Many years later, I was walking in Arlington National Cemetery, paying my respect to the thousands of souls who were less lucky than myself. By sheer coincidence, I came upon a tombstone of CSM Wilbur Childress who died in combat in 1970. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I could barely breathe. How could anybody so professional, so military, and so kind possibly be dead? At that instant, I realized I actually loved the old guy for the help he had given me and the things he had taught me. I wanted to thank him one more time, at least!
But, it got worse! After much digging, I learned he had been “fragged,” which means he was intentionally killed by a fellow American soldier. An ocean of salt washed into my open emotional wound. My sorrow became anger. To my knowledge, nobody was ever charged with his murder.
During this Memorial Day weekend, I will, of course, be respecting the hundreds of thousands of men who laid down their lives for their country. I will also be remembering one particular solder who had his life taken before he could die for his country. The world in general and the Army in particular would be a better place if he had lived.
Sergeant Childress, I salute you, I miss you, but I know you are in the good company of genuine patriots on this Memorial Day.