"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Westfall: A Letter

CJ, May I call you CJ?

I don't know that we have ever met. I'm guessing you are about ten years younger than my father, and he graduated from West Lafayette High School. If you were married in 69', when I was four, I'm sure we didn't attend school together either.

I was hesitant to accept your friendship request (Facebook).  I try to keep FB down to friends I know. I'm all about quality over quantity. Then you sent me invitations to your blogs. "Oh crap!" I thought.  I've been duped into accepting a friend request and all she wants is blog followers.

Well, I'm glad I did accept your request. I've been trying to read your blogs, but there are so many of them!
I'm not a Vietnam Vet. I'm a first Gulf War Vet. I spent my time flying around in my little helicopter in the Gulf region, Somalia and Central America doing lots of special things. 

I find almost all aspects of your Vietnam blog disturbing. Now wait. Not in a
bad way. Disturbing in a happy, sad, heartbreaking, motivating way. Hearing the words of other combat vets. Hearing the words of that 17 year old girl in Guam. Hearing your words. 

Your blog "From Bride to Widow" had me in tears. All of these years, I thought of the soldiers and what they went through. I never really took the time to think of the loved ones back home. Sure, I saw movies about it. My own parents had both commented about how their wonderful son, David, had joined the Navy and some ass named "Bull" had come back to them 12 years later. But at least I came home.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Thank you for sending the friend request. Thank you for the blogs. I'm so very sorry for your loss all those years ago.

Welcome Home, "Bull" -- 
Your letter touched me very deeply, and I'm humbled by your warm and thoughtful comments about Memoirs From Nam, and for your gracious expression of sympathy. 

All I can think of to say is many, many "Thank You's". Thank you for accepting my friendship request. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog entries. Thank you, most especially, for what you did for our country, "... flying around in your little helicopter ... doing lots of special things;" I'm glad you came home safely and that I have had the profound good fortune to "meet" you ... your parents may tease you, but I know they are proud.

May I please have your permission to post your letter to me on Memoirs tomorrow? It would be such an honor and I know it will touch others' hearts as it has touched mine.

She who flies with sparrows bows to one who has soared with eagles ...

My very warmest regards and respect,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Well-Meaning Intent

by CJ Parrish (Kempf) Heck

An English teacher once told me that the biggest secret to writing is to have something to say and then to say it as clearly and as succinctly as you can. That was the secret. I've always tried to write that way and, for the most part, I feel it's worked. Let's see if I can do that here today ... without being rude or hurtful.

I've gotten some rather odd emails since I wrote the blog, "Bride to Widow", a few weeks ago about my own experience when I was notified about Doug's death in Vietnam.  Don't get me wrong, most of the emails were very nice -- but some people, out of I'm sure well-meaning intent, said the dumbest things.  One said how glad I must have been not to have had any children to raise on my own.   Another, again out of misguided and well-meaning intent, asked me if I had known what was going to happen, or if I could go back in time and do things over, would I have still chosen to get married before he was sent to Vietnam.  I don't know about you, but I was raised to keep such comments to myself.

I haven't answered the emails yet -- the main reason is, I'm hard-pressed to know what to say to them.  It seems they've already made up their minds how they would feel in the same situations.  But can anyone ever really know how they would feel or react, unless they were there?  There's a saying that to really know someone, you have to walk a mile in their shoes ... anyway, I've thought a lot about those two comments since I received them.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to answer the emails.  If they happen to read this blog today, they'll be aware of my answers.

How can you explain to someone that love is the most important, magical emotion a human being can ever experience?  How can you put a value on love when it's priceless, or quantify it with, "Gee, I'll marry you if you'll live, and not marry you if you don't" --  of course I would marry him all over again.  I wouldn't change a thing, if I could go back in time.  At least we had the time together that we did have ...

As to the other question -- let it be known that I would have given my right arm and left leg to have had a child.  I would have considered it an honor, a gift, to have had a part of Doug, a child to raise with love.  And you can be sure, that child would know what a wonderful man their father was -- and how he died for all of us, even those who ask dumb questions.

God Bless America.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two Opinions

Yesterday's blog on Prayer elicited some very strong responses --  I share their well-expressed opinions and I would like to share them with you today.  The first came from a friend on Facebook, Jan Hoffman, and the other one,  from our mutual friend, Richard Schwartz, a Vietnam Vet and contributing writer here on Memoirs:

Prayer in America
My Opinion
by Jan Hoffman:

Here, Here, CJ!  This Great Nation was FOUNDED on Religious Principles and it was written into ALL of our Guiding Documents.

If our Doctrines are so OFFENSIVE to these IMPLANTS - - I say GET OUT or SHUT THE HELL UP!  They knew, when they first decided to come to this Great Nation, what this Country's Beliefs and Principles were all about - - yet they came - - to get away from the very Oppression they are trying to SHOVE down OUR Throats!

