My oldest brother, Bill, wanted to become an architectural engineer. That was his dream. Before he even left for Vietnam, he had life plans. As far as he knew, he was going to come home. He was going to get married, go to school on his G.I. Bill, and fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer.
Bill wanted to go in the Air Force but they rejected him due to a gymnastics injury; a partially detached retina. Soon after that he got drafted. He really didn't want to go into the Army but luckily the Marine Corp showed up. Bill ended up taking their physical, passed, and was enlisted within a short time.
He came home for Christmas and broke the news to us that he was going to Vietnam. That was the last we saw him. He was killed the day before Thanksgiving. Mom had sent my brother and I to go to the store. When we got home, I looked down the street and saw the Marines getting out of a car in my aunt's driveway. At that point, I knew. I went in the house and Mom was just sitting in a chair crying. She says, "La'Na, Bill is gone." I remember it like it was yesterday - my heart broke. No matter how much you know that there's a possibility it could happen, you can't do anything to be ready for it. Even years later, it's hard to deal with.
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to meet other families who've lost people in the war. It made me realize I wasn't the only one. I went to the memorial in Washington, D.C. and saw all those names. There were people pointing to them and talking and I made it my mission to talk to those people. I asked, "Who are you here for? What happened?" It made me feel like I wasn't alone. Like I wasn't the only one who was going through this whole thing.