"He gave up his dreams and his future so the rest of us could have ours..."
There were three of us who worked at Montgomery Wards in the late 60's. We all heard the call to duty about the same time. I was going to school and working part time in the paint department. Steve was full time on the dock. Mike like me, was also going to school and worked part time in the garden department.
Mike was always the guy that was fun to hang around with. Why? He had Don Johnson good looks, a great sense of humor, and to top it all off, he was an all-around good guy. The woman would flock around him, which was a huge bonus to being his friend.
Whereas I went into the Navy, Steve and Mike went into the Army. Both went through infantry training. By a twist of fate after training, Steve got orders to Germany. Rare back in those days, as most who went through infantry training went straight to Viet Nam. Mike on the other hand, walked a different path. The Army saw something special in him, and opened a door of opportunity for him to take.
In 1969, there was a shortage of helicopter pilots. To become one, you needed to go through advanced training and should you complete it, you would graduate as a non-commissioned warrant officer. Mike saw this as a great opportunity to learn how to fly. He would have to extend his time served, but is was going to be worth it. Besides, it sure beat being a "ground pounder".
Mike finished his helicopter training and was immediately sent to Viet Nam. He was living a dream. He could serve his country, fill out his service obligation, plus learn how to fly helicopters to boot. Once he finished his time, he could go back to school under the G.I. Bill and finish his degree.
Nobody seemed to know what happened that day. I can't even remember the location, if it was in the Central Highlands or where it was. All I know is word got back home that Mike was killed in action. He was not shot nor shot down. He was coming back from a typical mission when upon landing, his rear blade hit some power lines. His copter flipped over and burned.
Every Memorial Day I think of all the men and women who gave up their dreams and futures to ensure the rest of us could have ours. I think of the "greatest generation", who gave so much in the 1940's. Without their sacrifice, we would all be living in a dystopian type of world full of dictators. I think of the men in the 1950's who went to Korea, to face a new menace called Communism. I think of the men and women in the 1960's and 1970's who were called to fight an ever unpopular war against a hidden enemy who did often did not fight fairly. And of course, I think about those who fought and still fight in our modern wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, where fighting often times devolves into urban guerrilla warfare.
However, mostly I think about the young boys in my graduating class who heard the call and never came home. I think of Mike, my friend from Montgomery Wards, the young man who had it all, and ended up giving it all. These are for whom the bells toll, on this and every Memorial Day.