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A Visit From a Spirit Past

I write a wide variety of genres about people, places, things, and animals. Some are factual and fictional articles. This is a true story.

Ken Dye at Officer Candidate School (OCS)

Ken Dye at Officer Candidate School (OCS)

The Vietnam War

In 1969 the Vietnam War raged on. It seemed like there was no end to the battles, hills, or real estate that was taken and then given back to the enemy.

We heard the sound of artillery day and night; loud guns projecting rounds far and wide. Many a night we woke up to the sound of small arms fire. The enemy was attempting to penetrate the perimeter but was stopped by the infantry units assigned to guard the firebase; a demanding, and frightening job under any circumstance.

"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Part of a speech by General MacArthur

"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Part of a speech by General MacArthur

We Complete Officer Candidate School (OCS)

During my time in the Army, I met and became best friends with a trooper named Ray Callahan from Allentown, PA. Prior to being drafted he attended college and worked in a steel mill.

We both attended basic and advanced training. Then we were off to Officer Candidate School at the Armor Center in Ft. Knox, KY. It was known as the gold depository, where unknown numbers of gold ingots and government secrets were kept. It was an imposing place indeed.

Ray Callahan and I went through the rigorous training courses together and became close friends. At the completion of OCS we were both commissioned as 2nd lieutenants. Many think it is a 90-day gentleman’s course…not true. The course is a grueling six months that brings out the leadership qualities of the “Candidates;” many of whom do not complete the course.

My new bride and Ray’s new wife also became close friends. We all bonded along with all the other newly minted “Butter Bars.”

2nd Lieutenant's insignia

2nd Lieutenant's insignia

Upon being commissioned as new lieutenants, many were off to flight school in Texas and Alabama. It was a fun time with my friends and fellow future pilots. We partied together and had impromptu card games and cookouts. It was great times with amazing, young and dedicated officers.

As time went on the circumstances for our commitment to the country grew near. We all knew where we were going. That’s right, the far off battlefields of a war, half way around the world; a war that nobody could explain. There was something about the North Vietnamese invading the South and that it was a violation of some treaty or another. No matter the reason or cause, we all felt it was our duty to serve our country; a country that has committed itself to this “conflict,” as some politicians like to call it.

We all saddled up and went to jungle school in Panama prior to our final departure. Then it was home for a few days, to say good-bye to friends and family. We went, we served, and we all did our very best. For some, the very best included being “Killed In Action.”

The Dead of War

Captain Ray Callahan is Killed In Action

Captain Ray Callahan became a statistic, and a name on a wall; a wall on which I placed my hand, and saw and felt the inscribed name of my dead friend, Ray Callahan. The name was engraved in beautiful black granite. People say prayers at that wall as they think of times past and the hardships they endured. Some survived…some died in the service of their country, honorably and faithfully.

It's a moving experience, to say the least, for all who visit. The traffic of the nation’s capital and other “city sounds” are unheard at the apex of the Vietnam wall. It's a calming and reflective time for all who visit.

I stood at the wall and placed my hand on the engraved name of my best friend, said a prayer and thought of our good times; times that would no longer happen, but are mere fading memories.

During that war, most of us completed our tours of duty and returned home to friends and family. I was one of the lucky ones. I came home a little beaten and battered but all in one piece.

Military funeral

Military funeral

Armor Officer Advanced Course

My lovely wife and I were posted to Ft. Knox again; the home of Armor. All armor officers pass through the gates of Ft. Knox at one time or another. I assumed the command of a training company and was chosen for attendance at the Armor Officer Advanced Course.

During my military time at Ft. Knox, I thought of my best friend, Ray Callahan a lot. He was never far from my mind. He was a good and honorable man and was taken too soon by the ravages of war. Damn, I missed that guy and his wife, Marilyn.

Ray Visit's Me From the Grave

On a cold and blustery Halloween in 1971, I was getting a uniform out of my closet, getting ready to face the day. I had put in the necessary paperwork to finish my service to the military and to become a St. Louis County Police Officer.

While rummaging in my closet, I felt a strange feeling come over me. A feeling I have never felt before or since. I looked to the right and saw an image; an image of my old friend, Ray. He stood there, like a hologram, wearing “a steel pot” on his head. He had a smile as big as a battleship. He didn’t say a word, even after I said, “Ray, are you OK?” What a dumb thing to say to a dead man.

Part of Vietnam Memorial

Part of Vietnam Memorial

He just Stopped By to Reassure Me

I immediately felt warmth inundate my body. Ray looked at me and continued to smile, then he faded into nothing. I wanted to reach out and grab my old friend and hold him to my chest, and tell him how much I missed him and Marilyn, but it was not to be. He re-entered my life for that brief second and then faded away. What a feeling; I felt safe for some reason!

I later told my wife about the strange experience. She just said, “I know, it was just Ray stopping by to say everything will be OK. You’re safe from being killed in Vietnam, now get on with living, be a good person, do the right thing, and may peace be upon you and Joyce.”

I think of that cold, windy day on Halloween, so many years ago when an old friend stopped by to tell me, "hello," and that everything was going to be OK.

Dead soldier in angels arms

Dead soldier in angels arms

My perspective of what happened to my friend, Ken Dye, was just exactly what his wife, Joyce said; it was his friend's inner spirit, which wanted to reassure Ken that no matter what happened, as long as he would stay true and loyal to God and the people around him, he would be fine.

Ken, I salute you in the fact you were one of my sergeants in the St. Louis County Police Department, as well as the service you and Ray gave in Vietnam!

© 2019 Gerry Glenn Jones

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