I say to them:  "This is OUR COUNTRY - - LOVE IT and ALL IT STANDS FOR - - or LEAVE IT and find a country that better suits YOUR beliefs!"

This is being written by a Great-Grand-Daughter, Grand-Daughter, Daughter, Niece, ex-wife, and the Mother-in Law of Military personel who fought, were wounded, and gave their lives to Protect & Defend our Rights!

Jan Hoffman

My Opinion
by Richard Schwartz

Its a cultural war.  Either we defend our Judeo-Christian heritage or we lose it!  Since I was a child, people have been wishing me Merry Christmas.  Should I be offended because I'm a Jew?  Of course NOT! I'm happy that someone takes the time to wish me well during their holiday.  And my Christian friends send me a Happy Hanukkah message during my holiday and some of them even wish me well on the Jewish High Holidays.

It's no coincidence that, in order to be considered an educated person at the time of the founding of our country, you had to know enough Hebrew to read the Hebrew bible in Hebrew besides having a thorough knowledge of the Christian Bible.  All the founding fathers could read Hebrew and most could write it.  Our concept of liberty and freedom is firmly rooted in our Judeo-Christian heritage.  We need to keep this in mind when we vote.

If you want to know how awful it's really getting, please read a copy of Mark Steyn's "America Alone"  where he describes how political correctness and multiculturalism is destroying Europe.  (Note Angela Merkel's recent comment that Germany's attemp at multiculturalism has failed).  If you want to study an interesting difference in beliefs on your own, investigate the story of Abraham and the binding of Isaac in the Hebrew Bible vs. the account of the same story in the Koran.  The difference is 180 degrees.

Notice the firing of Juan Williams from NPR. Apparently, he is not sufficiently "politically correct" for NPR.  My politics tend to be conservative and libertarian. Juan Williams' views are liberal,  I ALWAYS look forward to listening to him because he makes me think about my beliefs.  In my humble opinion, NPR firing him is another shot in the culture war in this country and I've already written notes to my local NPR station, CPR, and my representatives in Washington concerning this incident.

Oops -  I didn't mean to get on a soap box, but when our local school has to start calling a Christmas tree a "Holiday" tree, our culture is drowning in the political correctness swamp.

Carolyn and I, (mostly Carolyn!), just got our garden in shape for the winter with weeding, tilling, and planting a rye grass cover crop. The weather is turning cooler and the rains are starting up here in Maple Valley.  The salmon runs are over. It was a curious salmon season.

Locally, we had a below-average number of returning salmon.  At the Frasier river in Canada, they had a tremendous salmon run such that the salmon canneries were begging for extra workers.  I've talked to a number of marine biologists and no one seems to know why the difference occurred.  The leaves on the deciduous trees are turning beautiful reds and golds, while the evergreens will maintain their intense green through the winter.  I even heard that the mountain pass a couple of hours' drive away from Maple Valley got a dusting of snow last night.

My best to you and Robert,


As always, I thank the two of you for your thoughts -- and for taking the time to share them.
My warmest regards, a hug, and lots of respect,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keep Looking Up ...

Andy Rooney has always been one of my favorite writers and speakers.  He can take any subject at all, pepper it with a little Rooney humor and a lot of Rooney insight, and Voila!  It makes absolute and perfect sense to anyone who reads it.  Here is an article I found which touches on the subject of prayer ... I know you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  Thanks, Andy, you rock ...

by Andy Rooney

I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December. I don't agree with Darwin, but I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game. So, what's the big deal? It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire Book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game.

But it's a Christian prayer, some will argue. Yes, and this is the United States of America and Canada, countries founded on Christian principles. According to our very own phone book, Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1. So what would you expect -- somebody chanting Hare Krishna?  If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a Jewish prayer. If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad, I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer. If I went to a ping pong match in China, I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha ... and I wouldn't be offended. It wouldn't bother me one bit. When in Rome .....

But what about the atheists? This is another argument. What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized. We're not going to pass the collection plate. Just humor us for 30 seconds. If that's asking too much, bring a Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer! Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do. I don't think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world's foundations. Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights. Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating and to pray before we go to sleep. Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying. God, help us. And if that last sentence offends you, well, just sue me ...

The silent majority has been silent too long. It's time we tell that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard that the vast majority doesn't care what they want. It is time that the majority rules! It's time we tell them, "You don't have to pray; you don't have to say the Pledge of Allegiance; you don't have to believe in God or attend services that honor Him. That is your right, and we will honor your right; but by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away. We are fighting back, and we WILL WIN!"

God bless us one and all ... especially those who denounce Him. God bless America and Canada, despite all our faults, we are still the greatest nations of all. God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray and worship God.

Let's make this next year the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions ... and the year our military forces come home from all the wars.

Keep looking up ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Larry Says ...

