I called him Lt. Alphabet because at the age of eight I couldn't pronounce his last name. My father, Joe and I raced slot cars at Hay Hobby Store in Fayetteville. Joe was X.O. of my father's A Team in Vietnam. My memories of him are of his soft face and warm friendliness. Couldn't say that about about many of the other team members.
Lt. Pellegrino drowned in the Son Toy River on 18 May 1966 during Operation Crazy Horse. He was 22. Without knowing, I enlisted on the 10 year anniversary of Joe's death. Without knowing, I flew directly over Joe's childhood home in Northeast Philadelphia when I took flying lessons in the 80s.
The photograph of Joe as a lieutenant comes from my father's group photo of his team. I grew up with this image and it has always helped me remember Joe. I've never seen the other photographs here but I instantly recognised the man. Without knowing.
I had a dream over and over when I was a teenager. I appeared in my father's Vietnam camp just as the enemy was preparing an assault. Badly outnumbered, my father was directing men and shouting orders when he saw me. I was a boy of eight with an M16 in baggy fatigues. He looked down at me and said, "What the Hell are you doing here?" I shrugged my shoulders. "Well, take a position over there." He pointed to what was a circle of men around him. As I got down into a prone position in the cirle Lt Pellegrino lay next to me smiling.
It's impossible to think about all the lives lost in war but Lt. Pellegrino and Lt. Walker - a man I barely knew - a woman I never knew - will always be a part of me. Whether I know it or not.