So this is Memorial Day
By Paul Nyerick, Marines
Writing Type: Prose
By Paul Nyerick
So, this is Memorial Day. 58,320 names etched on that black granite wall must be remembered and honored for their ultimate sacrifice. Our nation, in lockstep, has finally recognized our suffering and has come to grips with the nightmare known as Vietnam.
I can’t remember the names of those Marines who died in the mountains and jungles, fighting for Lima 3/7, except for Jessie. It would be hard to forget Jessie because besides dying Jessie unselfishly protected his platoon from harm and was awarded the Medal of Honor. His picture hangs in the Marine Corps Museum, alongside those other Marines who were honored for extraordinary valor.
Many more combatants delayed dying, but mark my words, Vietnam killed and is still killing us at an alarming rate. I am remembering personal friends of mine who are relegated to a footnote to the ever-changing list of casualties from those horrific, confusing times. We were not prepared for the dilemma caused by the consequences of what was thrust into our delicate moral upbringing.
Two Marine friends of mine gave up the ghost last week--Kurt W. and Marty T. Kurt struggled with a glut of ailments, including PTSD caused from exposure to what were the horrors of war thrust upon us at an early age. He had been dealing with diabetes, failing kidneys and pain from all sides.
Marty dropped dead between sentences. His sudden demise, witnessed by his wife of 49 years, dissolved a lifetime of love. It all came home when a Marine presented her with a flag. That vision put in perspective the finality that will come to all of us.
I also must remember some of my friends who prematurely came to their end in many different ways from the same source. Suicide, substance abuse and diseases all linked that war.
Army vet Andy L., my roommate when we came home, ate a Smith and Wesson pill that disconnected his brain in the driver’s seat of his pristine Austin Healy 3000. After the deed, it wasn’t so pretty. Andy was riddled with shame, and couldn’t live with accidentally killing one of his platoon members in a frenetic firefight. Chalk up another casualty to the fog of war.
My dear Marine friend Jack M. couldn’t cope with civilization, so he gassed himself in his mother’s garage, floating away into oblivion. Jack was on a downward spiral into the cavernous pit of addiction.
Lifestyle choices took the lives of so many of my other dear friends. Marine Joe M. didn’t want anything to do with American values. He lived outside the norm until he was catapulted from his Harley through the windshield of an oncoming car.
Army soldier Jimmy V. had no concept of reality and like so many others slowly numbed himself to death.
Marine Rick B. valiantly tried to fit in with the rest of society but couldn’t escape the horror of being one of the few survivors of one the war’s bloodiest battles. This highly decorated hero couldn’t understand why he survived. He lived with his guilt until the day they took him off his respirator.
These friends of mine died before there was mention of a new disorder called PTSD. I truly believe some of them would still be on this planet if they lived long enough to get the help they needed.
Other friends of mine died from the invisible scourge of Monsanto’s Agent Orange, Blue or whatever these diabolical fiends called this slap in the face. They unceremoniously turned this beautiful country into a wasteland. To this day, the Vietnamese people as well as we who distributed tickets of death wait until the grim reaper pays us a final visit. None of us deserves this fate.
Navy Corpsman Roland (Doc) T., Marine Lenny C., Marine Buzz H.; Army vets Mike S., John D. and Frank A., members of our Arts Council, all died of cancer. All of them were in therapy for PTSD-related afflictions. The irony is they thought the war was over for them, or at least they were coping with decades of anguish.
I would be remiss if I didn’t honor the man who made the ultimate sacrifice saving my life. In a split second between life and death, ARVN interpreter Lt. Tam pushed me from harm's way, thus taking the full blast from an incoming artillery projectile.This Vietnamese hero, who wasn’t just a gook, gave me a second chance at life. Without his selfless act, my name would be scratched into that wall for all posterity to mourn.
So, this is Memorial Day. Let us not forget the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their all for this country, right or wrong. We must also honor those of us who may fall from the still lingering dangers ready to unceremoniously snuff us out. I am grateful I survived, but it saddens me that a new generation has to repeat what we so long have tried to forget. I am worried that our present political leaders are clueless or could care less about the lives lost over their bottom line. Oorrah!