Monday, May 26, 2014

"I Only Knew One Friend And I Found Him At The Vietnam War Memorial."

He was on the football team as a second string tackle, and that's pretty much how I knew him. Adrian was a soft spoken, shy, rather unassuming guy who seemed not quiet sure of his place in high school. He had a great sense of humor with a disarming smile. I wish I had known him better. I went to our Senior class yearbook to find his graduation photo, but, for whatever reason, it was not available. 

Classic Adrian? I really don't know. We were pretty much all about our selves back then, as most teenagers are, and I have, now, no way of knowing. I had to go to our junior year football roster pic to find the one posted.

I was in my first year of college when I heard Adrian joined the Marine Corps. I thought, he must have had a real need to prove himself to himself to do something that drastic at a time that was so dangerous. Why would he do such a thing? 

What seemed like six months later, the news spread that Adrian was killed in an ambush in Vietnam. I remember someone told me how it happened, but the passing of the many years has fogged my memory. I felt some sadness, then, but felt it was naive to think he could prove himself in such a way. I felt it was foolish of him to try. There had to be a better way.

Many years later, while attending a function at Andrews, AFB with the Air Force Art Program, I  decided to visit the newly completed Vietnam Memorial. The memorial had been negatively talked about for what seemed years before and after it was built. I had heard people would bring paper and a marker or pencil to rub or score the names of deceased friends and relatives onto the paper to remember and honor those who died protecting our freedom. I thought that was cool, even though I knew I would not need much paper.

I only knew one soldier.

I would walk and search the entire wall until I found him and when I did, I just began sobbing. I really didn't know why, I just did. It was very moving. More moving to me than I could ever realize. A distant school friend, a team mate, a graduate, a soldier… a Marine!

A piece of paper is now all I have left of him and it is stashed deep in my files, forever. Who knows if I will ever find it, but in my heart, Adrian will live forever. Though I have never been in the service, and therefore, no real right to say this, "Semper Fi," Adrian...

And thank you.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

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