Section 2a, Site 6198

Richie Addison and I were buddies in our High School years, and had known each other from middle school through his short time at university. He volunteered for ‘Nam when many guys our age honed their skills at artful dodging – including those who never inhaled, and some others who jumped ahead of the line into the fly-boy reserves, a non-combat bailiwick in the ’60’s and 70’s.

The RAVING DOVE LITERARY JOURNAL kindly published this ode to Richie.

~

Hey, Richie. Veterans Day again, the fall colors are just about faded. Thought I’d drop by, say hello. Been visiting my parents and brother a few sections over.

Dad once called you my other brother, my Negro brother, the respectful term in the good, old ’60s, the times certainly a-changing back then. Memories are funny, what percolates to the top. Got to give Dad credit, though. He was pretty open-minded for an old Jarhead gunny, right?

Hey, you must know about Obama. So, have you stopped grinning yet?

It’s peaceful where you rest along the perimeter, the southern fence of the cemetery. The trees add a sense of seclusion among the other ranks of headstones shining in the bright sunlight, row after row of them. A stirring sight, yet such a sad sight at the thought of their sacrifices. Your sacrifice. During my summer visits, the shade of the trees around your headstone softens the sun’s touch, protects the grass carpeting your grave. I prefer the spring visits, though. Life swells then, the blossoms, the reawakening of the earth.

A delicate coat of green moss, velvet-like, blankets the back of your headstone. Not exactly regulation. They’ll get around to cleaning it someday but I like it. The moss fades, almost disappears under the onslaught of winter, unlike the memory of you. Not for those of us left behind who still call you son, brother, a friend or comrade-in-arms. You remain in our hearts, our thoughts. Always, always.

KIA and PH are carved into the foot of your headstone. The engravings speak much about you. A good Marine. A warrior. A hero. You didn’t think such thoughts before you shipped out. Thought of yourself as just a “regular” Jarhead. Patrolling in-country demanded a lot more than regular courage, amigo. A hell of a lot more.

Oh, Richie, so many recollections of you rattle around my head–a good buddy, your wry sense of humor, quick to help a friend. Yeah, you grumbled. We all did, passing ourselves off as the coolest of dudes. Your actions spoke a hell of a lot louder, though. Quick to tease, to laugh at yourself especially. Quick on the handball court. Were you ever defeated at Jamaica High School? I can’t recall–so many years.

One hell of a receiver, too. Remember those “older” honchos? Right. Early twenties maybe. Maybe. They drove by, spotted the bunch of us, eight skinny teens in the middle of a touch-football game.

Winning their bar league’s touch title had swelled their heads and they stopped to teach us a lesson on how the game should be played. Ha! Didn’t know what hit them. After years of our playing together, we moved almost telepathically, anticipated each others moves, no hesitation. Your speed and cuts, low to the ground, baffled them. The last play was broken, so I threw that bomb as you faked left. I knew you’d be in the far right corner when the football arrived. You did, also. I can still see the shit-eating grin on your face as the guys drove-away pissed-off, all their arms extended, tossing the bird out the cars’ windows at us.

And the tennis racquet with Lee, maybe six-two, and you, what, five-eight, maybe nine? Mutt and Jeff. He loved busting chops, returned from the pizzeria to the card game with everyone’s slice but yours. All of us saw you, oh-so-casually, pick up the tennis racquet, an old-time wooden version, formerly discarded, now recycled. We didn’t care a few strings were unstrung. Raquet in-hand, you slowly walked away, out of sight. When the lights turned off, Lee knew exactly why. His whispered, “Uh, oh”, was heartfelt as the rest of us sat frozen and silent in the dark. Then Lee shot out of the basement like the hounds of hell were on his tail, his shout of  “Oh, Shit”, floating behind him.

Only one hell-hound, a terrier, chased him up the basement stairs and down the street, the racquet’s string face bouncing off the top of Lee’s head. How many times later over the weeks and months did tears of laughter erupt if anyone mentioned the words “tennis racquet”?  Lee’s laughter was the loudest.

Teenage males, they’re a wonder.

Rest in peace, Richie. Keep guarding Heaven’s streets. Not too much time left until the rest of us start showing up. That grin of yours will be great to see again.

I’ll bring the football.

~

RICHARD EDWARD ADDISON JR.

PFC-E2 Marine Corps Regular.

Age: 19.

Race: Negro.

Sex: Male.

Date of Birth: Nov 24, 1948.

From: New York, NY.

Religion: Roman Catholic.

Marital Status: Single.

Length of service: 0 years.

His tour began Jul 18, 1968.

Casualty was Aug 18, 1968.

In Thua Thien, South Vietnam.

Hostile, Ground Casualty.

Gun, Small Arms Fire.

Body was recovered.

Buried: Section 2a, Site 6198

Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY