Hey Tim! I know, especially on Memorial Day, your family and relatives that are still alive think about you, but I had to let you know that I do too. Did anyone ever thank you for your service to our country? I knew you from the track team and some classes that we took together in High School. We even had a class together our freshman year at UW-M and I picked you up once or twice when you needed a ride. Never got to know you well enough to know that your parents owned a restaurant in Glendale where we lived. Matter of fact I never got to go there until after I was out of service. It felt funny knowing your parents owned it. I never did work up the courage to talk to them after I got back. Something I probably should have done.
My parents received the Glendale Herald weekly and kept your obit for me, but they didn’t send it to me, probably not wanting to upset me by telling me that you were killed in Vietnam. For what ever reason I found out on a bus ride from Shu Linkou Air Base in Taiwan to downtown Taipei where I was assigned as a Navy CT. It was 4 pm or so in the afternoon and I had been doing some security training at the base and was thinking about where I’d get my first drink, where I’d have dinner that evening and who I go out with. I had picked up a Stars and Stripes Armed Forces newspaper and I was dozing as I read it on the Navy/Air Force bus. It was common for me to check the list of killed in Vietnam and that day was no different, except for the fact that I saw your name in the list. I think I stared at that list for the rest of the ride back to Taipei.
I knew a lot of guys were dying everyday in Nam, but I sure didn’t think any of the guys I went to High School would die over there. There were only about ten of us out of our 1965 graduating class of 250 that actually went into service. I joined the Navy so I wouldn’t end up in Vietnam, but then ended up getting credit for four tours over there anyway. I was one of the lucky ones. My ship, the U.S.S, Oklahoma City, got stuck on a sand bar and the Viet Cong picked up on that real quick. They fired at our ship for about 15 minutes, coming to within a football field, but they kept missing. Thanks to God and the Navy Air boys for saving us that time.
You and I must have enlisted up at the same time, right after we had our last exams for our freshman year of college. The last time I saw you was a sheer coincidence. We were taking our physicals for induction into service at the same time, in Milwaukee. Can that really be 47 years ago? That’s when I found out you were going into the Marines. It was a quick five minutes of small talk by two 19 year old acquaintances who were nervous, but didn’t want to show that in front of all the guys around us. We said we’d see each other at our five year reunion from High School. We were both going in for four years and would be out by then. We were 19, probably a little naive and little did we know at that time what the future would hold for us. We were just too young to think about the possibility of dying.
Tim, I may be the only one , but I hope not, of your High School class mates that still thinks about you and how much you could have accomplished and how much you missed. I never doubted that you would be a great Marine because you had the physical and mental strength to get through a really tough boot camp, you knew how to follow orders and you always did what you said you were going to do.
I looked up your name on the “Viet Nam Wall” in DC, when I was out there for some training with AT&T, after it first opened and cried not only when I saw your name, but also for all the men and women who died in that war that I now feel we should never had been in. I now do Funeral Honor Guard for our VFW in the county where I live. When I first got out I was proud of serving in the Navy, but most people had such a bad attitude about Nam Vets that I didn’t want to tell people I served at all. I feel very honored, at this point in my life, to be serving at these funerals to give these Vets one last “thank you” for their service and pray for their peace in Heaven.
I’ll think about you tomorrow as I put on my VFW uniform and participate in the Memorial Day ceremonies we do at seven different cemeteries. I wish I could have had the chance to shake your had and thank you for your service. You gave the ultimate sacrifice for you country and we do appreciate it and thank you for your service.
May You Rest In Peace