We will soon celebrate, in my opinion, the most important holiday of the year – Memorial Day – on Monday, May 29.
On this day we honor the men and women who died while serving in the military to protect our freedom. It started with the American Revolution and its 4,435 military casualties. Next, we had the War of 1812 where we suffered 2,260 military casualties.
The next war to defend our freedom was WWI – known as the war to end all wars – where we sustained another 116,516 military casualties. This was followed by WWII, where an incredible 405,399 very brave young men and women died, including the person I was named after. We then lost 36,574 Americans in the Korean war, followed by the war I fought in, Vietnam, where 58,220 brave Americans were killed.
It’s because of these very brave people that we can enjoy our lives in this wonderful country.
On May 29, many ceremonies will be held throughout Palm Beach County to honor these brave heroes. I hope that you will take the time to attend one of these events.
In Wellington, services will be held at the Veterans Memorial at Forest Hill and South Shore boulevards, where the village council and the American Legion will join together for this very humbling event.
There also will be a parade from Village Hall to the memorial with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, honor guards from the Sheriff’s department and the Palm Beach County Fire Department and, of course, area veterans.
There will be a few short speeches followed by laying wreaths at the memorial, a 21-gun salute and, at the very end, taps will be played.
It is a very moving event. Each year it brings tears to my eyes. It also brings back a lot of memories for me. Some good, some not so good.
While serving in Vietnam I lost some very dear friends to enemy fire. On June 4, it will be 50 years since I began my tour, but I can never get some of the images out of my mind. I was 19 and 20 when I served, and my friends who died there were about the same age. They never had the chance to go on with their lives. Most never knew the joy of having a wife, children and grandchildren.
They were taken off of planet Earth way too early. I’m sure the Man upstairs has reasons why they were selected, but I’m still trying to understand.
In one situation, a few of us from our unit were in a small convoy coming down a mountain when we got ambushed. My buddy sitting right next to me in our truck was shot in the arm. Somehow, the bullet went through his arm and into his heart. He died on the spot in my lap. He was the first of many friends that I would lose during the year I was in Vietnam.
It was the first time I saw a dead body so close to me and to this day I wonder why him and not me. He was about six inches away from me when he was shot.
Some things just stay with you forever, and this is one of them for me. I would never want my kids or grandchildren to go through what I went through at such a young age.
Now, three of my grandsons are getting close to the age I was when I got drafted and they’re starting to ask questions about my time in the service. I try to answer them as gentle as I can.
If and when they read this, it will be the first time they – along with my kids and Sharon – will hear this story, just one of many I have, but so far haven’t shared. I usually only talk about Vietnam experiences with other vets. They can relate.
To this day, my wife and my kids don’t have a clue what I went through in Vietnam, and I’m very happy for this.
If you’re at Wellington’s Memorial Day ceremony, please come by to say hello.