The first person I lost in war was Tom McDonald (Mickey).
We dated in college and then he went off to Viet Nam.
We were close, had fun, but I never would have married him because he was just too rambunctious for me.
After all, I met him when he was an almost-nude model in my drawing class.
No, really !!!
Micky was a beautiful, sensitive, caring young man with the deepest dimples you’ve ever seen. We had such an enjoyable time together but he had no direction, yet.
He was sailing on a wing and a prayer.
So, when the war came he signed up.
We wrote each other frequently. I could tell he was getting more serious through his letters. I was not.
Our story plays out in my memoir, ‘Forgetting to Fly’, (chapter 6, Losing Mick, page 31) and it still breaks my heart every time I think about him.
So, today I will remember Micky again… on purpose.
Micky was a helicopter pilot and in his letters I could feel how the brutality of war was effecting him. He had a gentle soul and the bloodshed was wearing him down. I wrote more frequently because I somehow felt I was a life-line. He wrote his mom and sister as well, but bathed his words in salve in order not to frighten them. His letters to me were his brutal truth.
So when Micky “re-uped” I didn’t understand. I wanted him home. Safe.
The second time was paralyzing. He was told if he re-assigned one more time he could… (yada, yada, yada…).
I don’t remember all the details but HE DID IT. He was persuaded.
“I will be home in September, and I have a surprise for you”
Mick had sent me gifts, little trinkets, from all over the world. (post cards, souvenirs, fabric and coins)
That’s what I expected.
Thomas McDonald died in a helicopter crash flying down-in to pick up dead & wounded soldiers.
That same night while I was sleeping, Mick came to me as a warm, illuminating light at the end of my bed.
“I am in a beautiful place. Tell my mom and sister so they won’t be sad.”
Weeks later I received a letter from Mick. He had written it the day before he died.
“When I get home I want to marry you.”
I was frayed and warn by this experience but I stayed in touch with his family for many years. (After all, they thought I was Micky’s “fiance” and I couldn’t tell them anything different).
I lost track of them when I had my fire and everything I owned burned, (including address books and letters).
So, today I am remembering a dear friend who gave his life to save others.
I have nothing left from Mick except a beautiful memory.
…and isn’t that what Memorial Day is all about?
Love you Mick. I feel your spirit.