Hello everyone, it's good to be back from my week away babysitting.  Since I mostly share your thoughts to post here, I had to come up with something myself for today. Okay by me.  Someone sent me this thing from Larry The Cableman in an email and, as Larry would say, "I don't care who ya' are, this here's funny ..."  Enjoy!  ~CJ

"Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in Our Country lately: Illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, alligators attacking people in Florida . . . Not me -- I concentrate on solutions for the problems -- see, it's a win-win situation.

* Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border.
* Send the dirt to New Orleans to raise the level of the levees.
* Put the Florida alligators in the moat along the Mexican border.

Any other problems you would like for me to solve today?

Okay, now think about this:

1. Cows
2. The Constitution
3. The Ten Commandments


Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the state of Washington? And, they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.  


They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for   Iraq ...why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore. 


The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this -- you cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians, it creates a hostile work environment.

Also, think about this ... if you don't want to share this for fear of offending someone -- YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!"

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Hugs & Toddlers

Remember what it was like to be a child? It was something very different from who we are today. It was to believe in love and magic, to believe in fairies, to believe in belief, to be so little that the elves could reach to whisper in our ear; it was about turning pumpkins into coaches, and mice to horses, and nothing into everything, because every child has a fairy godmother in its soul ... and a grandmother for a best friend. ~CJ

Hello Everyone,

Just to give you a little heads up ... I'm going to be out of town for the next week, leaving today. I'll be in Connecticut babysitting two of my grandsons, both preschoolers, while a daughter and her husband go away for a much-needed R&R to rediscover that they are more than a mommy and daddy.

I'll be in Grammy Heaven; however, being a little out of practice with busy toddlers, I'm relatively sure any down time I have while they're napping will be spent doing laundry, cooking, picking up toys, or (I had to admit it), taking a power nap of my own to recoup. There probably won't be much time for the internet and its writing pleasures, including posting here.

Stay with me.  I promise I'll be back online when I return on the 23rd. In the meantime, please think of me knee-deep in much-missed grammy hugs, bedtime stories, night-night kisses, and playing cars and Legos on the floor with two little boys that I love so dearly.


P.S. I would LOVE to see my email box overflowing with your thoughts and stories when I get home ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Denise Kempf Snyder: Uncle Doug

My Uncle Doug
by Denise Kempf Snyder

Dear Cathy -

It touches my heart deeply, reading your story, "Bride to Widow", [October 10, 2010], on the Memoirs From Nam Blog. I can’t think of anything else but gratitude that I feel for you and my Uncle Doug. My life has been blessed in so many ways and I can’t help but feel that the sacrifice Doug made with his life kept my Dad (Dennis Kempf) from being sent to Vietnam.

I have many beautiful childhood memories. I wish I could thank Doug, but I need to thank you. The sacrifices that were made in September of 1969 have affected my life profoundly and for this I will be thankful everyday of my life.

In a way, I have always thought of you and Doug as a guardian angels. My husband, Steve, and I were married in January of 1989. He was a Navy helicopter pilot in the first Gulf War. It gave me peace at night thinking that my Uncle Doug would keep him safe during that long seven-month deployment. I told my Grandma Kempf that Doug was watching over Steve and she smiled and kissed me. I knew she understood. Steve returned home safely.

I will always believe in angels!

God Bless,
Denise Kempf Snyder

P.S. Please, could you let Lt. James McCraney know that I was the little girl in the blue dress in the photo he spoke of that Uncle Doug showed him in Vietnam, and that I have had a wonderful life sheltered from the wounds of the Vietnam War.

[Note: Photo of the little girl in the blue dress was mentioned in the blog "Memoir of Douglas S. Kempf" posted Monday, August 2, 2010, should you care to read about Lt. James McCraney]

My thanks and love to you, Dee, for sharing your thoughts ... I believe in angels, too.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


As an introduction, I'm Pete Manuguerra. I just spent two weeks with Doug's brother, Denny Kempf, on a Mediterranean Cruise. During our chats on board, he told me about his brother, Doug, who was killed in Vietnam in 1969. I, too, am a Vietnam Veteran.

I was a grunt from April 1969, to May 1970, and I shared with Denny the ongoing support we now get and, more importantly, our 35th Infantry Regiment Association is dedicated to honoring our fallen heroes.

I also mentioned to Denny about the dedication I attended in Bay Village earlier this summer. The High School Class of 1965 was having their reunion and they honored one of their classmates who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. I attended with other members of the Unit. For your information, here is a link to this web site: 

Cacti 35th Infantry Regiment

I told Denny I would be sure to look up information about his brother, Doug, when we returned from our trip together. This is how I found you at this Memoirs From Nam web site.

Thanks for caring. I am still amazed when I attend our annual reunions, at how many people are still looking for closure after more than forty years.

