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Dear Randy, In spite of the years, there will always be an emotional spot for you. Think of it this way. You are still that buddy in high school. It is an image that brings a smile to my face. You always had that way of making us laugh. When I flash back to those days, I am always looking at you and your youthful enthusiasm. You see, Randy, time has moved on for me and the rest of your still earthly bound friends. There has been a spectrum of life events that you and your divine friends have, no doubt, witnessed. I suppose there is no need to tell you that sometimes it went joyously and other times, poignant agony. Do you remember those days at North Auburn Elementary? I suppose you know that it is now called Dick Scobee Elementary in honor of the Challenger commander and his crew that perished. Randy, your bravery and duty was just as important. So the school has been renamed, maybe we can get the playground named in your honor, The Randy Rogers Athletic Field. After all, we ‘owned’ that play ground. It was ‘our house’! I can remember riding my bike to the school and peddling across the field and up the embankment that bordered the playfield and on to your fenced back yard. I would open the back gate and knock on the back door. Your mom always had something for us. Milk and fresh baked cookies were the norm. Then it was off and onto the playing field for the sport in season. It was our fantasy football, baseball, and basketball. Your forte was baseball. You were one hell of a catcher. Back in those days, I thought you were of a Yogi Bera class. However, Randy, we all knew that you had the legs of Edgar Martinez. Don’t pout; your bat was just as potent. (Edgar plays baseball for the Seattle Mariners. Our beloved Seattle Rainiers and Sicks Stadium are gone, Randy). I remember your Little League and American League baseball awards. I recall you winning one All Star game with a late inning blast that did drive in 3 runs. Anyone else would have made in home, but you just squeezed into third base! Hour after hour of competition played out on that field. When I tell my own boys about simple games like work-up or baseball games with 3 man teams or even playing pitchers duel, they give me that glazed ‘deer in the headlight’ look. You were always one of the first picked when we chose up sides. The drama of those games was no less than World Series excitement; what fans would pay dearly to witness. When we moved on to junior high and then high school, the playground got left behind, but we were still in tight. We had our own group that showed up in the student center at 7:00 am every morning. We had our designated table. No one dared take our spot. They could join us, but it was an implicit invitation. That was the best hour of the day. Everything from sports to girls were on the agenda. We showed up early, because it was easier to ride with our dads to school rather than walk the mile and a half with all our books. Later, during our senior year, the discussions became more cerebral and serious. Viet Nam had entered into the vocabulary. As best we could, that one hour prior to school remained pure enjoyment. Food was a real important item for us. The senior boys had a special ‘training table’ for the serious eaters. It is hard to explain to the younger generation how delicious school hot lunches were and all for a mere 35 cents. The cooks put their hearts into the meals and they were giddy to see us boys go back for seconds and even thirds. The only constraints were the time limit of 30 minutes and availability of surplus entrees. Finally, graduation came and we started to diverge on our separate chosen path. I went to school and you chose to serve your country in that conflict that we called Viet Nam. I remember seeing your boot camp graduation picture from Fort Lewis. You were a mortar squad leader with a rank of corporal. Gone was the baby fat, you looked mean. That couldn’t be our team catcher, Randy Rogers, I thought. Wow, the military toughened you up. That fall, I had heard that you got engaged and were being shipped out to Viet Nam. I am sorry Randy that I wasn’t there to say good bye. Back in those days, you had to wait for mail or a phone call. Unfortunately, studies occupied nearly all my time. I didn’t even get a chance to meet your fiancée. Then in such a short time, we received the terrible news of your death in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam. I received some word of the circumstances of this ambush while deployed from a gun boat. Randy, I shook my head; you knew you were not the fastest runner. How did you let yourself get into this predicament? There was a lot of anger, grief and disbelief. The funeral was especially poignant. I was too much like a class reunion gone badly. The images, Randy, are burned in my mind. Randy, I was allowed to continue with my life. That I am sure you are aware. I hope I have lived it in a manner that meets your approval. Someday I will get a chance to tell you, one on one, what mortal living was like. Anyway, years later, my wife, Anna, was so considerate to buy me a surprise ticket to visit Washington D.C... Let may say, Randy, that your place of honor at the black granite chevron wall called the Viet Nam Memorial is the most visited place in the capital. I spent a whole day there visiting that place. I found your name and etched with paper and pencil to create a carbon copy of the relief. I studied the names and all of the mementos left for your fallen comrades. Randy, it was a very inspiring moment for me. You will never be forgotten. You should know that there have been years of discussion about the wisdom of that conflict. Like a true soldier, you did not question the civilian authority to dispatch you and over a half million others. You will never be forgotten. As we used to say back in those more carefree, high school days, “LATER”! ...more
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