I was 7 years old, and we lived in Alexandria, Virginia. Dad moved around so often, it was difficult to develop close, lasting friends. One friend I have remembered through the years is Haze. Memories are a bit blurry now, sad I cannot even remember his last name. We lived right next door to each other, and shared happy times together. We went to Maury Elementary School, played in the snow during the winter. We dug in our sand pile in my back yard making tunnels and hills in the sand. We enjoyed playing with plastic army men and having make believe wars in the sand pile. This was during days when kids didn’t have to be entertained, and didn’t need expensive toys and electronic games. These were good days, we just didn’t know how good they were. Time passed dad got another preaching job in Beaumont, Texas, and I lost touch with Haze. Of course I thought of him, but new places, new people, new friends happened.
Years passed, we grew up, I wondered whatever happened to my friend Haze. One day, I took a vacation and decided to go back to Alexandria. I drove by the old Elementary school, and Radio Tower Hill, where we as kids had gone down on sleds, nearly killing some by-standers. I went to our old home where my brother Ed had lost seven teeth thanks to riding on my back part way down the stairs. (He fell the other half way down.)
Next door was my friend Haze’s house. I went and knocked on the door. His mother came to the door and at first did not recognize me. I said. “It’s me, Jack” (she called me Jackie then) of course she was happy to see me. I walked in and we sat together in a living room where Haze and I once had spent time together playing when it was rainy outside. “Where is Haze?” I asked. His mother’s face changed, it seemed that the joy just left her face. Haze was an only son, and was her pride and joy. He had grown up, was drafted to go to Vietnam. “Did he make it back?” I asked. She said that he did.
She told me that Haze had come home from the war, and received the “welcome” that so many others received. “For months, he was terribly depressed” she said. Then the terrible news, “Soon after that he committed suicide.” My friend was dead, and I never knew. Sometimes I wonder what he thought, and why life had been so dark for him. Where was the justice in all this? Fighting a war that few supported. Seeing friends die beside him. Perhaps he wondered why he was spared.
The emptiness in my heart is hard to explain when I think of Haze. He deserved better, they all did, and do. The pain of Vietnam, I never knew because I was passed over, but it still hurts. That is why when I meet Vets, I say, “Thank you, thank you for what you did”.
I never got to say good bye to Haze, but August 28, 2010 my wife (Wiwik) and I along with some dear friends, went to the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, DC, I walked up to “The Wall” and laid my hands on the hallowed stone, and said “Thank you”, and “good-bye Haze”, my friend.
“Honor to whom honor is due.”