A very special Christmas story...December 24 2010 at 10:08 AM
SeaBat (Login SeaBat)
Please know that the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. This is a VERY true Christmas story...
Sally visited the Vietnam Traveling Wall when it came to a small city in our area. It was poignant that it was Veteran's Day weekend. She was reminded of a young man ("Sam") from her village - he had been killed in action during that war and Sally wanted to pay her respects. She didn't know the young man personally, but several years ago she was working for a local newspaper and did an interview and story on this local hero. She became fairly well acquainted with the young man's parents and visited them from time to time.
When visiting at the Wall that day, she met Sam's parents again. As Mr. and Mrs. Smith spoke with her, she realized how troubled they were by their son's death - even today - and how time was marching on. Sally went on about her regular routine, but a small niggle stayed in her brain. She kept thinking about Mr. and Mrs. Smith and how for over 40 years they had lived with uncertainty. Not knowing. Wondering. Loss. Deep Grief.
After a day or two, Sally decided she had to do something to try to find information for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They deserved to know the circumstances around their son's death. They deserved some peace. Unsure of how any information would be received by them, she decided she would see if she could find anything on the internet. If it was something that was pertinent, she could share it with Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
After some general searches, Sally contacted Susie. She knew Susie was involved with a Navy ship and thought maybe she could give her some leads on where to look for information. After a brief conversation, Sally sent Susie an email with a few details - Sam's range of service, the date and location he died, the Unit he was attached to. Sally shared the information that appeared on the VietNam Wall archives:
"Wounded at THUA THIEN, SOUTH VIETNAM. Hostile, died of wounds, GROUND CASUALTY, GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE."
Papers had been received by Sam's parents at the time of his death. They indicated that he was evac'ed to a hospital in Japan where he died of his wounds on April 4, 1968.
They never knew, other than these few words, what happened to their son, what his circumstances were. "Was he alone?" "Did he suffer?" were only two of the myriad of questions that constantly swirled in their thoughts. The 'not knowing'. No closure. 40 years of uncertainty.
Susie had done some searching before, but never for someone in her own area. She was drawn to Sam as if he was saying "Help my parents find peace, Susie. I want them to know my story. Help them." She could not say no to Sam's plea from Heaven.
A few days after Veteran's Day, Susie began her search after consulting with her mentor. She wanted to make certain that there was no obvious archive that she should search before going in depth. Then the work began in earnest. The location and time frame were searched to get an idea of what action might have occurred there. She then went to the 101st Airborne, 327th Infantry site to read and look for information that might aid her in her search. She was pleasantly surprised to find several posting boards that allowed her to post messages asking for any who served in that area, at that time, to contact her. She shared the nature of her quest, stating that she only wanted to assist a still grieving family.
She kept reading and searching off and on for the next few weeks, learning more about the VietNam war as she read. Sometimes these searches take weeks or years. Some are successful, others not. She proceeded slowly, looking. Searching. Websites examined, one by one.
On Tuesday, December 21st, she received an email message from "Chuck Jones". Chuck had served with Sam's unit in VietNam. Chuck graciously said that he would be happy to help Sam's parents. Susie was elated and emailed Chuck thanking him for his willingness to share. As you know full well, sometimes remembering is very difficult on the Veteran who is assisting another with information. With that thought uppermost in her mind, Susie contacted Sally and shared Chuck's contact information. Sally remained quiet for a few seconds and when she spoke, in her voice Susie heard the hope and joy resound.
Sally contacted Chuck and spoke with him at length. Susie received this email from Sally, late the evening of the 21st:
"He [Chuck] missed the battle because he was in a hospital tent with malaria, and if not, he wouldn't be alive because his team was all instantly killed in an ambush on 21March68. At that time, a Lt. **** went up to retrieve the bodies of [Chucks] team and was killed. It looks like [Sam] then went up to retrieve ****** when he was mortally wounded."
"The man who responded was just the one who could connect things! His buddies have provided information and he is going to get me the phone number of *****'s brother, who also has been searching for answers all these years, so maybe the [Smith's] can speak with him. [Chuck] believes Mr. ***** doesn't know who brought his brother's body back so that his brother could be buried in here in the U.S."
"I called the [Smith's] and when I told Mr. [Smith] I had information, I didn't know what to expect, but he was ecstatic. Im going to their home this afternoon with what I have so far."
Late on Wednesday, December 22nd, Sally went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Smith. She shared Chuck's story in depth. Sally emailed Susie with the news "I will always remember the look Mr. [Smith] gave me when I was leaving - such gratitude and peace."
Sally then called Chuck to thank him once again and relay information from the Smith's.
This morning, on Christmas Eve, Susie opened another email from Sally:
"Several of the fellows in his unit are sending cards or letters to the [Smith's]. Isn't that wonderful?! It was their idea. What a great group of guys. I understand now how you feel adopted by the naval unit you spend time with. These guys have shared so much it's really made me think. We're a part of something special here, Susie. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"
Why do I share this story with all of you? I want you to realize YOUR part in this very special Christmas gift. Susie would never have known what to look for or how to look for it had she not had a huge group of family members who helped her learn. YOU have a part in this Christmas peace. Share the warmth of peace and hope, all in honor of a small baby born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. The sharing is my Christmas gift to all of you.
And "Sam"... Merry Christmas to you in Heaven! Your parents are at ease now. They know their son's story. Your brothers of the battlefield will watch over them for you. Sing of that baby's birth with the choirs of angels. Be at peace.
|This message has been edited by SeaBat on Dec 26, 2010 7:25 PM|
- Thank you - Anonymous on Dec 24, 2010, 4:30 PM