"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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

For Our Country

The following was actually a comment left on yesterday's blog which was written by David Westfall, "God Bless the Marines".  I was afraid it would be lost in the comment box -- I don't how many people take time to read the comments -- anyway, I think it's significant all by itself.  It was written by our friend, Craig Latham, who is a regular contributor here at Memoirs:

Craig Latham

"Hi David,

Like the saying goes, "Some gave All and All gave some".

Every person in the US Military, be it two years, or twenty, out of a life time, they should be considered a hero. 

They don't have to see combat for them to be doing something for their Country -- Our Country.  They are giving a little of themselves so that others can be free. 

Any loss is unacceptable, be it in combat action, training accident, or someone being hit by a car. 

These military personnel give of themselves every day. They don't ask for much in return, but we should give them what we can, even if it is here in a blog at Memoirs From Nam to just listen and know that your words do not fall on deaf ears.

Welcome home my friend.

Craig Latham
Former 101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
Phu Bai, Vietnam (now in Ohio)"

(*Thank you, Craig -- you always know the right words.  Your friend, CJ)

“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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God Bless the Marines

by David Westfall

Last night, March 29th 2011, at about 7:30 p.m. local time, a CH-53 with 4 Marines on board from MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, went down near the base. It was a water crash, but luckily, the water was only about 4 feet deep. Apparently, they have all survived the crash, but at least one is in critical condition. KBay is where we used to do our practice SAR jumps when I was stationed at HSL-37, NAS Barber's Point, Hawaii. It is now the home base for HSL-37 since they closed NAS Barber's Point back in the mid 1990's.

When a friend of mine posted the links for the news sites about the crash, it hit me hard. It has been almost 16 years since I strapped myself into a military helicopter. I don't know any of the crewman involved, but it still made my heart ache. Unless you only did one tour flying, the odds are you know someone who gave their life flying in military aircraft. It may be a risk all flyers take every time they strap in, but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens.

It was about 18 years and one week ago that a helo from my squadron went down in the Straights of Hormuz. I lost three good friends that night. Only a few years before that, our squadron lost another bird. Only one crewman was lost, but the other two will never be the same, either mentally or physically.

I was only in the Navy for 12 years. I have now been out for almost 16 years, much longer than I was in, but these feelings of hurt and sadness still rear their ugly heads every time I hear of an aviator, from any branch of the U.S. military, going down. Sometimes I wish I didn't experience these feelings. But, when I sit back and think about it with my brain instead of my heart, I know it is a good thing. There's a need for people in this country that care about and honor our service members. I know they have family and friends, but I believe more is better.

I recently read in a book, "If you share your pain with someone else, it cuts your own in half".  I am aware that I don't know any of these brave airmen, and they will never know that I am sharing their pain with them, but I honestly believe it can't hurt and may be able to help them. I guess it all depends on whether you believe in a common life energy here on Earth or not. I do.

So, as I sit here and type, I am thinking about, and praying for, these four brave airmen. Those airmen that for years have been putting their lives on the line, every time they strap in, to help keep this country free.

God bless you all.
AW2 (AW) (Civ) David "Bull" Westfall


Corporal Jonathan D. Faircloth, an aerial observer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Marine Air Group 24, was pronounced dead by the state medical examiner and taken to Tripler Army Medical Center Tuesday night.
Faircloth, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., joined the squadron in April, 2007, and deployed with them to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2010. He became a Marine in August, 2006.

Faircloth is survived by his wife, Alicia, two siblings, James and Danielle, and his parents, Dean and Beverly Faircloth, who described their son as a true gentleman and a happy person who loved the Marine Corps and his job.

Faircloth's personal awards include four Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

The three HMH-363 crewmen injured during the same emergency landing were pilot Maj. Clinton J. Collins, copilot Capt. Kevin F. Hayles, and crew chief Cpl. Ronnie E. Brandafino. All three Marines were transported to Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu for treatment of their injuries and were last reported in stable condition.
While Hayles has joined the squadron recently, Collins has deployed with HMH-363 once to Afghanistan and Brandafino, who joined the squadron in 2008 deployed with them to Iraq that year and to Afghanistan in 2010. Collins also deployed with HMH-362, also based at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, to Iraq in 2007.

***Thank you, David. You sure know how to say what most of us would like to. That quote was right on ... sharing our pain with others really does cut our own in half. That has been my dream, here in Memoirs.
Hugs to you, my 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

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Harry Wilson: Was Anybody There?

I can’t remember the exact date, but it was around the time when the Ist Division went home. I want to say it was November of 1969 with the Big Red One 1st of the 16th Mech. Inf.

Our Platoon was heading back to get resupplied from our HQ Co about three miles away. The lead track (Iron Butterfly) hit a 750 mine in front of me as I was driving the 2nd (Blood Sweat and Tears) of a two APC convoy. The squad was through into the trees from the explosion and the driver was trapped inside.

