Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Memory...

I was born & raised in a small town in OK-lived there every day of my life until I went to college & then I never went back there to live. Small as in less than 5,000 people. It was a rural town (my grandparents had a dairy farm so did my aunt & uncle-lots of people farmed) with a nice "downtown" where people congregated on Saturday night. We had a movie theater & a drive-in movie. I saw Old Yeller at the theater (bawled my eyes out)-my daddy took me to a matinee. I saw Pollyanna at the drive-in, my daddy took me. It was a 1950's town. Mothers stayed home. Dads went to work. You played outside all day long, we had two swimming pools & a National Park. As a teenager, we were always "dragging Main & circling Doves" (the local teenage hangout).

The days of Summer were lazy, I walked or rode my bike to the library. I was a voracious reader. We made homemade ice cream in the backyard, neighbors just stopped by to visit. We sat in the backyard or on the front porch. Watched the sunset, the moon rise, the stars come out. I caught lightnin' bugs in mason jars. We played in the sprinkler, we had fireworks on the 4th of July. We slept with the windows open & never locked our doors. Fresh washed, cool sheets & a breeze made for the best sleep.

When you started school you were placed in classes based on the alphabet. There were always two classes for each grade- first part of the alphabet in one, second part in the other. I was in the first part every year of my life so I shared a class with the same kids throughout grade school (it was not called elementary school back then). Once we went to Jr High we were combined with the grade school from the other side of town (there was one on the west side, where I went, & one on the east side). No bussing then, you had a school on your side of town. Even in small towns.

Butch & I were in the same part of the alphabet so we shared a classroom for 1-6. His dad was a plumber, mine the County Treasurer. He was one of those boys that was full of mischief. One who would grow to be in small town views a bad boy. He wasn't bad though. He was just himself. He was full of life, not a real good student, but a nice boy. He was always friendly. Butch was just a part of school & life the way kids are in small towns. Everyone knows everyone for many years.

Jr. & Sr. High though are where everyone begins to be who they are at that life stage. He was a wild one. He ran the roads. I was a "good" girl. I had few friends, studied hard, was on the debate team, involved in FHA, library club, pep club. Teachers liked me because I was polite & never rocked the boat. So, after grade school, while I knew Butch, I didn't really know who he was. I guess that is the way of teenagers. You find a niche or group & that is the label you have for those years. Unfortunately, sometimes those labels from adolescense color how we view ourselves for years. We ran in different circles. I don't remember him graduating with the rest of us. Best I can remember he dropped out in Jr year, but it could have been Soph year. Sad that I cannot really remember. I would see him around town. Then he joined up or maybe he was drafted. Again, I don't know. I know he got married. He was sent to Viet Nam. He died in Viet Nam. My daddy drove to the college I was attending to tell me. I was devastated. For his wife, his parents, his family, for the life he did not get a chance to live. One of my friends married his older brother-40 yrs later they are still together. I don't know what happened to Butch's widow-she was so young I hope she had a good life.

My Mom & I were walking through the local Wal-Mart about 10 yrs ago after I returned to OK. It was Memorial Day Weekend. In the middle of the main isle was a display. As we were walking toward it I was stopped dead in my tracks. Right in front of me at perfect eye level was a photo of Butch in his uniform. You know the one, that formal 8x10 that all members of the Armed Forces have taken. There he was, forever 18. I uttered an "OMG" & started to cry. My Mother always oblivious said what? I could only say "It's Butch". Now you have to understand, this Wal-Mart was not in the town where I grew up. This was 30 miles away. I have no idea who submitted his photo to be honored-was it that young girl he married, a friend, family? I will never know, but seeing him that day was a blessing in a way. I had never forgotten him in all those years. Never forgotton where he died - how he died. I had always said I wanted to go to DC to The Wall & touch his name.

When Sparky & I were together the first time, I mentioned this to him one day when we were talking about places we would like to see. Many months later he called me one Friday afternoon at work & wanted to know what I was doing after work. "Nothing" "Well, do you want to go to Holdenville?" "Sure, why?" Then he told me that he had just found out that the traveling Wall was at the park there. He said he knew I wanted to see it & would that version do? "YES!!!" I was so touched he remembered.

So, we got there. Even in that version it was the most humbling sight. Humbing because of what The Wall is, what it represents, & also because of the people who were there. I went to the tent where I would find the panel, row, & column that contained Butch's name. Then, with Sparky staying behind to let me go alone, I found the name & date he died. I touched his name, I cryed for the life he did not have. I cryed for the boy I knew & the soldier I did not. I cryed for all of them-the ones who never came home, the ones who came home in a flag-draped casket, the ones who came home so damaged whether physically, mentally or emotionally (like my ex husband) they are the ones I have always called the walking dead. I cryed for what they had all lost. I cryed for what we had all lost-a generation of young men, a generation of young people, who lost their innocence in a country we had never known existed until it became the 6 o'clock news. Body counts every night. Protests, going to Canada. My generation lost it all. We have now lived & raised our children in a world foreign to the one we saw as children. It is not safe to sleep with your windows open, your doors unlocked. Kids cannot roam town on lazy summer days. And young men & women are dying today in a country so far away, with a strange sounding name. Full circle in my life time.

But, for me, there was some healing in touching that name on The Wall. I remembered & honored a boy that I knew for a very long time, & that I didn't know at all. He died so very far away from that small OK town. The sad tragedy....

He was killed when a buddy's M-16 accidentally discharged in the barracks

He was in country 1 month & 9 days


Forrest Clifford Childs
Specialist Four
Army of the United States
11 December 1951 - 10 September 1970
Sulphur, OK
Panel 07W Line 052


Forrest Clifford Childs
Specialist Four
Home of Record: Sulphur, Oklahoma
Date of birth: Tuesday, 12/11/1951
Service: Army (Regular)
Grade at loss: E4
Rank: Specialist Four
ID No: 442567612
MOS: 11D20 Armor Reconnaissance Specialist
LenSvc: Not recorded
Start Tour: Saturday, 08/01/1970
Cas Date: Thursday, 09/10/1970
Age at Loss: 18
Remains: Body Recovered
Location: Pleiku, South Vietnam
Type: Non-hostile, Died Of Other Causes
Reason: Other causes - Ground Casualty
ON THE WALL Panel 07W Line 052


the above is from

Gone but not forgotten.

Blessed be...