On Memorial Day, let us remember…
For ever soldier that paid the ultimate price, there is a family somewhere that also paid that awful price. No man or woman is an island and it reaches beyond the individual soldier. As we pay our respects to the fallen heros, let’s all remember there are heros and heroines all around us who have to go on without their loved ones too. Our hearts go out to each of them as we remember their loved ones on this Memorial Day.
I was greatly disturbed by the Vietnam War and the way the soldiers were treated during it. My son was very young and we had almost no money, but I set aside a set amount each pay day to buy things for the Vietnam soldiers. I’d save my small boxes and fill them with personal grooming items and my son would draw pictures, we’d make homemade cookies (that were probably too hard when they arrived but the soldiers always bragged on them), and at Christmas we always sent tiny Christmas trees with decorations. One year a soldier wrote me back and said that was their camp tree and they sat around it and sang Christmas carols. Remember there was always a Christmas truce in those days. One of our local newspapers would publish lists of names at Christmas of soldiers whose relatives, friends or they themselves, said would like to have mail. There were so many names and our funds were so small, so we had to find a way to choose some to send to. We’d choose one from each page (there were sometimes 25 or more pages of names that were printed weekly). So we could ”mix them up” without actually picking out a name, we’d chose one from one page from column one and the next page column two, etc.
Our mailman was a huge fan of the effort and we’d watch for him to come walking across the hill. Our mailbox was on the porch and I’d fix him a cold drink so he could cool off when he got there. He’d always sit on the porch while I read the soldiers letters to him. There was one soldier named Nick Santos who was an orphan from Costa Rica that we got very attached to and suddenly he quit writing. My son was so upet that he didn’t hear from him, as were we. We knew he’d been wounded. All of our neighborhood knew that Nick was missing and the postman would always shake his head so I wouldn’t get my hopes up. One day, a neighbor came to our door early in the morning and said ‘Isn’t this Nick?’ I looked at the paper she was holding and yes, it was Nick. He had been wounded and he was in CA in the hospital and during the transfer they had lost his address book and he couldn’t find us. So, he wrote to the prominent reporter who had published the names and where we had originally found his address. So, I grabbed the info and called CA to the veterans hospital. They put me on hold so they could see if he was able to take a call. He came to the phone. It was the first time we’d heard his voice. He knew immediately, without us telling him, who we were. It was such an exciting day. If you could hug on the phone, we hugged him tightly. Then we sent him flowers. Later he said he was the only one in the hospital with flowers and he was so proud.
When he recovered enough, he flew to see us and the reporter came out and interviewed him. My son was like John John Kennedy in that he was
always saluting him. It was so much fun having him with us for a few days, but he had to go back for therapy. When he arrived, we though his arm was still stiff as that was what he had told us. He waited until all of us were in the room and he had everyone’s attention and he said ‘Look!’ and he raised his arms over his head.
Somehow, over the years we lost contact with him, but what a memory it is to have for a lifetime.