Today I am remembering Lee. Lee’s family attended our church. His father was our elementary school principal. His mother was our Sunday school teacher. My younger brothers, after their half day of kindergarten, would walk to her house and stay until time to go back and catch the school bus home. Lee was the youngest of their three sons.
Lee was somewhat older than I was – I don’t remember the age difference. He, his good friend Tom, and I were all in church youth group together and spent a fair amount of time at meetings and after church talking, joking, teasing and tormenting each other. I also don’t remember the details of Lee’s departure. He may have gotten drafted because it was the beginning of the Vietnam war era. He may have decided to join of his own free will. At any rate, he was gone to boot camp and soon off to combat.
It was surreal to hear that he had died. He had been just fine so how could he so quickly be gone? At that age I had not been around death that much and didn’t know what to think. There weren’t grief counselors. I wasn’t in on any adult conversations that might have taken place around that time. It was a short obit in the paper that broke the news. It hurt Lee’s family deeply – I can only imagine – and more trouble came their way. They finally moved from our town and I’ve lost track of them completely.
That’s some of why I want to remember Lee now, because I wasn’t a part of remembering him back then. He so quickly went from shy, silly teenager, to soldier, to deceased and it didn’t seem right that there was nothing I could do about it. It happened so far away, before we even knew. I do remember him and I wish I could tell his parents and brothers that.
I’ve known other friends and relatives who have served in the military since then. I want to thank them this Memorial day and honor their commitment to serve. Not all of them paid with their life, but they all paid a price. Thank you all, and thank you Lee.