Here we are at another Memorial Day weekend. Each year I wonder how much the younger generations know about this day or why we celebrate it. There does however seem to have been a resurgence of nationalism disguised as an attribute of conservatism. Perhaps its good if somewhat misguided. It seems to me that anyone who understands the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces gets it, regardless of their politics.
I suppose I was very fortunate during my tour in Vietnam that I didn't lose a close friend or even a casual acquaintance. My friends that I joined the Marines with in 1967 had a very different experience in Nam than I did.
Russell and Buddy both spent a good deal of time dodging bullets and artillery. Buddy took an AK round through his helmet (just the steel pot) and it went around the plastic liner and out the back. It knocked him on his butt and he had a headache for months, but when I saw him at Freedom Hill in Da Nang he was alive and healthy, though extremely salty and not the kid I with which I went through boot camp. He was a radio man in an infantry platoon and put his life on the line every day they were in the field.
Russell received the navy cross for taking ammo and supplies into Hue during a time when they were being shelled by NVA artillery. I was told the intensity was something like a thousand rounds a day.
I on the other hand just had rockets and snipers at Da Nang airfield to contend with.
We did lose two COs and their radio operators to North Vietnamese anti-aircraft up north. Our squadron flew F-4Bs for photo recon in North Vietnam and it was very dangerous work for the pilots and crew. Another squadron lost 8 men who were killed in their hut by a 122 MM rocket one night during my tour.
If I remember the numbers correctly there were 50,000 Americans killed in Vietnam and over 300,000 wounded. If you want to know more; look here.
So this was my war and these are the soldiers, sailors, airmen, coasties and Marines I will be remembering on Monday. We'll enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers from the grill with our oldest daughter and maybe some of my wife's spaghetti salad (which requires Garbanzos beans that I forget to pick up at the grocery store). I'll hang the flag out front since I was able to buy one while getting the Garbanzos.
At some point I'll say a prayer for all those lost and their families. In that prayer will be a plea that some day we won't have to send our sons and daughters into harm's way.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend,