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MY HERO: 50 Years On, Sister Honors Soldier’s Sacrifice by Connecting His Comrades

Vic Best died bravely in 1967. Decades later, his sister Liz came to terms with his loss by giving back to veterans

spinner image liz condon, dressed in a link sweater, uses her finger to scan names engraved into stone at the vietnam memorial
Liz Condon searches for her brother Vic's name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Anna Muhhina/Wish Of A Lifetime

Fifty years after her beloved brother Vic was killed in Vietnam, Liz Condon became an unlikely link among those he served with. AARP-affiliated charity Wish of a Lifetime celebrated her work with veterans by sending her on an emotional visit to Washington, D.C.

“He was the best brother,” Liz Condon told AARP Veteran Report. “He was like my rock.” Hugh Victor Best died at Phuoc Long in Vietnam in 1967 in an act of bravery that saved the lives of other American soldiers. Vic was 21 and Liz was just 18.

spinner image closeup of a rusty dog tag with the text thank you veterans engraved in it, next to a flag of the United States

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

Liz and Vic were military brats — their father was an Air Force colonel — and grew up together on bases around the world.

“He was very protective,” Condon explained. “When Dad wasn’t there, Vic would meet my dates at the door. I’m not sure who they were more afraid of, my dad or my brother.”

After raising a family and spending 31 years as a teacher, Liz was finally ready to come to grips with her grief.

“A lot of it I shut up inside of me,” she said.

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‘What I was meant to do’

Condon visited the Vietnam Wall for the first time in 2007. While there, her husband struck up a conversation with a pair of veterans who had served in the 11th Armored Cavalry—Vic’s regiment. The couple were invited to the unit’s next reunion.

A photo Condon brought to the gathering, taken by her brother, featured a man identified on the back as “Bill.” Vic’s platoon commander helped fill in the blanks—Bill was short for Guillermo, and Guillermo and Vic had been best friends.

Condon’s next mission was to find Guillermo, who had lost touch with his comrades. Soon, Guillermo was back in the fold at reunions.

“If you found me,” Guillermo told her, “maybe you can find other people.”

She jumped into the work. She wrote letters, scoured the internet and even enlisted detective agencies.

Her voice crackled with delight as she described her work rebuilding lost connections.

“That’s what I was meant to do,” she said.

‘Exactly the person who he was’

She now cherishes her own connections with men who knew Vic: “I’m so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to find people that talked to him, that could tell me stories about him.”

Vic “could be a real turkey,” Condon laughs. Vic and Guillermo “were both goofballs—their antics kept everybody’s spirits up.”

Part of Condon’s journey was learning more about how Vic died. The citation for his Bronze Star with “V” device describes how he was moving through the jungle in an attempt to locate two Viet Cong soldiers when his combat patrol came under fire.

“Specialist Best, with complete disregard for his own safety, immediately began to place return fire on the enemy position which allowed the remainder of his patrol to seek cover.

“Remaining exposed to the Viet Cong, Specialist Best continued to fire until he was struck by fragments from enemy rifle grenades and killed.”

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Vic’s platoon commander told Condon, “I never saw anybody whose death affected so many people like your brother’s.”

She said, “I had an image in my mind of who my brother was, and the kind of person he was, but I didn’t know if that was just what I wanted it to be or what it really was. What brought so much healing is I discovered the person I remembered is exactly the person who he was.”

‘I talk to Vic almost every day’

Last November, Wish of a Lifetime sent Condon and a friend to Washington, D.C. It was a well-deserved celebration.

They spent three nights and two full days in Washington. As part of the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam Wall, every name on the wall was read out loud. Condon read the name of her brother.

spinner image two people stand in front of the lincoln memorial in washington d c
Liz Condon poses with a friend by the Lincoln Memorial during her AARP Wish of a Lifetime trip.
Anna Muhhina/Wish of a Lifetime

She also visited the Lincoln Monument, the National Cathedral, the Air and Space Museum Annex, and Arlington National Cemetery, where Vic is buried.

“It was beyond words,” she said. “I’m so eternally grateful for it. It brought a lot of closure.

“I talk to Vic almost every day.”

AARP’s Wish of a Lifetime actively encourages veterans and their families to apply for a wish.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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