My high school years were a time of great turmoil. The war in Viet Nam was raging. We underclassmen watched as, one by one, the older boys who graduated went away to do their military training and then ship out to Viet Nam. When I was a junior and senior I belonged to a fraternity/sorority circle that partied together every weekend. The parties ended as, one-by-one, the boys went away. Most waited to graduate. A few were eager to serve their country and dropped out of school so they could enlist as soon as they were eligible. We were so very fortunate in that all of our particular group returned relatively intact. Still, the losses were high as several of my friends lost fathers, brothers and cousins.
I was pregnant when I graduated. I had met a wonderful man with the bluest eyes and a mysterious charisma about him. When I told him I was pregnant, he disappeared from my life. He came back a few months later, apologizing, saying that he had been overcome by panic at the thought of having a baby. He loved me, wanted to spend his life with me and our child. We happily set about the business of arranging to be married. A few days before the big event, he vanished again. We did eventually marry, but the same pattern repeated yet again. I was incredibly naive at such a young age. I know now that his problems are all too common among Viet Nam Vets. He enlisted and went over prouldly to do his duty. That terrible war left him and so many others with deep emotional scars that made it impossible to live a "normal" civilian life.
My entire generation was devastated by the Viet Nam War. We will never forget. So many fallen, so many maimed, so many still missing to this day. That is why I've chosen a name from Memorial Bracelets
and ordered my own bracelet to wear as reminder that so many were lost and so many are still unaccounted for. The name I have chosen is SGT JOHN H. BAILEY, USMC, from Alabama, who died in Viet Nam on May 1, 1967. His body was never recovered to be returned to his loved ones. After I get my bracelet I will update you on whether I've been able to learn anything else about Sgt. Bailey, on why I chose him, and on the reaction people (including myself) have to the bracelet and his memory. I hope you'll go to MemorialBracelets.com
and consider choosing one for yourself. I thank them for sponsoring this post and making this opportunity availabe to all who know that we must never forget those who have served so honorably. You can make your own selection based on whatever criteria are foremost in your mind.
The bracelets memorialize victims of the wars that have affected you, including the current War on Terrorism. You may choose a victim of the attacks of 9/11 if that is the event that resonates most deeply for you. Let the person you select be a symbol to you, and to all who see your bracelet, that we all are indebted to so many who have paid the ultimate price for us.
Do check back with me in a few weeks to see my update.
Update - 2/20/07: I've only had my bracelet for about a week. I've had two reactions. A young woman who was checking my groceries asked if it was one of those "bracelets for a cause," because she'd never seen one like it. I explained to her that the cause was to honor the memory of a young man who gave his life for all of us in Viet Nam. Her eyes glazed over. I guess the younger generation considers that ancient history, best forgotten once final history exams are over.
The other reaction was more intriguing. My dearest friend waxed eloqent about what "Our War" did to our generation. Her experience was much like mine, watching all of the young men go away, fearful for each of them, watching in horror the reception they received when they returned, more horrified still at the emotional anguish that ovewhelmed so many of them. She also gave me her perspective on the role that fate played. One of her dearest friends in those days was a young man who went over as a med-evac copter pilot when he was nineteen. He would have seen the full horror of that war as he hauled out mangled bodies, listened to the screams, tired his best to comfort and save each one ... and watched so many die, despite his best efforts. Yet he returned, not only uninjured, but apparently emotionally intact. He is now a professional med-evac copter pilot for a private company, thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, living a full life with a family he loves. His story continues.
My Marine, Sgt. John H. Bailey,
died at nineteen when the helicopter that was evacuating him crashed. His life story ends there. Fate had played her hand in his life. Click that last link on his name to learn more.
Labels: payperpost, The Seventies, USS Arizona Memorial, Viet Nam War