On this Memorial Day weekend, and for what
it is worth in the "Not Forgetting Department": While I was a USAF Combat
Comm Team Commander in the mid 60's, one of our many missions was to
install a mobile TACAN on mountain top somewhat north of Dong Ha. There
was an infantry unit operating in the area, and the commander thoughtfully
offered to attach a squad of his guys to my team to help us with defense
of our site, which I of course accepted.
One of the guys was Matthew, who had been
drafted, and was from So. Calif. not far from where I grew up. We
took minor harassment most every night, but on one night, "the other guys"
got really serious. We finally prevailed, but with a number of injuries,
Matthew seriously. His squad leader and I began to carry him to a med evac
point that had been set up about a km away. On the way, Matthew said,
"Lieutenant, please don't forget me." I assumed he was concerned in case
we had to put him down that we'd come back for him, and I assured him we'd
get him to the evac and that there was no way I'd ever forget him. We got
there, they treated us, but Matthew had died.
It was early morning of the second day of
his 19th year. Matthew wasn't the first troop or comrade I had lost, and
he wasn't the last, but he was the first that asked to be remembered just
before he died. When I finally returned to the CONUS, I faced a
problem. Every time I went back and revisited my experiences, I triggered
a rash of violent dreams, but I had promised I wouldn't forget. Andrea
finally said, "How about a flag." I put up a flag pole and got a
flag from my Senator. I made a list with Matthew on top, and each of the
guys I knew who had died, beneath him.
Each day, I would put up the flag for the
next guy on the list, and I still do. Over the years, I've added the
friends, their kids, and now grandkids who were or are serving in combat
zones. In times when we are at war, Andrea and I usually have a couple of
pen pals to whom we send packages (We have two right now from
Anysoldier.com). They too get their flag day, and the next day I put it up
for their whole unit. It gives me a non-threatening moment each day to
remember each of them, and if it's a troop I actually knew, I can connect
a face with the name on the list.
While I was still employed, I got the boss
to install a flag pole for us, and my veteran colleagues and I (and some
non-vets too) began doing the same thing at work. I still have
occasional violent dreams, and I've just learned to live with them. They
started out as video/audio replays of real events, but over time, they're
now usually pieces and parts from different events strung together
differently each time into things that are real but never actually
happened. That is, except for one. Matthew has remained a verbatim replay
for me to this day. I'm glad.
As I said, FWIW, that's how I remember. I
can't imagine how many different ways guys have figured out to remember
... whatever works. I really don't think any of us want to ever forget.
Keep the faith,
Fred Jensen K6DGW/AI8AB