Being a Baby Boomer and right in the middle of the Vietnam War's age group, you would think that my group would have been thinned down by deaths due to enemy fire. In fact, I had to look up the Fort Sill wall to find any of my friends or acquaintances that were killed in that war. My Battery Commander went to Vietnam, got promoted to Major and died in a helicopter crash. One of the TAC officers in my sister Battery was killed by enemy fire. As for my childhood friends, attrition was a lot more natural.
It started with Whitney. He was one fun guy and we all laughed at his antics. Sometime in High School he came to me one day and said that his Step-mother was making his life unbearable. H could not stand it and said he had been made to feel bad for the last time. His real mother had custody of his two sisters and could not take him in. He was not sure what he could do. His solution was to have his mother sign the paper so he could join the marines. He went off and only came back to Wichita a couple of times. I worried that as a Marine Rifleman he was in a line of work that had lethality written all over it. The day he turned 19, he was deployed for his first tour as a rifleman. He came home all decorated up and we were proud of him. He went back to California and through his brother I found out that he married a really nice young lady. Somewhere during my time in OCS. I found out that Whitney went back to Vietnam as a Sergeant in charge of a rifle squad. Second tour, more decorations and he came home safe and well.
Whitney was stationed at 29 Palms in the middle of the Desert there in California and his wife lived near her family near the LA Area. They became the proud parents of a set of twins and life was good. Whitney would spend his week at 29 Palms and come home on the weekends. I think it is so ironic that it was a traffic accident on one of his early morning runs back to 29 Palms that took his life.
The next fatality in our small group of friends was Wayne. He had worked his way up in an Air Conditioning firm and was living near Denver. Wayne had been having trouble with a bowel problem but had decided against exploratory surgery to see what was wrong. After a pretty bad weekend, Wayne decided to stay home on a Monday and his wife went to work. By the time his wife came home that night, Wayne had died. Seems like the perforated bowel had gone septic. That was a shock to us all as he was doing well in life and we all expected him to keep climbing the corporate ladder and do well, not die.
The third friend to die was Whitney's older brother. John was always the serious one and one of the best mechanics I knew. There was never a problem he could not solve for me and I really enjoyed our time together. As near as I knew, John never drank a thing until he was well into his late 30's. His father built an ice skating rink and when it failed to make a profit, it was turned into a dance club. I guess John was exposed to drinking and he started drinking. I lost track of him for a few year and one day I stopped by his parents house and was told that John had died. He was a truck drive and came in off the road and was ill. With no one to check on him, he died alone. There is not a lot of details other than his death was considered natural causes.
I do not mean to make this a morbid tale but one that I am writing to see if there is a message in there some where. Not sure, but I do intend to see my old friends more often.
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