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A quiet salute to a long ago fallen friend by BacTien
A kid who was friends with my cousin/neighbor and through that contact, became friends with me. Whenever he came for a visit, the three of us would play together. Baseball. Fishing in the creek. Walking the rails, trying to be the last to fall off. As soon as high school was over, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps. (I can't remember if it was 1965 or 1966.) He found himself at Khe Sahn. He was shot through the neck and air evaced. It turned out to be one of those miracle shots. The bullet passed through with minimum damage (although from what we heard, he looked dead when they took him out.) His recovery was swift but because of the wound, he could have accepted a transfer (as I recall, stateside was one option). He said no thanks. He wanted to be back with his unit. He boarded a C-123 (I think) to be re-inserted. The plane was shot down and he was killed.
I've never forgotten him. Lots of folks died but he was the first of my friends - the first person I knew - to die in Vietnam. I must have thought of him a hundred times when I was there and ten times that since.
My memories are fading. Specific things of my past are no longer clear. But I remember him. His blond hair. His blue eyes.
I think that I will always remember him.
If I cry on Memorial Day, and I usually do, it is because of him.