Chuck was the first adult I called by his first name. I was five.The next adult I called by his first name did not happen until I was an adult myself.
Chuck was a United States Marine Corps helicopter pilot, and a friend of my Dad, a Unites States Marine fighter jet pilot. Both flew off carriers.
Chuck went to Nam; my Dad did not. My Dad did not go because he had an emotionally disturbed son who did not talk, so he stayed stateside. (Turns out that emotionally disturbed son was more deaf than disturbed, and eventually learned to talk well enough to become a doctor.)
Chuck got shot down. He came back home. He had a scarred face, and looking back now I do not know if it was from shrapnel or acne.
My Dad left the Marines in the mid sixties. Chuck stayed in. I was not terribly sophisticated about politics when I was six years old, but I wondered why Chuck stayed in the Marines. I even asked him when my Dad wasn’t listening. (Don’t think my Dad would have tolerated that, and I didn’t much like getting hit.)
Chuck gave my brother and me a toy aircraft carrier that released depth charges. It’s how I learned about depth charges.
My Dad would tell us that Chuck was the worst chopper pilot ever. It was a joke. But Chuck went to Nam anyway.
The last time I saw Chuck told me why he went back–he was haunted by the soldiers he left behind. And the war, which I was told was “bad,” got real complicated for this 6 year old.
Chuck tried to save one too many soldiers, and he got shot down again. And killed. I imagine the ones he went to save were killed that day, too.
And so it goes…..