Last Thursday, two days before my 70th birthday, a gift I never could have imagined, arrived in the mail. From a man I had never met. He hoped I would receive it in time for my birthday.
After Eddy was killed in Vietnam March 4th, 1968, I put my head in the sand and wanted to hear nothing about the war. I never watched a Vietnam movie or read the news reports. And there I stayed forever, until 2008, when a Viet Cong veteran, who fought in the firefight against Eddy, gave me his battle flag. I told how that came to be in my book, The Box, A Memoir. In researching for the book, I finally began to learn what Eddy, my young uncle who was more like a brother (only 3 years older) had endured prior to his death, and what all of these Vietnam veterans had endured during their year "in country." After publishing my book, I have heard from so many veterans online, through the internet, email, facetime groups, etc.
One such man whom I've met by email is Charlie Brewer from Ohio. Charlie lost his older brother in the battle of Soui Tre, March 21, 1967. More lives were lost in that battle than any other in all of the Vietnam War. I wrote of it in a previous post. Charlie's brother, James Dale Brewer, was stationed in Dau Tieng, which was where Eddy was a year later. Fifty-one years after the battle of Soui Tre, Charlie Brewer travelled to the battle site with Michael Doolittle, a veteran who survived that wretched day. They stood on the battlefield with a veteran officer of the NVA (their "enemy:) and also a family member of an NVA who lost his life.
On that day, Charlie gathered up small chunks of asphalt from the abandoned Dau Tieng Airstrip where Hueys, like hoards of bees, were once in a constant flux, transporting soldiers to battle, returning them, many wounded, or dead. Eddy was one who had taken his last flight out of Dau Tieng to the village of Hoc Mon, where he took his final breath in battle. One of those Hueys returned his 21 year old body back to the Dau Tieng airstrip.
A lifetime after Eddy's death, 51 years to be exact, I received in the mail, a vial containing a piece of that asphalt, and also a tiny piece of it was cast into a handmade pen made of titanium and 24 carat gold by Charlie Brewer's son, Travis, who has a business - Against the Grain - making beautiful custom made pens. In the photo above you can see the tiny piece of asphalt in the white oval near the bottom of the picture of helicopters.
If you are in need of a gift idea for one who has everything, these pens are custom made and beautiful. See Travis Brewer's facebook page or see his business card below for more information.
Below is also a picture of the airstrip in March 2019, a picture of Charlie Brewer and Michael Doolittle with their historian, Mr. Thang and their interpreter, Mai, and other pictures of the pen and the vial of asphalt.
Travis Brewer has a partner, Jason Rose, who is a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan. Because he is a veteran he is the one who carefully cast this pen, in honor of Edward August Schultz, a fellow soldier who lost his life a generation earlier. I feel honored that he cast the pen, and that Charlie and Travis, whom I have never met, made me this pen in honor of Eddy, whose life was cut short. In 1968, I never dreamed that on my shelf 51 years later would sit a pen with the asphalt from the place where Eddy walked some of his last steps on this earth.