Vietnam 1st Battalion
C Company 1965
Richard went home 05/21/2006
Richard was one of the original boat people that went to Vietnam with the 1st Brigade Separate in ’65 on the General Leroy Eltinge
Maybe it was the sound of seven rifles firing in unison, or maybe the sound of Taps that echoed across thousands of polished white headstones at Fort Sam Houston on that final day in May. The day I sat there as people paid their last respects to the man I called dad for more than 40 years.
I’ll never know.
I watched the soldiers fold the flag neatly and perfectly. Duty, Honor, Country. He said those words as he hid three empty casings inside the fold.
I didn’t know why.
My name was on the program, and dutifully the chaplain who’d seen my father alive only once, called my name to get up and say a few words. I handed the tri-folded flag to my brother and I stood. I unbuttoned my jacket, shoved my hands in my pockets and I spoke.
I don’t know what I said, and maybe I’ll never know.
There were tears on the cheeks of my three beloved girls who sat beside me, but mine were no where to be seen. Then it was over, and we went away, all of us did. We left that garden of polished stones, etched with names long forgotten. We all traveled to places in separate cars to reflect on everything and whatnot. I had the flag though, and..
I wasn’t sure why.
Then realized I was not sure of a lot of things. Not sure of what lies down the road and not sure what else I was supposed to do as the oldest son.
What am I supposed to feel now?
What are the rules?
What happens next?
I don’t know.
Maybe I’ll never know.
Today I paid his bill at the funeral home and got a sample of his ashes that will be scattered at a favorite gathering place in Tennessee.. But there was one task left.
A favor and a tribute to dad and his best friend on earth. His best friend on Earth wanted to share a few things once more — things shared previously in a life lived well.
So today, after I picked dad up, I dropped him off with his friend who took him to Tennessee.
It was my idea.
Dad didn’t want to miss another reunion of his army buddies, so days after he died, I told his best friend on earth to take dad to Tennessee with him one last time.
I don’t know why.
His friend — a hardened combat veteran like dad himself — cried hard and I wanted to do the same with him.
So they left.
In a month, dad and his best friend on earth will go sky diving. Dad hasn’t jumped from a plane in 40 years, so next month, his best friend on earth will jump for him, one last time.
As his friend flies through the heavens, I know this. Dad will be gliding right next to him.
This I know.