Steve’s post, The Final Sacrifice, reminded me of an old newspaper clipping I found packed in a box of old mementos. The clipping came from 1967, the Vietnam era. It announced the death of Alvin Wiles and two others.
I knew Alvin as “Goot.” Being a friend of my older sister’s, he came by our house with a group of friends ever so often. I though Goot was a cool guy and always made a point of talking to him a little when he was around. I have no idea of the origins of the nickname “Goot.”
I had forgotten that I had cut out the newspaper clipping. I had just turned 16 when Goot died. I really didn’t know him that well, but he was the first person I knew who died in Vietnam. Later, my sister’s boy friend, John Balitsaris, and her best friends brother, Bobby McCloughlin (sp?) would also meet their end in Vietnam.
I remember when we found out about Bobby’s death. I was talking on the phone to my girlfriend and the operator interrupted the call saying she had an emergency phone call for my sister from Mary Ellen and could I hand up. I did and called to my sister that Mary Ellen would be calling her in a minute with an emergency phone call. My sister laughed and said Mary Ellen did that all the time. No one was laughing a few minutes later. It was a sad and scary time.
For some reason, I had cut out Goot’s story and stashed it away. Over the years through 4 children, two marriages and a dozen or so residences, I lost a lot of items, favorite records, photos, love letters, books, my class ring and more. But, somehow, Goots newspaper clipping stayed.
In 1989, I visited the Vietnam Memorial. Looking up the locations of their name, I said a little hello and a little prayer to the three guys I knew who died in that war. And, I shed a few tears. I wasn’t alone. Everyone I saw at the memorial wiped their eyes more than once.
I’ll be keeping Goot’s clipping the rest of my life. I hope one of my kids keeps it after that. We need to remember.