Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kurt and 'Nam

Some veterans die in battle while others return home to perish on the installment plan. My friend Kurt passed away in 2003 from liver cancer, partially brought about by PTSD-inspired drinking coupled with hepatitis from a bad blood transfusion he underwent in Vietnam. Kurt could have skated on that particular war, but extended his enlistment in order to fight. Serving in Marine Recon, he won a Navy Commendation medal for helping his unit fight clear of an ambush.

Several Purple Hearts later, Kurt served in an ultra-secret outfit that probed the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Hacked out of the jungle, the Trail was a highway for the North Vietnamese to funnel men and supplies into South Vietnam and Cambodia. Because of political silliness, Laos was officially off-limits to U.S. ground forces. That meant Kurt and his unofficial team were forced to ditch the bodies of their dead who would be listed as "Missing in Action in South Vietnam." It always bothered him that families of fallen comrades would be denied the closure of burial—or the recognition of bravery from a seemingly indifferent government.

A good portion of Kurt's post-war years were spent in rage and self-destruction. In time, he made peace with his past and, little by-little, cut a trail over to serenity from which he rarely strayed. His last ten years were good ones.

I was a pallbearer at Kurt's funeral. He received a Marine Corps color guard, taps, and a view of the 2 Freeway stretching below in the distance, flowing past Forest Lawn Cemetery on its way to Eagle Rock. (Transportation arteries played a big role in his life.) I think of Kurt when I drive past and often wish he could call down artillery on erratic delivery vans.

This Veteran's Day Kurt came to mind. And while he's at peace, I send prayers and best wishes to those still struggling with the silent baggage of war. And to the many other servicemen and women who worked and trained hard, giving up years in service to America.

Happy Veteran's Day to all.
(Map: The Adventures of Chester)


Luke said...

That's very touching. I'm glad that he had peace in his final ten years of life. And now, he's much better off. I'm really thankfull that my Grandfather, a veteran, is still with us today, and does not suffer from post war madness. I prayer from me goes out to all the veterans, and their families today.

Tom Ruegger said...

God bless Kurt and you, Mr. McCann, and all our military veterans, past and present and future.

takineko said...

That's incredible. I can't imagine such a life, and I'm glad to hear his last 10 years were so good. I'm sorry you lost a great friend, I don't know that there's much more I can say than that. I'll pray for God to comfort his friends and family.

John P. McCann said...

Please do so, takineko.

And thank your hub for his service.

SquirrelyWrath said...

One of my cousins just recently got back from Afghanistan. Serving as a driver in supply convoys.

John P. McCann said...

Waiting for IEDs to go off couldn't have been pleasant. Thank him for his service.

SquirrelyWrath said...

Her actually, and I will. XD The job was even harder for her considering she could be discharged at any time if they find out she is gay. But she is a hard charging badass all the same.