The year was 1969. The sixties were coming to an end, the world was about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of D Day. Grandpa Gus and Grandma Rose were out to dinner for their anniversary . We were just finishing dinner and preparing to put Christina (then 10 months old) to bed. My wife (you know her as Gram) sat in the living room with her Grandmother Margaret. I picked up the phone when it rang and the voice on the other end was a familiar one, but not one I expected a phone call from. Mom's next door neighbor Jeane was as close as any relative to us growing up. She had no children and we were her adopted family. She said my name and with one word I knew something was terribly wrong.
A year earlier was a happy time . Brother Joe' s birth was a bit of a surprise to my parents after 20 years and not 6 months later came Christina their first grandchild. June of 1968 brought my Dad's graduation from law school at age 45 and Donald's graduation from West Point (and later that year some tears as he left to serve in Viet Nam). Early in 1969 came a phone call from Japan. Donald was in a hospital, wounded in a road side bombing (very similar to today's almost every day news). Many members of his unit had been killed. After a month , a choice was offered. Go home or go back to Viet Nam. Donald chose to return to Veit Nam. To our parents his explanation was simple. "This is what I do. I'm good at it and because of that others will get to go home ". Mom reluctantly accepted that.
Jeane's call came on June 4 ,1969, 35 years ago tomorrow. The only words she spoke were , "Donald has been killed, come home".
A rocket fired from a base in Cambodia was a direct hit on a command bunker at the base Donald was posted to. A number of soldiers lost their lives that day. The next hours , days and weeks are etched forever in my memory. It was a time for strength of family and friends .
No one should ever have to receive that phone call or hear those words about a son or brother. Donald was the first of 19 members of his class to lose their lives in Viet Nam.
This past week we rightfully "celebrated " Memorial Day, as those who have given their lives in service should be celebrated. We have dedicated a memorial in Washington to the Veterans of the most terrible conflict this planet has ever seen and on Sunday we will commemerate the 60th anniversary of DDay. If you know a Veteran, thank him for his service, or stop to think of a love one passed on .
I celebrate Donald's life , the 21 years we spent together and 35 years of his memory are a very large part of the person I am and the citezen of the world I strive to be.
Thank you for allowing me to set down my thoughts and please join me tomorrow in prayers for our Cruisemate friends who need our good thoughts and prayers as a way of celebrating Donald's life.