I wrote this for my mother. I heard this from her, almost verbatim, ever since I got back from Vietnam. They always told me that they'll never forget how the Marines made a special effort to tell them the news in person. He said that what they did took guts. They thought if anything happened, the notification would be by
telegram. My daddy, Johnnie, told me for years, that he often wondered how they told parents that their son had been killed. He never forgot, and I'll bet he still remembers it in heaven. God rest his soul.
The Green Car
Something was not right. We had always received at least two letters a week from Jerry Wayne. He did this ever since he got to Vietnam in February, 1968. This is May 24, and its been almost three weeks since we have heard from him. His daddy and me were worried sick. Johnnie was in World War II in the Pacific with the Army 7th Division, and the only time I ever saw him really shed tears was when Jerry Wayne left in August, 1967, for Parris Island, and again when he left after a two week leave in January, 1968. This time he was headed for Camp Pendleton, and then, Vietnam. Johnnies heart was breaking and he told me, Our sons going to war, and I just hate to see him go through what I did. You have no idea what
he's getting ready to go through. I cant hardly stand it.
I kept waiting for the mailman to come. I just knew wed get a letter from him on that day. I kept thinking, its so beautiful outside with everything so green. This has to be the day. You see, he was always good at writing us and letting us know he was all right. I know a lot of it was not true, but it still made us feel better. Johnnie and I watched the news every night. Things were really getting rough over there, and
I'm not even sure where Jerry Wayne is. That made it even harder.
Well, the mailman came, and still no letter. My heart was beating pretty fast as I
opened the lid, and then it sank after seeing there was no letter from Jerry Wayne in there. I called Johnnie at work and told him. He kept saying that we would get one tomorrow. I know he was just as anxious as me, but he was just trying to keep my spirits up.
That late afternoon, after Johnnie had come home from work, I was looking out
the kitchen window while cooking supper. What I saw, I will never forget. There was a green, official-looking car in our driveway. There was the Marine symbol on the side, and two Marines in dress blues were getting out. I fell to my knees. I remember saying, Johnnie,
something's happened to our son! He's dead! I ran to the back of the house. I just
couldn't stand facing them. Johnnie had a shocked look on his face. He told me that he went to the door and was shaking like a leaf. He said that the Marine knew he was scared and immediately said that our son was okay. He was wounded in the arm, and was in a hospital in Okinawa. Johnnie then hollared at me, Jerry
Wayne's all right; he's all right!
The memory of that day will never leave. Johnnie said he would never forget it.
We even talked to each other about it not too long before he died. He always said that the Marines were a good bunch. Two Marines were sent out to personally inform the family about what had happened, and
that's all Johnnie needed to know. He knew they cared about each Marine as an individual. What more can any parents want.
My mother tells of the morning she received a knock on the door and was handed a telegram. This was a Sunday morning. My father was at the fire station, at work.
She told me she just stood there and shook. She was unable to open the telegram herself. She called my father at work and he came home. The two of them figured I was dead because despite the fact I wrote on a regular basis, I had been on Operation Taylor Common for more than 100 days and writing time or a way to get a letter out was often
Anyway, when my father got home, he opened the telegram which was Western Union and they read official words stating I was wounded but not serious and treated in the field.
I was 18 back then. Today I'm 50. I cringe today when I see my parents and think about the agony they and other parents went through during the war. They too are Vietnam Vets.
Brad's mom got one of those lousy little letters, said Brad was MIA. They lost track of him for a month while he was in the hospital with Malaria.