18 JAN '70
by Chief Ed Gallagher
The date on the calendar seemed to reach out to me today. Brain cells
started movin' and synapses firin'. WTF's the deal? Ssslllloooowwwwly, the lights
start to go on!
Today, in 1970, in what was then a small airport in Dayton, OH, I stood
hugging a very pregnant young blond girl who was slowly loosing her battle to be
brave. She was saying good-bye to her newly minted Army Aviator husband who
was returning to Viet Nam once again. Moose weakly smiled and made small talk
about how things would be when I returned home and how I'd have a child of my
own waiting for me and how the new puppy would be grown and .......? My mind
painted the picture of a returning "veteran pilot," bemedaled, but humble, the
neighborhood "legend" and role model. As I boarded the plane, I saw her in the
arms of her father and she was crying so hard, they were both shaking.
Thirty-five years later and I marvel how I survived such an exercise in
stupidity. I realize the dumb trades I made. Rather than be at home to witness
the birth of our first child, I was over there for the death of one of my best
friends. Rather than twelve months of intimacy with my young bride, I chose
twelve months of drunken camaraderie interspersed with short burst of shocking
terror that would forever haunt me. The trades went on; happiness, comfort and
security swapped for misery, squalor and pungent fear. Yet, even though I've
grown older, alas, I've grown no wiser. All those "poor decisions" I made did
allow me some "secret" insights. For example: I know the true cost of an
American flag, I know that "Taps" is always a lonely tune, even when heard in a
crowd, and I know I've met "The Greatest Generation" even if they haven't written
a book about us.
Thirty-five years or thirty-five centuries, it was the right thing to do
..... maybe not smart, or "correct," or popular, or sensible, or even realistic
......... but it was the "right" thing to do! Let it be chiseled in stone
...... even if it only be on mine.