"NOOOOOO. THEY'VE KILLLLED HIMM!"
That primordial scream stabbed into my sleepy unconscientiousness like a cold ice pick. Instantly I knew that it was my younger sister's scream, yet, never had I heard her voice filled with such raw terror and pain as I did on this early Saturday morning. I wanted to know what had caused this terrifying scream although I dreaded knowing the answer.
John Wayne had always been my hero and I watched every war movie he made several times over. I was in awe as I watched him or Errol Flynn or Randolph Scott defeat the Nazis and Japs and lead their men through untold firefights and battles. War was exciting and heroes were made as they ruggedly fought and won each battle. Only when the hero died like John Wayne did in The Sands of Iwo Jima did I feel saddened and uncomfortable a bit. Still, even when the hero died, it was only after he had conquered the enemy and left his men ready to carry on the fine tradition of eliminating their adversaries. The fact that I knew that I could watch my heroes' brave exploits in another movie, in another locale, in another war made it easier to bear when they died on screen.
When we lose a hero in real life, it isn't as easy.
Glenn had been my hero in high school although he was only a couple of years older than me. He had been my surrogate older brother and one of my best friends during my last two years of high school. I had other friends and buddies that I ran around with, but Glenn was the all around good guy that you could talk with and not feel like you had to pretend to be something you weren't. Around Glenn you didn't always have to be trying to "make it" with some girl or proving how tough you were by drinking Southern Comfort and smoking Tampa Jewel cigars at all night poker games. Glenn and I often went camping in the woods behind our homes in the Florida swamps where we could retreat from everyday boredom. Packing overnight bags, Glenn with a shotgun and me with a .22 caliber rifle, we were pioneers setting out to conquer the wilderness. I was the novice and Glenn was the experienced hunter. He knew the best camping sites and where to get clear water to drink when the cokes ran out. Simply stated, in the woods, Glenn led and I followed.
As I quickly awakened that morning, I felt that something unspeakable had happened. It had.
Glenn's sister had walked down the street to inform us that they had just been notified that Glenn had been killed in Vietnam a day earlier. My younger sister had begun dating Glenn shortly before he joined the Army. I walked into our living room to find my mother, arms around my hysterical sister, tearfully thanking Glenn's sister for letting us know. I felt dizzy and as though in a dream. I thought, "Not Glenn. He can't be dead." It had only been a few months earlier when he was home that he was showing me the "rear take down and strangle hold" he had learned in Basic Training. We practiced them in his front yard to the amusement of our neighbors. No, Glenn had found his place in the world as a soldier and he couldn't be dead.
I staggered up the street as I followed Glenn's sister home. Watching her enter their front door, I slowly walked through the front yard and reluctantly knocked on the door. After a few seconds, Glenn's father opened the door and I struggled to find the words to utter even as they ached in my throat and the tears streamed down my face. "Sir, if there's anything I can do..." I couldn't even finish the sentence.
Glenn's father knew and said, "Son, there's nothing anyone can do now. Thank you." His grief was evident and I was suddenly embarrassed. All I could do was nod. As he shut the door I slowly turned around and walked back home. A real hero had died.
LTC, US Army (Ret)
The database page for Glenn Mark Friddle
12 Aug 2005
Last updated 10/18/2005