"The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst." - Henry Fosdick
It was his smile that Gary noticed first. They were in line at the Induction Center in Portland. It was an innocent smile. When Gary Ascher was sent to Fort Lewis, there was that guy with the easy smile again. They ended up in the same company. Gary noticed how Bobby always seemed cheerful and made others laugh. Gary was then sent to Fort Polk, and as fate would have it, there was Bobby again. This time their bunks were next to each other. What Gary learned about Bobby was that he was always concerned about others, he was very good-natured and he was liked by all who knew him. When Gary read my book, he felt that Eddy reminded him of Bobby.
After AIT and a short leave, Gary was at the Portland Airport headed for Vietnam and guess who he ran into. There was Bobby again, as if fate meant for them to be friends. What Gary says about Bobby is that "he glowed with good." What I wrote about Eddy in my book was that he was good to the core. It does sound like they were a lot alike.
Robert William Eagleson was born Sept. 9, 1947 in Oregon. He was from a small town called Eddyville. He was a boy scout and a great athlete. He excelled in basketball, baseball and soccer. A friend posted on a memorial website that he was a switch hitter. His father coached baseball. He was drafted and his first day in Vietnam was Nov. 11, 1967, two months before Eddy arrived. He was a Corporal in the U.S. Army, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. The same as Eddy except Eddy was Company C. And also the same as Gary Ascher except Gary was Company B. Eddy, Gary and Bobby were all based at Dau Tieng. Gary and Bobby had become friends by now and saw each other a lot during different operations that their companies did together. They probably were involved in some with Eddy but they didn't know him. I know that all three of their companies fought in the February seven day battle of Tan Hua, which I mention in my book.
Last year, I went to Vietnam and visited Dau Tieng where they were based. I walked on the ground where these young soldiers once walked in war. I saw the swimming pool that is still there where these troops were allowed to swim during the few free moments when they weren't out in the field. The pool was a remnant of the French control of Vietnam; the base had been a French resort at one time. Today the pool is inside a compound that holds a museum which was closed the day we were there. Outside the museum proudly stand some tired war relics, including an armored artillery tank and a helicopter (I think it was a Huey), ghosts of the horror that once existed in that very location where these barely grown young men were sent. The base is now a large city.
The last time Gary saw Bobby is when Bobby asked to talk to him. Bobby confided to his friend that he knew he wasn't going to make it. He didn't want to die. Gary deeply felt that Bobby seemed protected, that he was such a good person he had to make it; he tried to convince Bobby that he would be okay. But within a few days, Bobby's premonition was proven correct.
Bobby was 20 years old, six months away from his 21st birthday when he died in the Gia Dinh area of Vietnam, a "hostile ground casualty" is how his death is reported.
Bobby's four months of war experience was over on March 10th, 1968, just 6 days after Eddy lost his life. The brutalities of war ended for Bobby the day he died, but those who knew him carried the loss of his uplifting spirit for the rest of their days.
Robert William Eagleson, your presence cheered others, you were a talented athlete, you were a great soldier, you were loved by all who knew you, and Bobby, we honor you 51 years after you lost your young life. Rest in peace.