Veteran's Day 2009...
In my brother’s Veteran’s Day post on The West Point Skateboard Gang blog he mentions reading Bill Mogan’s book “Son’s of Slum & Gravy” and acknowledges that many of my fathers classmates did not make it home from Vietnam. He goes on to speculate on what his/our lives might have been like had he not returned from his tour there. I can pretty much say with certainty that our lives would not be as rich had the unthinkable happened. I remember first thinking these thoughts when I first visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Shortly before Christmas that followed my visit to The Wall, my father was reconnected with his Battery Commander from Vietnam who passed along some photos, one of which depicts the very moment my brother speculates on in his post.
My father was severely wounded in Vietnam after he kicked a trip wire setting off some buried explosives. We were all very young when it happened, but he did recover and return to us thankfully. For whatever reason, there was a combat photographer with my dad’s unit that day and he snapped this glorious photo. Aside from its family significance, it is really quite stunning in it’s composition. The line of ghostly soldiers with those forlorn facial expressions trailing off into the clouds. The photo was taken moments after the helicopter took off with my wounded father onboard. When my Mother showed it to me for the first time, she asked with the wisdom of ages, “Where is the man who belongs to that helmet?” That of course, is my father’s helmet in that soldiers grasp and that photo represents to me our family’s defining moment. A snap shot of what could have been, and what was to be. What if? A twist of fate?
With so many of you here in my Facebook circle and so many other friends being current and former service members, I’d like to offer this personnel story to you as a token of my appreciation for your fine service to our great nation on this Veteran’s Day. Many thanks to you all from the Phillips family.