I have a faint memory that my parents have identified from my description as taking place in 1969. I was 3. I remember a hospital room and being inside an oxygen tent. I also remember being angry at the nurse for stealing my blanket, brought to me from home, when I would fall asleep. I was unconscious to anything else in the world. Never did I imagine that during this same time, that world was much different for my uncle.
Between the months of August 1968 and August 1969, My uncle Russ was in a far away Asian country fighting in a war. I was in California. He patrolled the jungles and climbed through the mud. I was mastering toddler walk. He fought for his life with a gun in his hands and wits about his head; his hunting skills being used to run point more times than not on his patrols. I fought asthma; my skill set not even mastering breathing.
What a brat I must’ve been all those years. Garnering attention for being sick, being praised for getting good grades, and having love heaped upon me by my grandparents- his parents. He struggled with demons that followed him back from Viet Nam.
Yet he never spoke but kind words to me. He helped me learn how to fish and run a boat. Later on, he played with my kids and doted on them when we came to visit.
I always wondered why he never seemed to be in step with the normal world. A loving wife, a family life, or even a regular job seemed to all escape him.
Our lives took entirely different paths. I got the easy one. He had the hard one allotted to him. I reaped the benefits of the godawful hell he went through. And he never said a word.
In fact I never heard him talk of any of it. Never did he complain or make me feel like I owed him something. It has only been in these later years that I knew anything of what he went through. And only a small part of it.
Today I finally saw the photos of a young man in a far away place. I held the Bronze Star, awarded to him for his ordeals.
Luckily, I had been able to tell him how much I appreciated all he had done for me and my family before he passed. But I don’t think I ever had a clue as to how much that appreciating should’ve been.
Uncle Russ. Thank you again. I hope the rest you find meets what you deserve.