Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day 2016

Any who have been following this site for any time know that on certain days I try to do something a little different.

Often, on Veteran's Day I try to find a special memorial or tell the story of the day's history etc.

This year I want to tell you of my personal 45 year journey, just completed in the last few days.

In 1966 I was drafted, went to Fort Bragg and then on to Fort Eustis, Va., the Army's Transportation School's location.

There I hooked up with guys that I will consider my friends for the rest of my life. There were several: Ed, Bob and John, in particular. We all ended up together in 'Nam as boat operators. We ran supply up and down the Mekong River to several outposts. As duty in 'Nam goes, it was not the worst, although it did get hairy when we started taking fire from an unseen enemy. Rockets were not unheard off, mostly, but not always, they seemed to miss. We had nothing but M-14's, pretty damn useless.

We all parted company after getting back to the world and tried to get on with our lives, I suppose. As some years went by, I started to think about these guys more and more. After the coming of the internet, I started trying to locate some of them. I knew that Ed and Bob were from Maryland and John was from New York.

Well, I did this off and on to no avail. I could not find one word about these guys anywhere and I would give up for a while, then pick up the search again at some point.

In the last few years, I have been involved in a PTSD group at my local Vet Center and one of the guys said that he had heard from a buddy he hadn't seen or spoken to in 40 some years. The guy told him he was able to find him because he (my buddy) had a fairly uncommon name.

Well, this got me thinking. Who had the most unusual name in our small group? I remembered a guy with a name that you don't hear every day and very quickly found him. Unfortunately, he had less information than I did about the other guys, I, however, was encouraged that I had found one of the old group.

I dug in and started really digging deeper into info sites and, eventually, through some real estate records found John! Using that info, I was able to find him on FB and the minute I saw his page, even after all these years, I knew I had found him. I thought I had really accomplished the impossible, I was elated.

Not so quick! It turns out that John had a FB page that would no longer accept "Friend" requests. Never seen that before, but could not contact him.

I realized after some time that his page had accepted friends at one time, so I messaged every single one of them. In time one of them, the son of his cousin (if I remember correctly) a thirteen year old, notified John that I was looking for him and John, after more than 45 years, contacted me

He said he had been looking for me, too.

Vietnam Memorial in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, NY

Freedom Tower at the WTC, NY
We exchanged some emails and phone calls and I drove up to Long Island to see him. We went to the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center and located a number of Vietnam memorials on long Island, one of which is in his home town and has his name on it, as one who served. He also showed me where a previous memorial stood that had him listed as KIA! He was happy that this was corrected on the new one!

Huntington Township Vietnam Memorial
It turns out that we had both been teachers and photographers so we had way too much to talk about and not enough time to cover all we wanted to say.

It struck me how we remember, or perhaps don't remember things, events and episodes in our own lives. There were several memories that I have carried for 50 years that I now know are just wrong and I remembered things that John had completely forgotten. He told me a story about how on our way to 'Nam, I had been reading John Lennon's A Spaniard in the Works. there was a liner in it that I found funny. "Waggie tail, doggie, waggie tail" I don't know why, but I found that very funny. Now, all these years and several dogs later, John's dog Brutus II, wags his tail madly every time John utters these words. It is funny what your mind does. My PTSD therapist says that the mind does its best to protect you from trauma, by erasing certain memories. I guess this is true as I still struggle with trying to figure out what and why I have forgotten or repressed so much.

I guess the point of this post is this. I've have written a little about these events on FB and a number of you have written back speaking of your frustration in trying to reach old buddies. Well, don't give up, keep trying, because you never know when some thirteen year old kid, that you have never met, will get you in contact with one of them.

In the meantime, accept and enjoy the thanks of a grateful nation on this Veteran's Day. I know that sometimes it seems that there are just a whole lot of vets out there, but at any given time, only one or one and a half percent of the population actually serves, so it isn't as many as it may seem.

Good luck in search for your buddies and Welcome Home.

Next time, on the 16th, we will return to Washington, so join me there at 9:00am. as always.

To see other memorials, from any state, click on the state name on the left side of this page.

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