Pete Manuguerra
Cacti Forever 1969 - 1970

Excerpts from email 10-12-10

Dear Pete,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me and for your thoughtful comments -- yes, there are many who still look for closure after so many years, me included ..........

............ I would be both proud and honored if you would allow me to post your letter on Memoirs to share with the community. Welcome Home Pete.

Once again, my most sincere thanks and respect to you,
CJ (Kempf) Heck

Email 10-13-10

Yes, no problem to post my letter/note to you. Thank you for your kind words. I do agree, Denny is indeed a special person and he still feels the hurt. I am still amazed at all of the caring after so long of a time has passed.

Earlier this summer, I found a posting on our Cacti Website. A history teacher from Dearborn, Michigan, was so "moved" by this year's Memorial Day event that she wanted to find out and document stories about the men who were killed in Vietnam from her home town.

One of the names she posted was my platoon leader who was KIA'd on May 12, 1969. I was there and saw everything and even had pictures of the firebase where this incident happened. Never thought that I would ever need to share what happened over forty years ago.

People do care and it is heartfelt. Now we gotta give the troops our support who are fighting this war on Terror. The 2nd 35th Infantry are going on their 3rd deployment to Afghanistan sometime the spring of 2011. A year ago, they returned from a deployment from Iraq. I've met some of these new "heroes" and we gotta love and continually support them.

Pete Manuguerra

My deepest appreciation and respect to you, Pete, for taking the time to share your memories. Please, always feel free to write and share here at Memoirs. Welcome Home.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Nam Memory: Angie Caldwell

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

My Nam Memory: The Lesson
by Angie Caldwell

I know there are far more important stories out there, but I was touched by the article I read about the young bride/widow and I felt a need to reach out and share my own story. After reading the article yesterday, I thought I would share my own "Nam" memory.

In 1966, I was a 17 year-old girl living in Guam. My father was a CMSgt stationed at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam. This base was the home for all the B-52's that daily flew bombing missions. Every day was filled with the noise of these big birds revving up their engines and then the take-offs and then of course their return later. My father was a Flight Line Chief and living with these war time big birds was something we never questioned, it was a part of our life. I was a carefree teenager living on a tropical island and although I lived on an island that was heavily involved with the business of war, for some reason it just didn't affect my life. Teenagers are so self-absorbed.

One night I, and a few of my friends, got busted by the military police for trying to sneak back on base after curfew. Needless to say, the CMSgt father didn't appreciate getting called away from his post to come pick up his wayward teenage daughter. We four teenage kids were sitting in the military police office when my dad came in. He told us that since we were so eager to stay up late at night, he had something we could do. So for the next six weeks, at least four nights a week, around midnight, we reported to my father at the flight line/air terminal.

The big freight planes, C-140/141's would come in. Some would land full of young soldiers returning from Nam and they would come into the terminal to buy sodas, candy, or stretch their legs while the big planes refueled before taking off again to land at a base in northern California. Many of these planes were medical flights and oh, so many of the men couldn't get off the planes. I say men, hell, many of them were just boys barely older than me. A whole lot of them couldn't get off the plane so we would go on the plane, taking them sodas, helping some hold a cigarette because they were missing hands/arms/etc. We wrote postcards, we held their hands, we talked, we did whatever we could to make their journey a little easier.

When I left Guam the summer of 1967, I went to San Francisco. It was the so-called Summer of Love. While the other hippie chicks were distancing themselves from the young soldiers roaming the city, this hippie chick was spending many of her days and a lot of her nights at Letterman General Hosptial with young boys who had stumbled into becoming men. They were changed. Some had limbs missing, some with wounds you couldn't see, but you knew by looking at them, they were forever changed. I wrote postcards home to mothers, wives, girlfriends. I held hands with young women who came to see their loved ones and found boys/men they didn't know anymore or didn't recognize. So many tears, it wasn't just the young returning soldiers that were wounded, so were the families.

My father was never accused of being a wise man. He was a career military man doing his job. I am 61 years old now, and I think how shallow I must have appeared to my father. He served as a tailgunner in the Navy during WWII. He served with the Army/Air Force and when that split up, he went Air Force. He served during Korea and then again the Viet Nam conflict. I never realized what his 30 years of service really meant til I got much older. And I realized at a much older age that his punishment for this shallow, self-absorbed teenage girl affected me profoundly. His wisdom of taking these military brats and showing them what was happening....well how can I say it? It was and still is the most important thing I have ever done. My few hours spent in the middle of the night on a tiny island on the other side of the world shaped me, molded me, and made me realize how expensive my free lifestyle was. The time I spent in the hospital wards at Letterman General was humbling. These young boys made such huge sacrifices, and even their families sacrificed.

I hold these things close in my heart, and can still in a moment's thought, think of a face, a shared laugh, a letter written, and I can weep. It never goes away. My heart will always be tender from that time invested in boys/young men. I was just a girl, but I'm an old cowgirl now and I can honestly say that my life was forever colored by those experiences heaped on me by an honest to goodness military man, my father.

