Toughest thing I had to write

This cartoon hit me in the feels this year.

That’s because it is the first in my life without my grandfather.

A career NCO (Signal Corps), he joined the Guard as a teenager during the war in Korea and then transitioned to active service, serving as an adviser to the Shah’s Army, to that of the King of Iraq, to the West Germans, and then the South Vietnamese, the latter repeatedly. After traveling around the globe for most of his 23 years of active duty, he retired as a promotable E8, declining to take the extra bump and be a 30-year man because it would have meant finishing his next contract in the Beltway, something he said that he just wasn’t built for.

So, he retired, picked up his family from Fort Gordon, then headed back home to Mississippi. This included his newly-born first grandson– me.

My grandpa and I in 1975, just after he left the Army, with his brand new bouncing baby grandson. The carpet on the wall behind him he brought back to the states from some bazaar in Iran, back when it was called Persia. The right is him just last year, a proud old bearded Vietnam vet.

Now, he is gone, and, while I have written professionally for the past 20 years, including several books, thousands of articles, and thousands more blog posts, his obituary was the toughest thing I ever had to write.

Over 8.7 million Americans served in the Armed Forces during the Vietnam era from 1964 to 1973, and it is thought that well over a third of those have already left us, with more packing their sea bags and duffles every day. The number of Korean War era Vets is even smaller and is expected to fall below 200,000 in the next couple of years.

Be sure to hug them while you can.

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