It’s amazing to me how some sight, sound, smell or touch will prompt in vivid detail a long forgotten or faded memory of a very specific event.
The aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in an oven transports you back in time to your childhood in your grandmother’s kitchen waiting for that first batch of cookies.
A Harley-Davidson revs next to you at a stop light and your mind leaps back to that first time you heard a chopper, and you glance to the right, fully expecting to see the toothless grin of a burly tattooed man in a sleeveless black leather jacket.
The soft crunch and swish of fall’s leaves on the ground beneath your feet, and instantly you’re 11 years old again, dragging and shuffling your feet through a pile of leaves on the sidewalk on the way home from school, dreading the two hours of homework and chores that await you.
The other day, I was taking a break from cleaning up leaves, sipping a cup of coffee on my deck, thinking about absolutely nothing. Just sitting, enjoying a bit of sun on a cool fall afternoon. I must have heard the sound of the helicopter as it approached, but when the blade sounds turned to that choppy pop-pop-pop as it rotated into a hover some distance away that the quick surge of adrenaline and butterflies hit me. It’s been 37-plus years, but whenever I hear a helicopter’s blades chopping the air as it begins to hover, my mind will flash me back to April 2nd, 1972 and the moment that Air America Huey begin its hover a few feet off the ground at the La Vang POL point … I can still see the pilot’s grin and hand signals for us to scramble aboard … the quick exhilaration of the slight g-force from the rapid ascent and sharp banking of the helicopter accelerating out of the area … and the accompanying immediate sense of relief to be airborne …
But I was home. This was Northern Virginia, not South Vietnam. I was 57+ years old, not 20.
So, I used that brief refresher to recall and raise my coffee cup in a silent toast to my comrades-in-arms who did not make it to that, or any other helicopter to be rescued. Gary & Bruce, you are not forgotten. I will never forget the sacrifice you made. May your families be comforted by the knowledge of your heroism and courage.