When my grandmother and my mother were still alive, it might have been about 20 years ago now, we visited the travelling wall when it came to town. Among all of those 58,267 names, we found Eddy's. He was my grandmother's youngest child, my mother's baby brother, and he was my uncle only 3 years old when I was born. We stood there awhile, still finding it hard to believe that our Eddy was one of those killed. We noticed three others who were also looking at Eddy's name. My grandmother and those three are in the above picture. One had been his neighbor and in his class in school. One was someone who had known him but I can't remember how. The other was David Stafford, seen in the white shirt above. We had conversations with all three, but with David I remember him saying he had not only been in Eddy's high school class, but he had ridden the bus with him to the Induction Center in Los Angeles when they were both drafted.
I took a picture of David standing with my grandmother and my sister who had also joined us there. Many years passed when I received the flag of the Viet Cong soldier and decided to write a book about it. At that time, I somehow got a hold of David to hear the details of their Induction Center experience, and to hear what he wanted to share about his story.
David was drafted when his parents were on vacation travelling through Canada. He needed to report for duty before they were due home. In those days there were no cells phones. He couldn't contact them to tell them. His girlfriend was on vacation with her family and he couldn't contact her either.
David was 20 years old when he had to quit his job, move out of his apartment, and drop out of college. He packed his things into boxes and moved them into his parent's home. When they returned from their trip they found his boxes in their living-room and his good-bye note. Like any mother would do, she burst into tears.
After the Induction Center, Eddy and David were shipped off to training at Fort Bliss, Texas but were sent to different parts of the base so they never saw each other again. David was drafted into the 25th Infantry Division Artillery and was a battlefield ground surveillance operator. He has written an excellent and informative blog about his experiences in the U.S. Army during his year in Vietnam in 1968. Check out his blog at: www.vietnamwarvet.com
Several generations back in my ancestry is the name Stafford; I've always wondered if David is a very distant cousin to me and to Eddy.
After writing my book, and talking with David on several occasions, he told me that my book helped him to open the door that he had kept shut all these years. He attended his first Memorial Day service because I had been asked to carry the wreath in honor of fallen soldiers. He told me that he would continue to go to Memorial Day and Veteran's Day services. Even better than that, he decided to blog his Vietnam experiences, events that he tried to ignore for nearly 50 years.