Eulogy

Rick Lester's Eulogy
14 JANUARY 2000
Old Post Chapel
Fort Meyer, Virginia

I served with Jon and Dave in the 48th Assault Helicopter Company. The 48th was a very "close knit" group and we seem to have grown even closer through the years.

Our commander and many members of the unit are here today...others couldn't be here...but they share our sorrow...and asked me to read this verse from a poem titled "The Fallen" by Laurence Binyon...

They went with songs to battle, they were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, they fell with their faces to the foe. They shall not grow old, as we grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

I maintained a personal journal while in Vietnam, and have spent the past few weeks reviewing that journal in an effort to draw from it ....words which might express our feelings...then and now......

On behalf of the 48th and all those who flew "with us", I would like to present those words which I hope all will understand.....

Through the fog of controversy which surrounded our country's involvement in Vietnam, some may ask "Why?", but let no one question the intentions of these honorable men. There are so many good things we can say about them. In the finest traditions of our great country, they answered their call and went forth with only the best intentions. They did all they were asked and, with their lives, showed their commitment. What more could our country or anyone ask?

The cost of war is great, it robs nations of their most precious resource, their youth. It also has a way of bringing out the best in men. War strips men to their most basic moral standards, facades are quickly torn away and you are judged as your true self, good or bad. Those of us who knew these men saw them in that light and can tell you they were truly dedicated, strong and courageous.

Those of us who served with them also came to know their heart. In the quiet times, we heard of their love for their families, shared their laughs and listened to the stories of life before Vietnam. We found pleasure in simple things such as, music, mail from home, hot chow, cold beer, a periodic hot shower and time shared in the "club". We grew close.

In the violence of that war, we also shared our fear and frustration, endured physical pain and the bitter pain of losing friends. We came to know indefinable fatigue from seemingly endless hours of flying in the most demanding conditions, yet if we weren't flying, we were not happy. Though, for the most part, we dealt with the confusion, complexity, and violence of battle in our own way, it was understood there was no shame in showing your emotion, we were only human. We endured and became stronger for it. We were sometimes hard on each other, but it was with purpose, and we knew we could turn to each other for anything. We grew closer.

We may have been sent in harm's way with a broken sword, but we stood as one. Our shield was our pride and the respect we had for each other and our duty was to carry out the mission. We were in this thing together and our strength would become our commitment to each other and to our unit. We learned a special trust common only to those who have learned to hide their fear and willingly place their lives at risk, not just for "the cause", but for those with whom they served. That common theme was a bond of mutual respect and unspoken love and friendship forged and tempered through the trials of battle. You realized, once you had fought for them that freedom and life are indeed very special. You no longer took things for granted, you noticed for the first time how really intense and beautiful a sunrise can be and how nice it is to once again feel the warmth of the sun on your face after the monsoons had passed. You no longer "said prayers", you spoke with God. You now knew the fragility of life and therefore, it became more intense. Through all this, we quickly realized what an honor it was to have known and served with men like these and how truly blessed we are to have had them in our lives.

We will remember them always and to our absent companions now say, "catch the wind good friends, take the lead and soar to the warm light of God, and on your wing...keep watch for us."

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