This morning, at 0730, I received a phone call from the wife of a longtime friend. Her name is Brandy. His name was Chuck. He died last night.
Chuck was a Vietnam Vet. He had a Bronze Star, sixteen Air Medals. Each Air Medal reflects 24 hours of combat flying for those in the Army. He also had been presented an Army Commendation with V device and a Purple Heart.
I wrote an article about him which, I believe, is to be published by the Soldier of Fortune Magazine in another month. On October 20. 1969, Chuck turned 19. Five days later he was aboard a helicopter flying into the dark of night. Its mission was to find and rescue a Special Forces Team that had been “inserted” the day before into an area in Laos.
Chuck did not know that I had learned the article is to be printed. I was holding that knowledge as a surprise for him. That night in 1969 was so incredibly important to him. Had I called yesterday and told him he would have died with the knowledge that what we had set out to do in December of 2014 was finally coming into being. It makes me sick to know that he was unaware of this fact at his death.
These past few weeks have been so strange. First came the death of Dan Anders from Pancreatic Cancer. Dan was a miracle man. He was the only living human that had survived being exposed to Anthrax. He was an Air Force Vietnam Vet.
Then came Randall Gooding who is still in a coma after emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. He and I were in Vietnam together in the same outfit in 1965. We have been friends since 1963.
Then came my own problems and visits to the ER at the Bay Pines VA Hospital because of breathing problems.
Next came my wife and the incredible pain she had encountered from last Wednesday night on and our trip to the ER at Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Saturday in an attempt to solve that which we never did learn the cause of.
Last came the phone call this morning telling me that Chuck V, as we called him as there is another Chuck in the group but his last name starts with a B and so whenever we were speaking of one or the other we identified them with either the V or the B).
So, Brandy called and told me that Chuck had died unexpectantly. He had walked down the hall during the night and feel. She went to him and he told her he could not breathe. She attempted to help him with his portable oxygen machine. No help. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
I and everyone close to Chuck V find ourselves in a state of shock. He will be missed in our group that meets at the St. Pete Vet Center. His chair will be empty. And there will also be an empty spot in our hearts.
I can write no more. I am staggered by the loss. I cannot even proof read this. It is what it is.