I did a good job focusing on how you lived until this year when I focused more on how you died. I don’t recommend this but feel you deserved for us to know. You were so brave on the battlefield. A lot of people use the word hero loosely but I do not. Dad you truly were a hero. You spent your last day on this Earth choosing to save the life of your Marines instead of getting yourself off the ridge-like so many of the Marines chose to do.
Finding this out caused a lot of heaviness on my heart but they say the truth will set you free. I hope that is true. This year I found the Lt. from Third Platoon who stayed on the ridge all night. I also found a government document that was never sent to mom. It said that you survived the firefight and hit the ground when the mortars came in. You told Mom in a letter that you and the ground were good friends. Your adrenalin has to be pumping and your mind racing during that chaotic and frightful time. Thank you for surviving the battle. You knew mom and I needed you to come home. Doc Russell told us you were running around the battlefield and that he wanted it known that you did good. We had no doubt that you would. You were so smart dad and so driven to do your best in everything you did. Doc Russell told me that you came up and helped him treat Camron Carter.
Dad, he lived and is in a worship band at his church in Chicago. He knows you and Doc Russell saved his life. He is very grateful and is living life to the fullest completely devoted to God. Doc Russell said that you were alive when he got to Captain Ward. He said you had treated Captain Ward the best you could and then went up the hill where the NVA were to respond to a call for Corpsman Up.
Dad, I discovered this year that it was Frederick Bungartz whose life you were saving when you got killed. He was hit in the chest with a grenade so you shielded his body with your own when the NVA threw the next grenade and killed you. Fredrick died too. I think it was because you could no longer help him. His body laid together with yours for twenty-one days. I know your spirit was already with God and for that I’m thankful. I feel, however, a lot of anger at the people who chose to leave you there for so long.
You deserved so much better treatment than that. You always did what was right and they did not do right by you. I’m so sorry. I know you are in a place where all of that does not matter now. I’ll get to a place of peace again I just lost that this year as I found out so many things that were wrong about the day you were killed.
You told Mom in a letter that if Charlie was good enough to get the Captain that he would probably get you too. As you know Captain Ward died two days later from the injuries he sustained that day. Everyone I’ve talked to said his poor leadership is the reason you and twelve Marines were killed on Valentine’s Ridge. I know it’s not my place to judge. It just all feels so wrong to me.
I love you dad and do my best every day to focus on the joy you lived with. I’m so much like you but not as funny. I do funny things and work as hard as you did. Thank you for giving me so much energy. I love it! Most importantly mom and I love you so very much! You wrote to us and said, “I love you more than you’ll ever know”. You were prophetic in many things that you said. Thank you for telling us so many times how much you loved us. Our lives have not been the same without you. The sadness feels heavier the older I become.
Happy Father’s Day Dad! You were a brave, loving, intelligent, and honest man who deserved all this life can offer. You didn’t get what you deserved and for that, I am truly heartbroken but your grandchildren and I do our best to live our lives to the fullest for you. You would be so very proud of them! I hold onto my hope of heaven and truly believe you, mom, and I will be together again one day. Until then I’ll take care of her the best I can because I know you would have given her such a wonderful life.
Thanks you dad for leaving me such a rich legacy. You are truly the best!!.