When Hugh Thompson set out to confront a column of American soldiers bent upon murder that morning at My Lai, he told his 18 year-old M60 gunner, Larry Colburn, that “if they shoot at those people, you shoot at them”.
Having gone their separate ways by the mid-1970s, Messrs. Colburn and Thompson were reunited in 1988 by Michael Bilton, the British documentarian and writer, who was then at work on a film about the My Lai Massacre.
Screened in the U.S. by the PBS Frontline Series in 1989, the film, Remember My Lai, resurrected the long-dormant story of three compelling young Americans who dared to do the right thing that morning of March 16, 1968. Soon, letters of thanks began to arrive, as did invitations to speak before service academy and college audiences. In 1998, Mr. Colburn stood with Mr. Thompson and was also awarded the Soldiers Medal for courage above and beyond the call of duty.
Speaking to and with young adults led Mr. Colburn and Mr. Thompson to the discovery of a public life, a vocation, one they would pursue together until Mr. Thompson’s death in 2006.
Larry Colburn was at Mr. Thompson's bedside when death came on January 6. He then delivered the eulogy at Mr. Thompson's funeral service.