Remembering Jacky Drury in 1969
I was to begin first grade that year, but what I remember most about the summer of '69 was my friend Jacky.
By Steven Gilmer
He worked the soda fountain at Parker Newman Drug Store on Doyle Street. My Dad owned the store and would often allow me to spend the afternoons there.
Jacky was always smiling and would sometimes make me a Coca-Cola float which was my favorite treat. It was fun to watch him work, and Dad would let me help Jacky stock the shelves as a reward for my good behavior. He would open the boxes and I would hand him the items as he stacked them in neat rows.
He taught me that things had to be done correctly and that I should always do my best when working for others. I did not know it at the time, but I was getting a lesson in proper work ethics.
I remember him saying goodbye to me. I knew there was a war, but did not know much about it. Vaguely, I can recall him kneeling down and explaining it to me. He asked if I knew about Davy Crockett and how he helped Texas become free? I was familiar with Davy from television.
He told me that he was going to help others be free, too. I was proud of him for going to fight. I thought he was very brave. Jacky joined the Army on June 5, 1969.
Eight months passed and to this day, I can recall the exact moment it happened. I was at the store with Dad and was helping by cleaning the sink. I was almost done when the phone rang.
Dad was typing a label for a prescription on his old "Royal" typewriter. Mary Farmer, who worked for Dad, answered the phone as she sat on a wooden stool just behind me.
I knew something was wrong as she took the phone away from her ear and said, "Jim, this is important." I remember because her voice quivered a bit. I can recall the way my Dad's face went pale and the grim look on his face as he spoke to the unseen person on the other end.
I asked what was wrong, but he would not tell me at first. I don't think he knew how. Finally, he just told me that Jacky was not coming home and that he had been very brave.
I joined the Army in 1984 and was later stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. One night while there, a buddy of mine and I were talking, he pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and told me to read it. The words echoed in my head as if spoken by a voice long ago. They were sad and angry, filled with bitter determination and a heartfelt, gut wrenching emotion.
They are forever burned into my memory:
Take a man, put him alone;
At the bottom of the page were these words: Found in the pocket of a Marine who was killed in the Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, on June 6, 1969.
put him 12,000 miles from home.
Empty his heart of all but blood.
Make him live in sweat and mud.
This is the life I have to live
and my soul to the devil I give.
You have your parties and your beer
while young men are dying over here.
Plant your signs and have your fun
then refuse a gun.
There's one thing that you don't know
and that's where I think you should go.
I'm already here and it's too late;
I've traded all my love for hate.
I'll hate you 'til the day I die-
you made me hear my buddy cry.
I saw his leg, his blood shed
then I heard them say "This one's Dead."
This was a large price to pay
to let you live another day.
He had the guts to fight and die
to keep the freedom you live by.
By his dying your life he buys,
but who cares if a Marine dies.
It was the day after Jacky joined the service. I've often wondered if this reflected the life Jacky lived during his tour of duty.
During my time at Aberdeen, I went to Washington, DC, to see the Vietnam Wall. There are 58,214 names carved into the black granite. I located Jacky's name in the index box, then searched for the panel upon which it is inscribed.
All around the wall the sounds of the city life can be heard -- cars and trucks rumbling by, people talking, birds chirping and the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees.
But as I walked down the path leading to the names, all sounds faded into a still silence. No one spoke, not even in a whisper, everyone was completely silent. Perhaps it was the vastness, the sheer size of the list of names that held each person in awe.
Perhaps it was the hundreds of small flags, flowers and letters that were placed gently, almost reverently, in front of the panels. Maybe it was a feeling of guilt that no one had seemed to care during a time when so many had perished.
The feeling I had was of loss and deep sadness; I was numbed by it. I think it affected everyone. When I finally found his name, I broke down and cried. I was not the only one.
In some ways, I guess I have always thought of him as the older brother I never had. He was my hero. Although I don't really remember much about him, I will never forget him.
Jacky Lee Drury is buried in Rock Creek Baptist Cemetery. He was 20 years old.
Toccoa (Georgia) RECORD
September 13, 2005