This was written for Memorial Day 2013. Please remember that Memorial Day isn’t about barbecues. It’s about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including those who, like my father, eventually succumbed to the effects of Agent Orange.
Memorial Day has a surreal meaning any time when our country is involved in conflicts around the globe. While it will be celebrated with cookouts and parades, many families are still grieving for those who have died in service of their country.
My father, Lyman Lamar “Butch” Pye, served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He fought against the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, and was wounded three times. While I don’t remember the whole story, I recall that he took shrapnel in his elbow, leg, and under his chin. He made it out of Vietnam, unlike so many, but he had a desire to be a career Marine and was seriously thinking about re-enlisting — until he got word that a close friend was killed in, if I recall, his first few days back in action.
Dad may have left Vietnam, but it didn’t leave him.
I recall that he came to my school in 4th grade to talk about some of his experiences from Vietnam, though nothing graphic. He passed around pictures and medals that he’d received. He didn’t have his Purple Hearts any more, unfortunately, as he’d sold them to keep food on the table.
Dad was distant when telling war stories. It affected him in ways that I can’t even imagine. Everything I know now, I’ve learned from conversations with mom, who recently told me, “I’ve tried to forget much of what your dad told me about Vietnam.”