Jewish World Review March 25, 2013/ 14 Nissan, 5773
Vietnam veteran deserved an honorable farewell
By Mitch Albom
He was 67. Folks called him Sam. He was living in poverty in downtown
Whatever the case, you should know that Sam's body had been sitting at a
He left behind his papers. I am looking at his discharge form now. It says he served four years in the
Under "Character of Service" is one word:
It's possible I met
"It was summertime, and we were talking, and he was telling us he used to sing background with the Contours before he went to
"I said, 'Sam, what are you sleeping on the ground for? You're a veteran! You gottta have a check coming and a place to live, right?'
"Well, he cussed me out with both barrels. He said, 'Don't tell me what I gotta have.' I said, 'OK, OK, I apologize.' That night, Pastor
By that point, Sam was already over 50 years old. As near as I can cobble together, he'd been part of a family that was split apart due to domestic issues. He graduated from high school in 1964 and shortly thereafter went into the Marines.
He did four years. Fought "guerrilla forces" in
What Sam did over there, I cannot tell you, because he apparently did not like to talk about it.
"He was shot up pretty badly," as Castelow recalls. "He lost half his stomach. He lost use of his legs for a long time. He was angry about it."
Over time, it caused Sam to withdraw from much of life, and take up with alcohol.
Does this sound like a familiar story?
No man should die alone. No man should be buried without a farewell.
She was stunned. She hadn't had contact with her brother in 40 years. All the other siblings, she said, were dead. When I told her that Sam, as a veteran, was entitled to a military funeral, she was extremely grateful, and said she would attend.
Sam spoke of a daughter. No one has been able to find her. If she is reading this, perhaps she wants to get in touch.
The rest of us can pay our respects
Maybe you knew Sam. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you feel bad for his ending. Maybe you don't. I can't sit here and tell you Sam was a great man or even a good one. But I do know he served when his country called, and he paid a price, and the military sent him off with the word "honorable."
Maybe we should do the same.
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