Monday, April 14, 2014

Memories of Vietnam Shared with Me Tonight

I’ve had the privilege of knowing several veterans from many wars.  Steve Haisley, the man whose computer I’m fixing tonight, is also a writer, and I would like to share some of his stories with you.

A Root Beer Float

We met on the afternoon of September 15, 1968. We were both 19-year old Marines who were part of a battalion size operation in the hills of South Vietnam near the DMZ. I don’t remember why we struck up a conversation that day, but I remember talking about home, how hot it was, and how nice it would be to have an ice cold root beer float. I also remember you telling me that your nickname was Swampy. We talked for several minutes and parted ways. Later that night our perimeter was probed by the NVA you were killed.

For decades that conversation has haunted me. Why do I remember the trivial things we talked about that fateful day, but not your face? Through the marvels of the Internet and a lot of detective work, I was finally able to determine your name. I was also able to correspond with a friend of your family, and your sister. Your sister and I e-mailed back and forth several times, but she told me that she couldn’t talk to me on the phone because the pain is still too great. A year or so ago I received a phone call from your brother. He told me about you and your family, and how your parents never recovered from the devastation of your death. He sent me a photograph of you, which was taken in Vietnam shortly before you were killed. Even after seeing the picture I don’t remember your face.

I speak to high school students about my experiences in Vietnam and have included your photograph and story as part of my presentation. On this Memorial Day I honor you and all the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our great country. My Marine Corps flag is flying proudly, and I will have the root beer float that the young Marine from Louisiana never got to enjoy. Semper Fidelis

Steve Haisley

Memorial Day Tribute

Today we remember and honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our great nation. Sadly, many will give no thought to those sacrifices or to their significance. Seldom has a day passed during the last 44 years that I haven’t thought about you and the events of that September afternoon. It is the most defining moment of my life. I learned about life, death, fear, and most of all, helplessness. I still don’t know your name or anything about you. We were young Marines who were being medevaced by helicopter after being severely wounded. I will never forget the look in your eyes or the helplessness I felt as you begged and pleaded with me to help you, but all I could do was hold your hand as life slowly left your body. I’m sure that someone today is remembering you as a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, uncle or friend. Your death changed the life of a 19-year old kid forever. You have not been forgotten. Semper Fidelis

Steve Haisley