May 29, 2018
It’s 2018 and for 49 years, on each and every Memorial Day, I think about a young classmate from Churchill Rd Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. We were in 5th grade. He was a friendly young kid, but we weren’t close friends. He had a plethora of brothers, sisters and cousins in our school and at the high school my brothers were attending.
One day while we lined up in the lunchroom to file back to class, he was called out of line and was told to go to the principal’s office. We all snickered and teased him as he walked slowly away. When we passed the office I could see him standing and looking at a seated woman who was telling him something. I have never forgotten the look on his face.
He was out of school for a few days and when he came back our teacher asked him to stand and to tell us where he had been. He sheepishly told us his father had been killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam. It was September of 1969. I thought my teacher was so cruel for making him stand and make this announcement. I’ve forgotten the names of many great teachers I had through the years, but I never forgot her’s. My father was in Vietnam at the time, though in the CIA and not the military. It turns out my future husband was there at the same time. They came home.
I’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial in DC several times and I always find his father’s name. I run my fingers gingerly over the imprint and wonder what happened to the son, his mother, brothers and sisters. I wanted to say then and I want to say now, 49 years late; I am so very sorry for your loss. I have not forgotten you, your family or your father’s service to our country.