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John P. Lawton

Company L-1

18 Jun 1937 - 3 Sep 2015

Place of Death: Vienna, VA

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery

It is with great regret and sorrow that we must notify you of the death of our Classmate, John Lawton, on September 3, 2015.

John is survived by his wife, Barbara, and his children: Andrew; Matthew, his wife, Tenley, and their children, Brady and Sienna; Kathleen; John Michael; and Mary and her husband, Trevor Smith.

Condolences may be sent to Barbara and the Lawton family at 10120 Westford Drive, Vienna, VA  22182.

Donations in memory of John may be sent to Capital Caring, Resource Development - Donor Services, 2900 Telestar Court, Falls Church, VA  22042 or online at the link in Mary's message. 

John's daughter Mary has reported that a date at Arlington for her father's funeral will be June 14th at 8:45AM. The service will start promptly at 8:45AM at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer followed by the burial and then we would like to have everyone join us to celebrate the amazing man we all loved at the Officer's Club. More details once we connect with the Officers Club however we all know he loved bourbon so we hope you will join us and tell a few Nasty Jack, Maverick (or whatever you called him) stories! 

John Lawton's funeral will be at 8:45 AM on 14 June at the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, VA.  A reception will follow at the Fort Myer Officers Club. 

View Funeral program

 Well done, John.  Be thou at peace.


John P. Lawton, a retired Army colonel and highly decorated Vietnam veteran who later served as Deputy Director of the Office of Memorial Affairs in the Department of Veteran Affairs, died September 3, 2015 at his home in Vienna, VA at the age of 78.

Colonel Lawton, a resident of Northern Virginia since 1987, was born at the Presidio of San Francisco, CA, and was the son of an Army Lieutenant General. He served 37 years in the Army before retiring in 1990. His career included service in Germany and Vietnam where as a commander of a rifle company in the 101st Airborne Brigade he was severely wounded while earning the Distinguished Service Cross. On a subsequent tour in Vietnam, he commanded a Long Range Reconnaissance Company and later a battalion at Fort Dix, NJ. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, he is the holder of two Silver Stars, one Bronze Star for Valor and four Purple Hearts and is a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, GA. He is survived by his wife Barbara and his children Andrew, Matthew, Kathleen, Michael and his grandchildren Brady and Sienna. Burial, with full military honors, will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, at a later date.

Published in The Washington Post on Sept. 6, 2015


Class Memorial Pages\L-1 John Lawton.pdf

Today, September 3, 2015 our father, Col. John P. Lawton, passed away surrounded by his family at home in Vienna, VA. He requested that we say the rosary for him and he passed away during the last decade. He spent his last days surrounded by his children, wife and his friends.

Dad said that each day he lived after Oct. 8 1967 was a gift. His friends and family were the most important things to him in the world, as was the US Army. Dad served 37 years in the US Army, which as you know he thought was the only branch. Dad was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for his extraordinary valor and service.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, details to be sent out once arrangements have been made.

I know it has been a long wait to get this date but we do in fact have a date at Arlington for our father's funeral, June 14th at 8:45AM. The service will start promptly at 8:45AM at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer followed by the burial and then we would like to have everyone join us to celebrate the amazing man we all loved at the Officer's Club. More details once we connect with the Officers Club however we all know he loved bourbon so we hope you will join us and tell a few Nasty Jack, Maverick (or whatever you called him) stories!  

A few of you have reached out with stories you remember about our father and we all laugh just picturing him getting into trouble or being the brave man who raised us to be as stubborn as he was. We look forward to honoring and celebrating his life with all of you in June.

In memory of our Dad donations can be made to Capital Caring Hospice:

Regards, Barbara, Andrew, Matthew, Kathleen, Michael, Mary, Tenley,Trevor,
Sienna and Brady

COL Lawton  was a good influence on my young sons, daughters, my wife and me.  He loved the army, and was especially proud of the infantry and the rangers.  We knew that some parts of his experiences haunted him yet he continued with his life, his family, God and serving others.

Later, I learned from a fellow church member that the rangers honored COL Lawton’s service and heroism in combat with an induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1997.  I am proud to have known COL Lawton during the latter part of his years.

John Aucella  CA Technologies

Taps Memorial Article:

John P. Lawton  ex-1961

Cullum No. 600675 | September 3, 2015 | Died in Vienna, VA
Cremated. Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, VA

John Phillips Lawton was the consummate combat soldier and loyal officer who could always be counted on to tell his superiors what he believed, not necessarily what they wanted to hear. He was an honorable and brave leader, two words he would not use to describe himself.

