I grew up during the Vietnam War in a small housing track in Hawthorne, California known as Holy Glen. It was a neighborhood where football and baseball were played in the street and we all had to be home when the street lights came on.
Art Councill and Rod Todd, both three years older than me, were two of my buddies on my block. I looked up to them. Rod lived across the street and to the right 2 houses and Art across the street and to the left 3 houses. Art was a tremendous pole vaulter for Hawthorne High School track team whom I watched practice in a make-shift pit he had constructed between the houses. Rod was a big strong guy who played right tackle for our football team and didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Art and Rod were best friends.
After they graduated in 1967 both were drafted into the Marines and were sent off to Vietnam. Art was killed in action three months later when he was shot down in a helicopter in Quang Nam. Shortly thereafter, Rod tripped a land-mine and spent the next two years in rehabilitation for injuries that several years later would claim his life.
I’ve never seen the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., but I have seen the mobile memorial that makes its way around the country several times. Each time I look for Art’s name and each time I cry. And he is but one of the 58,195 names engraved in stone. Rod was one of the 150,000 wounded and 21,000 permanently disabled during the war and whose name should also be etched in history.
With the draft still active and thinking the odds were against me, I enlisted in the California Air National Guard after my freshman year at UCSB. After six months of basic training and aircraft maintenance school I served one weekend a month and two weeks a year for 7 years in the 146th Tactical Air Wing in Van Nuys, California. During this time I completed my college education and got my MBA.
Every Veterans Day I think about Art and Rod and the choice I made because of their ultimate sacrifice. I will always carry a little bit of guilt with me as a result.
Remember a veteran on Veterans Day and thank them. Because of their sacrifice we continue to live the land of the free and the home of the brave. Above all, no matter the conflict or no matter your views please Support Our Troops.