We first checked for ambush and did not receive any fire from outside our AO. Myself, and I think it was Jack Speck and Mark Cripion left our tracks to rescue the five injured and dug out the driver from the track. Our medic was somewhat shell shocked. He was running around putting wraps on the injured men and letting them wander out in the jungle. We told him to sit down and we would perform the medi-vac as we did. He sat there and did nothing at all.

We had completed the tasked and were ordered by the major fling in the chopper overhead. He requested we remove all the guns, ammo, and supplies from the track and blow in place. As I entered Iron Butterfly, my Sergeant called out “ambush”. I climbed out of the track and went to grab the 60 cal to prepare to return fire. We heard two major explosions, but could not figure out where it was coming from. We later found that out when I got out of the track to prepare for an ambush and two others went in to complete the mission of getting the equipment out of the track. They were both KIA when the claymore mines we carried exploded. We later found out that the three other units with the name of Iron Butterfly had as well hit mines within two hours.

Then we packed up and went on about our mission to get supplies for the rest of the platoon. We really thought no more of the situation, other than our friends that we lost. Our Medic was a conscientious objector and did not carry a gun.

Well about two or three weeks later we were in the rear in our base in Li Kay or ZION for our day and half of R&R. Jack and I were walking to the EM club when we saw a lifer ceremonies giving out medals for whatever went on that month. I told Jack “ Hey, let's watch this for a few minutes and then go get a beer.” He agreed as we did.

Well who do we see go up and get a SILVER STAR? Our medic for the exact situation that we had just gone through. Now keep in mind that there were only about 8 troops at the scene and two were KIA. And nobody in our unit ever talked to any higher up in our unit about the situation. So we could not figure how this all came about.

We never even thought about getting any medal for what we did. We were only doing our job of supporting our comrades.  We then went to the IG General and filed a formal complaint with him about it. We got back to our company and told the others what we just saw. They were also pissed. Within one hour we had orders from our CO to get packed up and ship out to Central Vietnam .

We salute and carry on.  I am now 62 and I still think about this.

 Was anybody there?

Harry Wilson

**Welcome Home, Harry.  Thank you for your service. It's an honor to share your experience.  
Most sincerely and with utmost 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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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Gift, 1969

Last weekend, we were watching an older HBO series, "The Pacific", and I was reminded of a huge synchronicity that happened to me many years ago. When it was over and we turned the TV off, I talked about it with Robert. He felt it was significant and something I should share.

Some things are difficult to write about -- they're too close to our hearts to even talk about, sometimes -- so please bear with me, as I try and morph emotion into words ...

I've talked before about my first husband, Doug. We were married in January of 1969 and he left shortly after for Vietnam, in May. Doug was a combat medic with the 199th Infantry Division and, during a horrific firefight, KIA in Vietnam in September of 1969.

In August of 1969, my paternal grandmother suddenly died from a brain aneurysm. We were all saddened, of course, especially since she was only 59 -- young, even by 1969 standards. How tenuous life is. None of us ever knows how long we have.

I debated about how best to tell Doug. He was very close to Gramma Parrish. He had to know, and I was going to have to tell him. He loved cooking, like she did, and they often talked recipes and ingredients as he savored her latest offering -- Gramma was a wonderful cook and he was probably her greatest fan.

As I was tearfully writing about Gramma, it occurred to me again just how precious every minute is with loved ones. I missed him so much. I would have given anything to be holding him and telling him in person about Gramma -- suddenly I wondered, what if something happened to me? Who would be the one to tell Doug? Who would console him? Then I knew. I would. As I sat there, a poem came out of nowhere -- it was an easy write, so unlike others I had written, and I went racing with it's simple emotion and insight.

If Only a Minute
(Written August 1969)

Sweet heart, if I only have a minute
to say goodbye to you,
let me whisper what I’m thinking
when my time on earth is through.

I'll tell you how I’ve loved you
and how happy I have been,
please, don't think of me as leaving,
for I know we’ll meet again.

We'll hold each other close once more
and I'll kiss away your tears.
We'll talk of precious things we’ve shared
through all our loving years.

When my time with you has ended
and He calls for me to come,
Just know, I’ve always loved you.
Please take care of everyone.

When I finished, I folded the poem with the letter, addressed the envelope, licked the stamp and like so many other letters, I kissed it and dropped it into the mailbox to find its way to Doug. Even now, as I look back, I'm amazed that I was so blind to the fact that Doug could be the one who died.  I was so sure he would return, I refused to even think about any other outcome.

Months later, after his funeral, I received a large envelope from the Army. Inside was a small package of unopened letters that had never reached Doug and they'd never been read. Among the letters was the one I had written about Gramma's passing. Oh my God, I thought, he never knew ... and then the poem slipped down to the floor. 

As I bent down and picked up the page, I began to read and I sobbed.   The words took on a whole new meaning -- as though Doug had written the words to me, and I felt somehow comforted. I didn't know then that it was called a synchronicity, but I do remember feeling that it came from a higher power, something wonderful, yet mysterious.  This was a gift, a magical message, to me from Doug.

... and I'm glad Gramma was there to Welcome Doug 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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