Veterans Day

I was going to write something else today, but when I saw this moving piece in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal, I wanted to share it with you. It’s written by Rick Larson, a 75-year old Vietnam veteran who now lives in Monona.

Here it is.

Every year around Veterans Day, I recall my time in the Navy and remember some of my fellow veterans, one in particular.

In early August 1968, I was home on leave before my deployment to Vietnam. One morning, our friendly milkman dropped by and learned that I’d soon be shipping out. He proudly told us that his son had left two months earlier to join his unit near Danang. When our milkman got up to leave, he handed me a $5 bill and said, “If you run into my son over there, buy him a drink.” A few days later, I arrived at my duty station and spent the next year on the hospital ship Repose treating the sick and injured victims of the war.

Then, one day in late May, a letter arrived from home. My mother told me that our milkman’s son had been killed in an attack on a landing zone where he was stationed. He had only a month to go before his tour ended. It was a terrible twist of fate. He was 20 years old.

A few months later, I boarded the jet and came home to Madison. My parents celebrated my return and organized a welcome home party. To my surprise, the milkman and his wife dropped by. One look at their faces told me of the tremendous grief they were carrying. But they still managed to warmly welcome me home and then quickly departed. My mother said they were going to the cemetery to visit their son’s grave. “They never miss a day,” she said.

A few months later, I was discharged from the Navy and started college. I graduated, got a job, met my wife, had two children and bought a house in Monona. I’m 75 now and my life has been good. But every year, I reflect on the milkman’s son who’s been lying in a grave near West Towne Mall in Madison for more than 50 years. I think about how much he missed. I think about the pain his family suffered. I think about the terrible cost of war and hope, with this story of mine, everyone understands a little better what Veterans Day is all about.

And if you happen to be near Sunset Memory Gardens on Mineral Point Road, drop by the cemetery and put some flowers on James V. Spurley Jr.’s grave.

Welcome to the 267th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading.

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

4 thoughts on “Veterans Day

  1. A moving and most appropriate story. thanks for pushing it out.

    On Thu, Nov 11, 2021, 10:26 AM Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos wrote:

    > maplesdave posted: ” I was going to write something else today, but when I > saw this moving piece in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal, I wanted > to share it with you. It’s written by Rick Larson, a 75-year old Vietnam > veteran who now lives in Monona. Here it is. E” >

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  2. Today is America’s own “Saint Crispan’s Day”

    “This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remember’d;
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother”
    —-William Shakespeare “Henry V”

    Of Interest– The speech, of course refers to the battle of Agincourt (1415), but St Crispin’s Day (Oct 25), is also the anniversary of the “Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854), the Second Battle of El-Alamein (1942), the Battle of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (1942), and the Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944) -a brutal legacy.

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  3. I grew up near Spurley’s (corner of Norman Way and Old Middleton) and recall hearing about it both through the grapevine and reading about it in the Milwaukee Journals I delivered; kinda hit home for a 13 year old 53 years ago.

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  4. Bruce Springsteen never served, for one reason or another. Neither did I. But Springsteen has done a lot for veteran’s causes, and written about them in some of his songs. In a recent interview in TIME magazine, Springsteen said he thinks a lot about the individuals who “went over there in my place. Because someone did.”

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