Section 2a, Site 6198
Richie Addison and I had known each other since middle school. We became close buddies through our high school years and 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, while others jumped ahead of the line into the fly-boy reserves, a non-combat bailiwick in the ’60’s and 70’s. Still others claimed to suffer the grievous misfortune of non-existent bone spurs.
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.
The times were certainly a-changing back in the “Age of Aquarius”, though memories of then are funny things; what percolates to the top, anyway. Got to give Dad credit, though. He was pretty open-minded for an old, jarhead gunny. Right? He once described you as my other brother, my “Negro” brother, a term of respect in the good, old ’60s. “Black” in those days was a no-no, an insult actually.
Yes, indeed, how things can change.
Hey, have you ever stopped grinning about Obama’s presidency? Man, oh man, did that shake up the bigots. Too short-lived. The presidency is theirs again, alas. For now, at least, in the ebb and flow of politics, of life really.
It’s peaceful here where you rest along the southern fence of the cemetery perimeter. The trees add a sense of seclusion among the ranks of mostly un-shaded headstones, shining in the bright sunlight, row after row. A stirring sight, a sad sight, too, at the thought of their sacrifices, of 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 my spring visits, though, a time when life swells, a time of blossoms, the earth’s reawakening.
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. To tell the truth, I like it. The moss fades, almost disappears beneath the onslaught of winter, unlike the memory of you. Not for those of us left behind who may still call you son, brother, a friend, comrade-in-arms. You remain in our hearts, our thoughts.
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.
So many recollections of you rattle around my head, Richie–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. 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.
Through the decades, I’ve shared many stories about you, our buddies. How you were 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-ass teens in the middle of a touch-football game.
Winning their bar league’s flag touch title swelled their heads. They stopped to teach us a lesson about how the game should be played. We insisted on “no blocking” touch. Surprise, surprise! They didn’t know what hit them. Our guys had played together, for and against each other for years, anticipated each others moves almost telepathically,, no hesitation. Your speed and cuts, low to the ground, baffled the bar league champs. The last play was broken, so you faked left, spun as if expecting the ball. I threw a bomb to the right corner of the goal line, your real destination. The big defensive guy, angry as hell, his team now three touchdowns behind, smashed you into the grass and dirt. So much for “no touch” touch football. You bounced off the ground, as if from a trampoline, fired the football into his chest and went for him, big guy or no big guy. Their tripping and blocking following the melee pretty much ended the game. I can still see the shit-eating grin on your face as the guys drove-away pissed-off, their arms extended, tossing the bird out the cars’ windows at us.
Hey, remember the tennis racquet and Lee Patrizio , maybe six-two, and you, what, five-eight, maybe nine? Mutt and Jeff. He loved busting chops and returned from the pizzeria to our card game with everyone’s slice but yours. All of us saw you slowly stand-up from your chair, walk oh-so-casually to pick up the tennis racquet, a formerly discarded, old-time wooden version, now “recycled”. Sure, a few strings were unstrung. So what? Racquet in-hand, you slowly walked away, out of sight. When the lights blinked-out, Lee knew exactly why. His whisper of “Uh, oh” was heartfelt. The rest of us uttered nothing. We sat un-moving, tensely still in the silent, pitch black of the former basement laundry room. Lee sprung-out of his seat, stumbled over bodies, headed for the exit from our “club house”. He charged up the single flight of stairs to street level as if the hounds of hell were on his tail. It was only one hell-hound, a terrier, chasing a mastiff down the street, the racquet’s string face bouncing off the top of Lee’s skull. His echoing shouts of “Shit, Richie. Stop, stop!” floated off into the distance.
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 are a wonder.
Rest in peace, amigo. Keep guarding Heaven’s streets. Not too much time remains 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.
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