can’t express how moved I was. Not only did my colleagues go the extra mile to make it very special for me, they went above and beyond to honor my dad,” she said. “I am very blessed to be at Tarleton and part of a really great bunch of coworkers and supervisors. The Tarleton campus is filled with such great people, across all departments.”
The moment was not lost on Tarleton Chief of Police Matt Welch.
“Assistant chief Al Allcon, having served in the Navy during the Vietnam era, has a special place in his heart for Vietnam veterans,” Welch said. “His present to officer Spence not only touched her but everyone else at the Tarleton Police Department.”