Friday, May 13
Panel 4W, Row 12
A great philosopher once said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” When I look back upon the most profound experience of my life as a soldier in the Vietnam war, I have come to realize the deep impact that the dead have upon the living.
I was drafted in 1969, and served my country in the jungles of ‘Nam in 1970 with the 101st Airborne. Our “point” man, Earl Edward McCarty (Panel 4W, Row 12) and his “slack” man, Gale Hill, were childhood friends who entered the Army on the Buddy Program, trained together in Basic and Advanced Individual Training before being sent to Vietnam, and were assigned to the same unit, same squad in Vietnam.
In 1971, after I returned to the United States, I learned that Eddie had been killed by an errant artillery round fired by the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam), our allies during the war. The loss was devastating to Gale, whom I was informed refused to leave Eddie’s body, which had suffered shrapnel wounds causing his death.
It was years later that I understood the impact of Eddie’s death, and that he had had a secret. I had written a memorial regarding Eddie on an online website which was read by one of his cousins. She contacted me and I provided her with photos of Eddie in Vietnam, and answered questions which helped with their family’s healing.
Eddie’s cousin related that when he came home on leave prior to going to overseas, Eddie had a premonition that he would not come back alive from Vietnam. It was a difficult time for him, and he was undecided about what to do. His mother and father told him that he didn’t have a choice, that he had to go serve his country, and make them proud of him.
When Eddie was killed by “friendly fire,” his mother gave up on her life. His father always said that she died of a broken heart because she made Eddie feel ashamed enough to go to Vietnam. Eddie’s mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, but never even tried to fight it or help herself. Eddie’s father never remarried.
Eddie’s best friend, Gale, returned to the United States, married, and had a daughter whom he named Eddye after his lifelong friend. Gale was involved in an auto accident which left him completely blind. When contacted, Gale said that he could not remember anything, not even what company or battalion he was in during the war. When asked if he knew the whereabouts of anyone else we served with, Gale stated, “I only know where Eddie is.”