We were 20 years old. Seemed old at the time, all of us had been in country long enough to be considered ‘oldtimers.’ Gary and I met in Oakland, CA while waiting for transport to Vietnam. We arrived in Vietnam on the same flight and traveled from Saigon to Phu Bai together.
Gary was the ‘elder,’ he would turn 21 in a month; Bruce had celebrated his 20th birthday just months earlier. I was the youngest of the three; having transitioned into my twenties just a couple weeks prior to the North Vietnamese initiated attacks on March 30, 1972.
Often when I think of all the things I’ve experienced and enjoyed – or not enjoyed – I am reminded of my fellow 20-year olds. We’re still 20 in my mind. While I have aged greatly, they have not.
They did not experience the last 45 years: marriage, children, grandchildren and joys, sorrows and melancholy too numerous to mention. Their loved ones have no memories of them beyond that last good-bye. When they were twenty.
On this Memorial Day, I publicly salute the Crosby and Westcott families for the sacrifice they made in 1972 and for the years of sacrifice since. I salute the memory of your son, husband, father or brother, and want you to know they are not forgotten.
At least not by this twenty-year-old.
“Any American who has ever listened to a bugler sound Taps, the last salute, whether on a green and grassy hillside, a muddy field halfway around the world, or a lonely tarmac stateside or anywhere freedom is cherished and defended, knows exactly why we set aside a special day each year to honor those who have died for our country and to pray for permanent peace.
“We do so for the sons and daughters of our land who have perished in the cause of liberty, country, and peace, the cause that has called Americans from generation to generation. We do so for the Nation that was home to these heroes and heroines, the Nation that gave them their birthright of freedom. We do so for the sacred trust they have left us, to revere, defend, and preserve all that they have revered, defended, and preserved for us.” (Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, May, 1987)