Monday, May 31, 2010

Soldier for a Day

Billy wasn't going to college. He didn't like rules, books or writing things down on paper. Billy was an action guy. He worked, and he played, and he had a real talent for automobile engines. If your car wasn't running right, Billy knew why, and he could fix it with a screwdriver, pliars, or a wad of gum.

After high school, Billy went to work at an auto dealer and was on his way. A full mechanic's spot meant his own workstation, a regular line of cars to fix, and a steady, very nice paycheck for a 20-year-old. He met a girl. They planned on getting married.

There was a problem, though. See, the year was 1966, and America was fighting alongside South Vietnam in their civil war with North Vietnam. America had a draft. And Billy got drafted. We threw a big party for Billy and we all said goodbye and worried about him.

And with good cause. The day Billy landed in Saigon, they put his unit on a truck and headed out for a fire station that needed replacements. The truck ran over a mine. Billy and dozens of other brand new soldiers were killed.

We said goodbye again a month later. We said goodbye to a flag-drapped coffin. And not a Memorial Day goes by that we don't think of Billy and the life he never got to live.