Saturday, April 4, 2009

4 Decades, 1 Year

Good Sunday, PDX!

Fifth of April. Fifth of April, two thousand nine.

Once it was 5 April 1968. That would have been my mother's 61st birthday, and she was still very much an active farm wife then. My Dad was only 58 then. I was 21 then. I am 62 now.
That was the day my classmate and friend, Wes Sperling, gave his life in Vietnam on a hilltop of canopied forest known as "Mile High". Wes was 21 then also. He never got any older. He never will.
Wes was serving his last couple of weeks with Echo Company. It was not his regular unit. He'd been with Alpha Company for about 11 months and had survived them all, the Tet Offensive included.
Going under 30 days made him "short". As in "short in the war". He'd been sent back to safe duty in the rear but couldn't stand, after 11 months in combat, being ragged on for haircuts, shoeshines, and rear guard military bearing. I don't know if he asked to be reassigned to combat duty to avoid an Article 15 (disciplinary action determined by commanding officer as punishment for some infraction) or whether being sent back to combat was his Article 15.

At any rate, there he was. Echo Company and Alpha Company were both in the area. The NVA engaged them. James A. Pemberton, an Echo medic, went down, mortally wounded by enemy fire. Wes went to get him, a man he likely did not know. Wes went down, too. He never got up. The NVA advanced, the Americans fell back to a position they could hold.
The NVA buried the American casualties. The bodies were in the earth for a week before the Americans regained control of the area and were able to exhume the remains and have them sent home. This was duty the survivors likely did not carry lightly or soon forget. The losses were enough, but the sight of the recovered remains... We won't go there.

May we never forget any of them. Rest well, faithful young men. Rest well!

4 deacdes and 1 year. Find him on the wall? Look at the name he's still trying to pick up, right above the first "W" in Wes' name...
Shalom, honored ones!


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