Viet Nam -- I can't even say the words without my heart twisting a bit.

Angie Caldwell

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Bride to Widow: by CJ Heck

Doug and I on our Wedding Day
The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief -- but the pain of grief is only a shadow compared to the pain of not risking to love at all.

The worst day of my life was September 13, 1969. Actually, there were more than that one day, but that's the one day I can talk about, at least for now.

I was living at my childhood home in Ohio with my parents at the time. I had married my high school sweetheart, Doug Kempf, in January, and though in our hearts we were still newlyweds, Uncle Sam had other plans and in May, he sent Doug to Vietnam.

In Vietnam, he wore a different hat. There, he was a combat medic: SP4; RA; HHC, 4th BN, 12th INF, 199th LIB.

Doug and I shared a good life from January to May in 1969. We were military-poor and living in a trailer on base at Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, NC, but we didn't care. We were together and we were happy. There we dreamed and loved and planned our future for when he returned.

We would have an old Victorian with lots of bedrooms, oak woodwork, a huge kitchen to entertain family and friends, and a large front porch with a wooden swing where we could cuddle, read a book, or watch thunder storms together, something we loved to do.

We had decided on three children -- two boys and a girl. The boys would be tall, handsome, and have their dad's slightly bowed legs, legs that loved to dance, and his infectious laugh and sense of humor. They would grow up to be good men with strength of character. Like their father, they would be smart, and kind, gentle husbands, loving and playful fathers, as well as proud and fiercely patriotic.

Our little girl would be (in Doug's words) "Pretty, like her mommy, with big blue eyes and just a touch of tomboy to defend herself from her big brothers ... but always daddy's little girl."

Saying goodbye at the Columbus Airport in May, was soul-crushing. I promised myself I wouldn't cry, but it was a foolish promise, and one I wasn't able keep. One thing I can say with certainty, it never occurred to me that Doug wouldn't return home.

Our letters were happy and full of love. The intimate moments we'd shared were written about and yearned for in the letters between us. But what we wanted most, and what we actually had, was breaking my heart and I counted the days to our R&R, which was never to be.

On September 13, 1969, my world stopped. I was working as a secretary in the office of a manufacturing company a few blocks from my parents' home. That afternoon, mother called me at work. "Honey, you'd better come home. There are some men here from the Army and they need to talk to you. It's about Doug."

I couldn't say a word. I dropped the phone on my desk and with my heart in my throat, I ran out of the building. I didn't stop running until four blocks later, in front of the house I grew up in, the home where I had always felt safe and loved.

I was filled with fear and dread. Parked in front of the house and looking out of place, was a large black car with something printed along the side. I gathered my courage and climbed the front steps and opened the front door.

Just inside the foyer stood two uniformed men locked to attention, their hands behind their backs, hat tucked under an arm. Their faces were somber. Daddy and mama stood nearby. Daddy had his arm around mama's waist and she was crying softly.

[No. No. No. Dear God, why are they here? No, wait, I don't want to know. Go away. Please, please, just go away.]
"Mrs. Kempf, we regret to inform you that your husband, Sp4 Douglas S. Kempf, was killed in action while performing his duty in Vietnam on September 5 ..."

I didn't hear the rest of what the man had to say. Daddy said I fainted where I stood, just inside the front door in the foyer.

When I came around, I was lying on the couch in my parents' living room -- and then I remembered. Oh God, I remembered, and I wanted to die, too. I was devoid of all feeling, except soul-numbing grief. My whole world had turned upside down in one heartbeat. 

How could everything still look and sound so normal? The sun still shined through the front windows with Mama's white curtains swaying in a light breeze. The birds still sang outside in the gnarled old apple tree I used to climb as a child -- and where Doug and I had carved our initials inside a heart. A neighbor somewhere was mowing his lawn, and I could hear children laughing and playing in their yard.

Only a few minutes ago, that had still been real. Now it clashed with a new reality and I suddenly felt I was losing my mind. Why? Why? Why?  Then I focused hard, until only the couch was real. 

I was on the couch where Doug and I first held hands and hugged; the couch where we had our first disagreement, then kissed and made up. The same couch where I often sat in front of him on the floor between his knees, leaning back against him while we watched TV and he ran his fingers gently through my hair. The same couch where he nervously asked me to be his wife and I accepted.

No, nothing would ever be the same again. My life was changed forever and I felt helpless and so completely alone, even though I was surrounded by people who cared and who also grieved. 

All I could do was cry, and I remember fighting a growing anger at God. How could You do this? Why would You reach down inside me and rip out my heart? And always, there was the question, Why?

There was so much grief and hurt and I went through the following weeks and months and years in a fog. There are some things about that time that I can't remember at all, but there is one thing I will never forget. That was the first and only time I ever saw my father cry.

