Monday, January 27, 2014

A Tribute to My Uncle and His Brother

This is a tribute to my uncle and his brother.

My mom has one brother. They were born 15 months apart, to a father who had just served 42 months in WWII and to a mother who waited all that time for her love to come home. They are Baby Boomers.

My uncle was perhaps a bit of a hellion. Just after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the army. Because of his fall birthday, he was only 17 and had to get my grandparents to sign permission. He had visions of going someplace warm. Perhaps Hawaii. Unfortunately for him, by the time he got through Basic Training, it was 1966 and he ended up in Vietnam.

While in Vietnam, he made the acquaintance of a guy named Ron. I don't know the details of the story, but I believe my uncle was injured and Ron helped him out. Fast forward a few years, after two tours in Vietnam, and my uncle and Ron were stationed at the same base. So while they met in the jungles of Southeast Asia, they spent the rest of their lives together in New Jersey. They are closer than most brothers I know.

My cousins call Ron "Uncle." For many years, Ron and his wife have been closer to my uncle, aunt and cousins than we, their "blood" relatives have been. We've run into Ron over the years at different family gatherings. He and his wife drove up 3+ hours to attend my grandmother's funeral two years ago, only to turn around and drive right back because they had another commitment.

My uncle and Ron have done great things together. I'm sure I don't know one iota of what they've done. One of the great things that they have done is worked through the American Legion to help other Vets. They help them with navigating the digital interweb to receive benefits. They help other Vets learn what benefits are available to them. They educate others about the PTSD from which most Vets suffer. And they talk about their experiences, lest we forget the sacrifices that have been made.

But then this terrible thing has happened. My uncle has gotten sick. Very sick. His prognosis is quite poor and the whole situation is heartbreaking and awful. And I don't know why it never occurred to me that he would be, but Ron has been there. And will be there. And when I heard that Ron was at the hospital every day, I thought, "Of course he is. They are brothers."

Despite his condition, my uncle is concerned about not only his wife, kids and sister, but also how Ron in doing. He's worried that Ron is spending too much time in the hospital. He's worried about Ron's health. Which makes me laugh because it is so typical of my uncle.

I want to take this chance to be able to publically thank my uncle and Ron for their service to this country. For their services to other Vets. And for their dedication to each other. They are both great men and I am privileged to know them. I hate this situation, but I love that they have each other.

Ron, me and Uncle Ed, enjoying the finer things in life--cigars and beer.

I heard this song today, which made me think of my uncle (although he is never far from my mind right now) and Ron. This song is for them.

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