John, the third and youngest son of William S. (USMA 1922) and Margaret P. Lawton, was born on June 18, 1937 at the Presidio of San Francisco, CA. As most Army brats, John attended numerous elementary schools and three high schools. He graduated from St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC.

After a summer of partying and fun, his father suggested he join the Army. After basic training at Fort Jackson, SC, John came to the realization that he had higher ambitions than performing KP. As a result, he applied and was admitted to the USMA Prep School, where a number of his future classmates saved him from himself enough to get him into West Point with the Class of 1961. After Beast and one semester, the dean and he disagreed on his academic abilities, and he was turned back to rejoin the Class of 1962. This time he lasted a bit longer, but chemistry and physics were his downfall. Despite this outcome, he maintained and cherished the bonds of friendship he made at the Academy.

After a stint (later graduated) at the University of San Francisco, he re-enlisted, completed officer candidate school as a distinguished graduate, was commissioned in the Infantry, and was assigned to Fort Jackson, SC, where he eventually commanded a training company. Volunteering for Vietnam, he became an advisor to the 41st RVN Ranger Battalion, where he earned a Bronze Star Medal and his first Purple Heart. When this tour ended, he extended to join the 101st Airborne Division, first as a staff officer and later as commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry. He fought heroically against an NVA force in a meeting engagement in which his unit was greatly outnumbered. As John would describe, the Vietcong took a “disliking” to him, and he was severely wounded in the leg, arm, and chest as he was running across an open field under heavy enemy fire to aid some of his fallen soldiers. He subsequently spent 14 months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. For these actions and other actions during this two-year tour, he received the Distinguished Service Cross from General Westmoreland ’36, two more Bronze Star Medals, and three additional Purple Hearts. The bonds formed between him and his fellow patients during this time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Ward 1 (the Snake Pit or the Pit), remain until this day, and the stories improve with age. Through humor, tough love, bonds of brotherhood, and incredible strength, the group in the Pit did not dwell on the pain suffered from wounds but rather rolled down the hill to the officers’ club or local watering hole to further their recovery. On one occasion, after seeing the severity of their injuries, a civilian asked them what happened, and someone from the Pit crew said, “We were in a skiing accident”; this speaks to the incredible character and the power of humor this crew later used to lead successful careers in various military and civilian endeavors.

Upon recovery and additional schooling at Fort Benning, GA, he volunteered for a third tour in Vietnam and commanded a long range reconnaissance patrol company in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He frequently went on patrols deep into enemy territory and into actions that earned him two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star Medal for valor. Later, as a battalion commander at Fort Dix, NJ, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal after being wounded protecting the wife of one of his soldiers who had attempted to kill her.

The years following were a bit quiet for John’s taste. He attended Command and General Staff College and the Army War College, was a “B” team commander in the 10th Special Forces Group, and the acting G-3, V Corps after returning to Germany. His last assignment was in the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Department of the Army. Besides the above awards, he earned a Legion of Merit, four Meritorious Service Medals, and was inducted into the Infantry School and Ranger School Halls of Fame.

In 1991, John joined the Veterans Administration, where he served as Deputy Director of the Office of Memorial Affairs, retiring in 2007. Based on his own wounds and experience, he became knowledgeable on the VA disability system. He devoted countless hours of his own time assisting numerous veterans and their families to ensure they received the benefits they deserved.

John met Barbara at the University of San Francisco in 1961 and married her in 1970 upon return from his last tour in RVN. They have five children, one of whom graduated from USMA in 1998. In the summer of 2014, John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died on September 3, 2015, surrounded by his wife and children. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He is survived by his wife and his children: Andrew (Sausalito, CA), Matthew (Aliso Viejo, CA), Kathleen (El Prado, NM), Michael (Denver, CO), and Mary Smith (Boston, MA); three grandchildren: Brady and Sienna Lawton, and Madeleine Smith; his brother, George, and his two sisters, Mary and Jane.

John was a character and loved life. He was a student of history and spent many hours reading historical works. He was confident and outspoken, especially on the subjects of honor and religion, wholeheartedly loved his family, friends, fellow soldiers, and the Army. He held strong opinions on what was right and wrong and was willing to jeopardize his own career and risk his life so standards were upheld. He loved the good life, a great joke, the Redskins, and Army football. He was a superb commander, a fierce warrior, but most of all he was a good, loyal friend, and a devoted and loving father, husband, and brother.

— Brother and his family