That day in 1969 was the worst day of my life. But, in the years since, that day has also carried me through some bad times, too. There have been things that have happened since then, when I've said, "This hurts. Yeah, this really hurts -- it hurts like bloody hell!  But I will survive.  And the reason is, because I know what real hurt is." 

For the rest of your life, that one day becomes your yardstick for measuring pain. You know with a final certainty that nothing else can, or ever will, hurt you quite that bad again. 

When I look up into the night sky, I pray that it isn't stars I see, but little openings in heaven's floor where the love of my lost one pours through and shines down to let me know he is happy ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

You are invited to add an opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. Or, write about anything you want to share and send it to me in an e-mail and I will post it for you.  E-mail CJ

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Sense of Community

When I began this blog back in July of 2010, I had a vision. I wanted to give something back to Vietnam vets, those proud, brave men and women who gave so much for all of us.

I wanted to create a place where they could share their experiences and feelings through writing. I wanted it to be a safe and healing place. Memoirs has gone way beyond my expectations and my vision.

I'm happy to have an update to a search by Richard Schwartz for the family of his friend, Dan Hively, who was KIA in Vietnam. This came about through a series of emails and with Richard's kind permission, I'm proud to share the story with you.

Richard Schwartz
A Memoirs excerpt from a blog by Richard Schwartz on August 30, 2010, titled "Thoughts and Memories":

Richard Schwartz
Co D, 2/327 Battalion
2nd Bde
101st Airborne Division
Phu Bai, RVN

"... I remember that July date as the day that we received the notice that [my friend] Daniel Hively had been killed. He was in my platoon while I was in combat. It struck me as I read the notice, there was a family in Danville, Ohio, that didn't know that their son was coming home in a box. But I knew, and the sorrow of what they were going to experience overwhelmed me.

... I gave the name Daniel as the middle name to one of my boys so that Dan's name and memory would carry on for at least one more generation in my family. I've tried to find his family in Ohio to let them know that I gave Dan's name to one of my sons but couldn't find anyone. I know he has a sister who's name is Shirli Anne Rickert, but I can't seem to locate her ..."

Here is the first email, September 4, 2010, regarding Richard's blog:

"Cathy--I have some information for Richard Schwartz concerning the family of Dan Hively. He mentioned in his piece on Memoirs that he has been unable to find Dan's sister, Shirli. We have a good friend who grew up in Danville so I contacted her. As it turns out, her sister and brother-in-law were high school friends of Shirli's and they all still live in Danville. Here is the info:

Shirli and Lowell Richert
**** Richert Road
Danville OH 43014

I can only imagine what a special blessing it would be for Shirli to hear from Dan.
Thank you for "Memoirs". It is so special. And I love that you have added Doug's pictures.
Andrea Yaw"

Email on Saturday, September 4, 2010:

"Dear Richard,
I got the following very nice letter from the Yaw's, who visited the Memoirs From Nam blog. It's about how you can reach Dan Hively's family in Danville, OH. I'm so happy for you, Richard. This will help all of you to find some closure.

Again, your article was wonderful and any time you want to send me another, I would be proud and honored to print it. Thank you again.
My warmest regards,

Email on October 6, 2010:

"CJ, Bud, and Andrea [Yaw]
I received an amazing phone call last Friday. It was from Dan Hively's sister, Shirli. She received my letter that day and called me. We had a long talk - actually over an hour. It was a fascinating call as she got me caught up on everything that has happened in her life since Dan's death. Initially I thought it was odd that she would tell me so much detail about her life but then I realized that she was actually getting Dan caught up on all that had happened since he died. She also told me many things about how and where Dan was raised so I also learned some of the values he was taught that made him the great guy I met. Shirli and Dan were close in age and very close as they grew up. She was VERY appreciative to hear from someone who served with Dan.

Shirli and I wish to thank CJ and the Yaws for their efforts on our behalf that allowed this to happen. Also please forward my thanks to the individuals that took the time to send the Richert's address to the Yaws.

Email on October 8, 2010:

Thank you so much for sending me the update. That's wonderful, and I'm happy it turned out so well for everyone. I don't know how well you know Bud and Andrea Yaw, but I would like to share something with you. Bud was in Vietnam at the same time Doug was, in 1969, and also from my hometown, Coshocton. At the time, Andrea, Bud's wife, was expecting their first child. When Doug was killed in Vietnam, the government asked if we knew anyone also serving in Vietnam that we might want to request to accompany Doug's body home to us, on the plane. We asked them to allow Bud to come with Doug -- and the Yaws named their son Douglas.

May I have your permission to put your letter on my blog? There is such a warm outcome from your search for Dan's family -- it just might help other vets to also reach out.

