Some Gave All

Today's post will be a somber one since we've had some sad news.  We learned that Mr. T's next-oldest brother, Walter, died early last week.  The coroner will probably put heart attack on the death certificate, but in a way, that isn't the real culprit. Walter died because of the damage sustained during his service in Viet Nam.

No, he wasn't wounded.  Not in the sense that a bullet rips through skin and muscle and bone.  For that type of physical injury, doctors can repair the damage so the healing can begin.  And, the healing can lead to a productive (if changed) life.

No, he was one of the unfortunate ones to have served in the area contaminated by the now-infamous herbicide known as Agent Orange.  His exposure changed him in ways that are hard to explain, but his symptoms and health issues became a permanent part of who he was to the world after he returned from the War...er, Conflict.

No, I never knew the Walter that Mr. T remembered:  a happy person, a real guy-about-town, a real go-getter.  They were Number 4 and Number 5 in the lineup of the five siblings, with Walter arriving a short year after the middle child (a beautiful girl) and a couple of years before the baby of the family, our own Mr. T.  As children, they were closer to each other than to their older brothers, Numbers 1 and 2 on the other side of the daughter-child; as adults, with differences in personalities, miles, and years, the sister would become the family life-line that Walter leaned on. 

Not being privy to all his childhood memories, I always struggled to work out the inconsistency of those stories of the Great Guy with the brother-in-law whose words didn't always connect to make sentences, whose sentences rarely made sense.  I'm sure he had a sweet soul, but I'm ashamed to admit that I couldn't get past feeling fear...like I'd toppled into some alternate universe where the dictionary didn't count whenever I encountered him, where I couldn't carry on a simple conversation.  I never really understood what he was laughing at, like I wasn't really in on the joke.  That was my own personality flaw:  I just didn't learn how to relate.

But, I can make sure that I relate what I do know about him:  he was a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a great-uncle, a Marine, and a U.S. veteran.  He was born in Detroit, MI; moved with his family to Jackson, MS, around the age of seven; and, spent most of the rest of his life there.  Walter was the Best Man in our wedding, and in the photos we have, he looked like he had a great time that day. He liked motorcycles.  And, he was generous to a fault.

I acknowledge that I am wholely inadequate to serve as his eulogist, but I can do my own little part to remember his life and his passing.

And, as Gibbs would probably say to a fellow Marine...Semper Fi, Walter.

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