10/08/2008

Funeral for an Old Friend


As I mentioned in my blog entry “Dolphin Attack,” of this past Monday, an old friend of mine passed away from lung cancer last Saturday. Jed was a 3 pack a day smoker until it was too late. All attempts to stop him of smoking and his heavy drinking were fruitless. I can’t say Jed and I were best friends. We had our differences over the years. But, we always would forgive and forget eventually. That’s the way it should be, in my opinion. Staying mad at people does nothing but hurt you and the person with which your anger is directed. Besides, it was hard to be angry with someone like Jed for very long anyway. He was rough around the edges. But, all things considered, he was a good person. He put three daughters through college. Two are lawyers and the other is a Pediatric RN. So, whatever you may have thought of him, you had to give him credit for seeing that his girls made something of themselves.

It was ironic that Jed and I didn’t meet until we both were at a bar just outside Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam in July 1969. We discovered we lived only 15 miles apart back in Alabama. But, we had never met until we both were drunk out of our minds in that club. I was temporarily (six months) assigned to ‘Nam as a “volunteer” for riverboat (I prefer that term over swiftboat) patrol. Jed was nearing the end of his 13 month stint as a combat infantryman. Jed was seriously wounded by a mortar round when he was only three weeks away from fulfilling his 13 months. He suffered for many years from those wounds. But, Jed used it as an excuse to drink heavily and sink into the abyss of alcoholism. He did make several attempts to stop drinking. But he failed each time despite four attempts in a Veterans Rehab Hospital. They finally refused to treat him any longer unless he agreed to stay for one year. There was no way he was doing that. We rarely discussed our time in ‘Nam. It’s just something neither of us wanted to discuss unless we were both “feeling good.” I feel guilty now for drinking with him, back in the day, with the knowledge he couldn’t stop. But, in the end, it wasn’t the drinking that killed him. It was the cigarettes that eventually got him.

Yesterday, Jed was buried with full military honors. I’m almost positive he did not want to be buried this way. He hated the military and all it represented. In fact, Jed threw away all his military medals when he came back to the states. His bitterness stayed with him for the rest of his life. But, I think this was what his daughters wanted. So, I guess if Jed had known that, he would have done what he always did; shrug his shoulders and say, “Whatever.”

Rest in peace, old friend, rest in peace.

2 comments:

Sorry to hear about the loss your friend. Sounds like both of you have had some pretty heavy duty times in your life.
I hope the joy has overwhelmed the sadness in yours! :)

k. fields, Jed was someone who never recovered from the horrors of 'Nam. It led him to drink to forget what he saw. His wounds always were a constant reminder of that God forsaken war. And, yes, we did have some GOOD times when we were young. Thanks for the comment.

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