Thank you again for sharing your writing ... and your heart -- God bless you, Richard.
My warmest regards and respect,

Email October 8, 2010:

"CJ -
You may certainly post my note on Memoirs. Hopefully it will inspire others to write something for Memoirs and maybe even tie up more loose ends for those from the Vietnam era.

As I read Memoirs and have gotten to know others through the site, its starting to take on a feeling of community. Do you feel that as well? Carolynn mentioned that when we were discussing some of the articles on Memoirs. There's that great line from the John Denver song, "West Virginia"... about going home to a place I've never been before. The Memoirs site is taking on that feel. As the creator of that "community" I hope you get that feeling as well.

Its fall up here in the Northwest. The Salmon are returning to the little steams around us and the last of the summer festivals has taken place. The returning Salmon, after their years at sea is almost a metaphor for the way were are "returning" to your site to get to know each other many years after Vietnam and express our thoughts and feelings about our Vietnam experiences.

Bud and Andrea must be quite thoughtful people for naming their son after Doug. I don't know if Bud writes, but I would love to know what it was like to accompany Doug to his final resting place. Needless to say if any of you Memoirs "community members" ever are in the Seattle area, Carolynn and I would love to meet you in person.

On a technical note if you ever want to edit something I've sent you, please go ahead and do that. I'm an engineer by trade so have no actual experience writing.

Thanks again for putting the site together. I'm sure Doug is as proud of what you've accomplished as are the rest of us. Look at all the hearts you've touched.

God bless you and keep you safe and healthy,

Richard A. Schwartz
Digital Anvil Technology
27708 246th Ave SE
Maple Valley, Wa. 98038

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, Richard. Thank you, too, to the family of Dan Hively, and a very special thanks to Bud and Andrea Yaw.
Your friend,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

North/South Differences

I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. God Bless America.

The Differences Between the North and South, clearly explained ...
[Sent by Craig Latham, and shared with you]

North has Bloomingdale's; South has Dollar General.
North has coffee houses; South has Waffle Houses.
North has dating services; South has family reunions.
North has switchblade knives; South has .45's
North has double last names; South has double first names.
North has Indy car races; South has stock car races.
North has Cream of Wheat; South has grits.
North has green salads; South has collard greens.
North has lobsters; South has crawfish.
North has the rust belt; South has the Bible Belt .


In the South: If you run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four men in a
four-wheel drive pickup truck with a tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store ... do
NOT buy food at this store.

Remember, "Y'all" is singular, "All y'all" is plural, and "All y'all's" is
plural possessive.

Get used to hearing "Y'all ain't from 'round here, are y'all?"

Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later on how to use it.

Don't be worried about not understanding what people are saying. They can't understand YOU either. The first Southern statement to creep into a transplanted Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective "big ol'" as in ... big ol' truck or big ol' boy. Most Northerners begin their Southern-influenced dialect this way. All of them are in denial about it.

The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

Be advised that "He needed killin'" is a valid defense here.

If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y'all watch this," you should stay out of the way. These are likely to be the last words he'll ever say.

If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of, or even the smallest accumulation of snow, your presence will be required at the local grocery store. It doesn't matter whether you need anything there or not. You just have to go there.

Do not be surprised to find that 10-year-olds own their own shotguns, they
are proficient marksmen, and their mammas taught them how to aim.

In the South, we have found that the best way to grow a lush green lawn is
to pour gravel on it and call it a driveway.

And REMEMBER: If you do settle in the South and bear children, don't think
we will accept them as Southerners ... after all, if the cat had kittens in the oven, we ain't gonna call 'em biscuits.

Send this to four people that ain't related to you, and I reckon your life
will turn into a country music song 'fore you know it. Your kin would get a kick out of it too!

To use the ultimate Southern term of affection -- BLESS YOUR HEART! You can say ANYTHING about a person as long as you say BLESS THEIR HEART at the end of it.

The difference between a Northern Fairy Tale and a Southern Fairy Tale:
In the North they say "Once upon a time" and in the South they say "Y'all ain't gonna believe this shit."

Thank you for sending this to me, Craig! You're the best!

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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Friday, October 1, 2010


"Per correr migliori acque alza le vele ormai la navicella del mio ingegno che lascia dietro a sé mar sì crudele."  [Opening lines of Dante's Il Purgatorio]

"For better waters that are heading with the wind, My ship of genius now shakes out her sail, And leaves the ocean of despair behind."  [Dorothy L. Sayers Translation]

CJ -
Your senility thoughts got me thinking about old age ...

A columnist named Sidney Harris once wrote, “We should be more like a peach on the inside as we become more like a prune on the outside”. I know he's correct. But it can be so difficult at times to feel like a peach.

