Memorial Day passed a few days prior to this blog posting, but the past is quite important. Without the past no memories would exist. And since part of the “blog process” is looking into the life of SCACPA’s President, may I share a deeply planted memory – a personal reflection of Memorial Day? As a veteran, may I step aside from the debits and credits to share and honor the memory of a young airman who paid the ultimate sacrifice – an airman who was killed by enemy rocket fire in Viet Nam?
I would think that most of us who are boomers knew at least one of the 58,000 who lost their lives during the Viet Nam War. For all of those that paid the ultimate price Memorial Day is set aside for us to pause, reflect and say, “thank you.”
The first week of April 1970, I was about half way through my one year assignment to the 6924th Security Squadron in Da Nang, Peoples Republic of South Viet Nam. As was typical, we saw men rotate in and out of our unit on a regular basis. Upon an airman’s arrival, he would be shown around and introduced to members of the squadron. I will never forget the big smile, the extended handshake and the bubbling personality of Airman First Class Paul Wayne Anthony, as he came into my cubicle. We were both from the Carolinas – he from Charlotte. We’d both gotten married immediately prior to coming into the unit. He was four days younger than me. Both of us were 20 years old on that hot day in Southeast Asia – more than 10,000 miles away from the Carolinas.
In less than a week and on his first night on duty, Paul was killed in an enemy rocket attack. He was gone before we really got to know him. The sights and sounds of that attack will never be erased from my memory. Years later I visited his mother who was abiding in an assisted living facility in Gastonia, NC. When I finally met her, I asked if I could hug her neck and she said yes. While hugging her, I broke down and shed tears – the first ever on the outside for Paul. His mother patted me on the back while hugging me and said, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” Others in his family told me that I was the closest thing to Paul coming home that they had experienced. Hopefully I have made Memorial Day a little more comforting for the family.
In the years that have passed, many of us from the unit have organized a formal association. Today we fund annual scholarships of $2,000 for AFROTC students at Paul’s alma mater – the University of NC at Charlotte. This is done to honor the memory of our fallen brother.
Each Memorial Day I find a quiet time and a private place. I remember. I reflect. I remember Paul as well as all the others who through the years have paid the full price for freedom as we know it. The tears swell. My heart beats a little faster. In my own way I say, “thank you.”
It is with great pride that I serve as your SCACPA President in 2010. And it was with great pride that I join many of my fellow members who served our country (July 18, 1967 through July 17, 1971) – Staff Sergeant Charles E. Brown – now simply C. E. “Eddie” Brown, CPA.
Thank you America for setting aside one day each year as Memorial Day – a day to reflect and memorialize those who paid the ultimate price allowing me to be a CPA.
I would encourage any members to share in the comments section any similar reflections they may have.
Blogger: Charles ‘Eddie’ Brown, CPA