Choices and Consequences

(SHADY ACRES LOG  entry 2)

past44Karl moved to our trailer park with his father and mother. I believe Karl Sr. was a salesman, just making a living. Karl and his family moved from Ohio, which was a shock to Karl, especially the southern drawl he encountered in Macon, Georgia. And of course, stories about the south which weren’t true but amazed Karl Jr. The first thing you noticed about Karl was that he was a nice person. Easy to get along with. (Click twice to enlarge photo of battle at Mutter Ridge.)

Karl had black curly hair and a was  little on the pudgy side, like his father. He wanted to join in with the others so he went camping with us on the wooded part of the property but we never got any sleep, playing the portable radio all night and telling stories with “some” exaggeration included. But there was one thing Karl couldn’t do and that was play sports. He was completely uncoordinated.

In softball he threw like a girl and batted like a girl, except the girls here could throw like a boy so when it came time to choose sides, Karl was the last one picked. And some time he didn’t get picked at all. One side would decide to play shorthanded. But no one mentioned it and Karl never got any better at it.

At 12 Karl had a girl friend at school and he seemed  to perk up and spent a lot of time with her. Meanwhile Karl Sr. died from a heart attack and they moved.

I never heard about Karl Jr. again until his mother called from Florida to tell my mother that Karl Jr. had been killed in action in South Vietnam on September 25, 1966. He had joined the marines soon after graduation. I wondered, was his choice  to become that athlete he never was– through the marines? If so, being accepted by the marines was proof that he had arrived.

But the bad news was the marines bore a big part of the war. They took the battle to the enemy. They were always in the line of fire. And the war kept dragging on and there never was an end game for the U.S., unless you hoped for a peace agreement with two Vietnams at peace with each other.  But the the North Vietnamese goal was to fight forever, or until they drove the Americans and other invaders out of Vietnam. That message was presented constantly. But the boys at Harvard never studied common sense.

Karl Jr. was killed in action on Mutter Ridge, Nui Cay Tri, South Vietnam. According to the official cause of death, Karl was wounded by multiple fragmentation wounds in a battle with the North Vietnamese. He had a wife and a daughter Kim, whom he never saw. But he did live an eventful life the few years after graduating from high school.

Why did he enlist? Was this his final way of proving himself? No one ever doubted his courage and he never had anything to prove. That war was started for no good reason, at least for our involvement, and was never going to end with a  satisfactory solution.  But that seems to have become the standard for wars without a cause these days.

At least Karl got the recognition he deserved for his valor in combat. He can be found on the Wall.


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