When I was young, I asked my Grandmother, “Gramma, wouldn't you like to live forever?” She replied, “No honey, you see so many things ruined that one lifetime is enough for anyone.” At 62, I know she's right. One example of many things lost:

When I was a preschooler, we lived in Burlington, Iowa. We never locked our doors. We knew all our neighbors and they knew us. As a preschooler, I remember being invited onto a neighbor's porch (summer) kitchen to talk to her while she was canning pears. The woman had children, but they were older than I was and were at school. She noticed that I was wearing cowboy boots. She took the time to tell me how wonderful I looked in those boots. I was so proud. She then said that she had a treat for a cowboy. She opened her last jar of pears canned the previous year and put them in small bowls for us to share. The pears were so sweet that I could feel my teeth tingling.

While we talked, I noticed that she didn't smile much but I had no idea why. I told her that I had a library card. She said she had seen my mother and I walking to the library together and coming home with books. She told me that reading was wonderful. For a handful of minutes, this lady made me feel like I was the center of the universe.

A week later, I went out to play in my back yard and noticed an odd smell in the air. That odor was coming from the garden of the lady who had treated me to pears. I walked over and noted that the smell was coming from a pile of brown stuff in the corner of her garden. She said it was from horses and that it would help all the plants in her garden grow if she spread it around and mixed it in the soil. She suggested that I might want to help her because it would help make the next year's crop of pears as sweet as the ones I had eaten.

Needless to say I would have done anything to help next years pears get sweet. I used a child sized rake and shovel and probably made more of a mess than any help, but I spread the manure in the small area she assigned me.

It was hard work for a 4-year-old, and I remember my sweat felt cool in the late fall air. She told me I had been a big help and that I should come by in the spring to put some seeds in the ground and watch them grow. When we were done she showed me how to clean my rake and shovel. She then walked me home and told my Mom how to clean manure off my boots and clothes. My mom was raised in Chicago and certainly didn't know about cleaning manure off boots, clothes and kids.

The following spring, our neighbor lady let me plant carrot seeds. She referred to them as 'Rick's carrots'. I watched the seed bed like a hawk until the carrots sprouted, at which time I dragged my mom and dad over to see 'my' carrots.

August in Iowa is a hot, humid time but my Dad, Mom and I helped our neighbor and her children weed that garden. At harvest time, my Dad and Mom helped with harvesting and I was shown how to pull up 'my' carrots. We had pulled up what I estimate to be about one bushel of carrots. We took them home, washed them, and discussed how we should divide them up.

We decided we would divide them into 5 piles. One pile for the lady whose garden was where they had grown, one pile for my grandmother, one for the old lady two-doors down who was ill and couldn't put in a garden that year, one for our house, and one last pile. I was assigned the decision on where the last pile of carrots would go.

After much 5-year-old thought, I decided to give them to that lady at the library, the one who let me borrow all those books on airplanes, trucks, boats, and trains. That librarian even read to my friends and I when we visited her library! I certainly wanted her to share in my carrot harvest.

During that harvest season, there was a change at our neighbor's house. I noticed that a man who had recently come home from the Korean war was visiting the lady's home more and more often. I thought he must have been very funny as the woman seemed to smile and laugh an amazing amount when he was visiting her home.

The last I remember of our neighbor was when my parents were helping her move all her belongings into a truck. She was moving to Dallas, Texas, with the funny man she had married the week before. I hope she's still laughing and I suspect she is.

Many years later, my parents were joking about how poor we were then. Turns out, there were weeks when Mom made a big soup on Sunday and it had to last all week. The kind neighbor with the big garden was growing the garden out of necessity, as her first husband had died at the beginning of the Korean war. Of course, I never knew any of these things as a child.

Look at all the lessons I learned. No one told me sharing was important. They demonstrated it. They didn't tell me that hard work would result in good outcomes. They lived it and they let me take part in the result of my own 'hard work'. Even the neighbor lady, who was enduring grief that only someone who has experienced that type of grief would understand, not only found time for me, but found ways to make me feel special. My mom understood her grief. My mother's first marriage was to a man that died at the end of WWII. She had married my Dad a few years after the war. My mom said she would make a pot of tea, go over to our neighbor's house and, according to my mom, “We'd have a good cry.”

Look at all the great memories that neighbor created for me. Consider all the formative lessons she taught me. With all her pain and her own children to raise, she found time for me. I could go on and on about our various neighbors. They were as much a part of my life as my aunts and uncles.

Halloween time meant homemade treats, including popcorn balls that were the size of my head. By the time my children were old enough to go trick and treating, it wasn't even legal to give out homemade treats. I realize that the early 1950's were also a time of polio and whooping cough. But as we progressed over the years, we seem to have lost the importance of neighbors and our relationships with them. My children have few if any experiences like mine. I think that's a true loss.


Richard A. Schwartz
Digital Anvil Technology
27708 246th Ave SE
Maple Valley, Wa. 98038

Co. D, 2/327 Battalion
2nd Bde
101st Airborne Division
Phu Bai, RVN

Thank you once again, Richard. Your writings are always welcome here. You have a way of touching hearts and souls ...

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale