Gold Star Family Members letters

Posted on December 15, 2014

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I have asked the Family members of Charlie Troop write a story about their loss of loved one and how it has affected them. Here are their stories.

This letter is from Jacqueline Slye-Jackson

Hello Mr. Patrick my friend,

I not sure if I can explain what growing up without my Dad (SSGT George D. Slye) in my life felt like in an email. I’m gonna try.

It was May 1970 when my Mom got the “Knock”. We were living in a house in Tacoma, WA. I am 1 of 5 children, 3 older brothers and a little sister. We were ages 11 to 2. This was the day that changed all our lives forever. I will never forget my Mom’s scream. I think it is my youngest memory. I don’t remember one single thing about my Dad. I was only 5 years old. My Mom always told me that my Dad wanted a girl first. She told me that when I was born….he was the happiest man on the planet. When I think what my Mom went through, it blows my mind. She was our “Rock”. She never remarried, and always kept his spirit alive in our home. Looking back now that I’m 50 I wonder how she did it, all alone? We always had every thing we “needed”… not every thing we “wanted”. Growing up I always knew the number of men who were killed…but often wondered if it was true. I say this because I had never met a family like mine. When friends would ask “Where is your Dad?” I would tell them, “My Dad was killed in Vietnam. They would never reply to that answer. We would just carry on with what ever it was we were doing. It was always silently hurtful to me that nobody would recognize it. I recently spoke with one of my Dad’s dear friends from Vietnam. A man that was there that awful day. His name is Roger Paulmeno. I can’t tell you what it was like to speak to him. Some one in this world outside my family cared for my Dad!!!! All these years it was like nobody ever knew him but us! It is incredibly beautiful to know that some one else loved him as much as us. Just typing THAT makes me cry. He even wrote a chapter in a book about the day I and we lost our Dad. Reading it was so upsetting to me. But, I FINALLY got the truth. All that I’d wondered all those years was finally answered. I knew a little about what happened…but, not in such detail. I’m grateful to know the truth. My Dad was such a handsome man. He lives in my heart. I’m the proud Gold Star Daughter of a brave strong man. I wish so much he could see my handsome son. Sometimes I wonder if he’s really gone. I think what if he’s just lost? What would it be like if one day he just knocked on my door? There are so many “What if’s” I hope he’s up in heaven treating my Mom like the Queen she deserves to be treated like? I want to ask him if he realizes she cried for him for 40 years? He’s my hero I didn’t get to know…..but Mom IS the hero I did know! I’m very proud of them both and STILL feel blessed to be their daughter.

Much Love Mr. Patrick
Jacqueline K. Slye-Jackson

This letter was written by Ray Slye

I remember “that” day too. My two older brothers and I were at Boze elementary school in Tacoma, WA. We were each taken out of our classes and then together we were told to head straight home. I don’t think George and I realized the gravity of the day as well as Rolf. He was the oldest of us and kept us moving along on our walk home
I recall seeing the olive drab impala parked in front of our house, but still hadn’t put things together. I think at my age (not quite 8) I couldn’t realize what “never coming home again” meant. Until my Aunts and Uncles arrived it just seemed like mom was crying about something I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until it was decided which kids would go where for a while that I knew this was really bad.

Like my sister Jackie said, it was a lonely time of feeling different. None of our friends ever had something like this in their lives. One would think with all the casualties in this war we would have met someone like us, but never did I hear of any.
Like Jackie said. Everyone told us Dad was a hero. I’m sure he was and I love him. Mom was the hero to us kids.

The Door by Teri Nave

“Mommy, wake up. There are two men at the front door dressed like daddy.” At nine years old, I knew the word ‘uniform.’ But early on Saturday morning, answering an unexpected doorbell ring, still in my pajamas, I just couldn’t remember that word.
One of the men standing at our front door in an Army uniform quietly had asked me if my mother was home. As I went to get mom, an ominous feeling began to grow in the pit of my stomach. During the entire year my dad had been in Korea, no men in uniform had ever come to our door. And although he had been in Vietnam for almost a year, he was due home in three days. We were packing up the house to move to Ft Rucker because daddy was coming home!
There weren’t supposed to be men in uniform standing at our door. My daddy was supposed to be standing there.
Mom sent me to my room and told me to wait till she called for me. She got dressed and met with the two men in our living room. A little while later she called for me to come into the room. Confirming my darkest fears, she explained that something bad had happened. There had been a helicopter crash in Vietnam. Daddy and several other soldiers had been killed in the crash. The two men in uniform were “truly sorry for our loss.”
Over the next few hours my nine-year-old mind figured out that daddy was coming home – just not the way we were expecting. He wouldn’t be standing at the door in uniform. He would be in a big box covered with an American flag. On the nightly news reports with Walter Cronkite, I had seen the images of flag-draped coffins coming off military airplanes. I had seen the ‘body count’ graphic in the upper right-hand corner of our TV screen. That night, when I watched the news, I knew the number on the screen now included my daddy. It wasn’t news anymore. It was personal. It wasn’t just another number. It was my daddy.
The next few days were a blur. But I do remember that some ladies took me shopping for a dark-colored dress – something appropriate for a funeral. They couldn’t find a dress in my size. (I remember thinking that nine-year-olds weren’t supposed to have correctly-sized dresses ‘appropriate for a funeral.’) In the juniors department at Sears, they finally found a pretty, dark brown dressed embellished with white satin ribbons and a small white rose; but it was way too big for me. A chubby little lady, with pins in her mouth, had to come into the dressing room to measure it for alterations. (I remember thinking that daddy would have been proud of me in my ‘big girl’ dress…appropriate for a funeral.)
The house was filled with people every day. They came in quiet waves. Sympathetic women would pull me into their laps to console me over the loss of my daddy. I seemed to my nine-year-old heart that the grownups were the ones who needed to be consoled. I quickly learned that the only way out of that lap was to shed some tears so the lap owner would feel she had helped me in my time of grief. I knew these caring people were trying to help my family get through a terrible tragedy. But there were just too many of them. Sometimes it felt like they were sucking the air out of the room and I just had to escape for a little while to the peace and quiet of my bedroom.
I don’t remember the funeral service, in 1966, at Southside Baptist Church, on Pye Avenue, in Columbus, GA. But I do remember the graveside service at the Ft Benning cemetery. The sky was clear. The temperature was soaring. South Georgia humidity hung heavy in the July air. My mother sat, ramrod straight, in her chair – the picture of dignity. She was gracious to everyone. She thanked the soldier who presented her with the militarily-folded flag that moments before had been protecting my daddy. The rifle fire from the 21-gun salute came suddenly – like a brazen thief…stealing the peace of the cemetery. I jumped in my seat. For a split second, I wondered if we should all ‘hit the deck’ – like I had seen people do in the Vietnam film footage that played in our living room each night on the news. But no one around me seemed alarmed; so I guessed it was safe. Somewhere in the distance a melancholy bugler blew Taps. To this day, every time I hear taps, I am instantly back in that folding chair in the Ft Benning cemetery in the hot Georgia sun.
The waves of visitors eventually slowed to a trickle and, (mercifully) a halt, as people got back to the business of living their lives. Casey Waters and another lady (whose name, I am ashamed to admit, I can’t remember) took my little brother, Joe, and me to Florida for a few days. When we got back, the house was unpacked and again, we settled in…for life without daddy.
At first, “life without daddy” didn’t seem so different. He had been in Vietnam for almost a year. Before Vietnam, he had been in Korea for a year. His time between Korea and Vietnam was filled with training maneuvers which kept him in the field for weeks at a time. It was if we had actually lost him two or three years earlier…when my little brother and I were much younger instead of the seven and nine years we were at his death. The biggest difference was that mom had to find a job. The small payout she received from Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance didn’t begin to pay the mortgage of our modest home in south Columbus, much less the monthly expenses of a war widow with two small children.
One afternoon in 1974, I had come home from high school to an empty house – mom was at work and Joe was off with friends somewhere. Bored, I looked around the house for something to occupy my afternoon till it was time for me to cook supper. I don’t remember how I found it; but I stumbled across a six-ring binder of keepsakes of my dad’s. Sometime after the funeral, my mother had collected things – photographs, certificates, orders…and letters. In plastic document protectors, she had carefully preserved every condolence letter our family had received – from General Westmoreland to Captain Bob Richie to some soldier we only knew as Geno. She had made it a point to answer each one. I found copies of her responses tucked behind each letter.
For the next several hours I read about my dad…college degree…military training school certificates…promotion orders…military decoration citations…and, of course, the letters. There were standard condolence letters sent from various Army officers to the families of military members killed in action. But there were also hand-written letters from heart-broken soldiers who had served with my dad. There were newspaper articles too. My dad’s face looked back at me from yellowed clippings carefully cut out and placed in plastic protectors. Some stories told of his exploits with his men and of their mission in Vietnam; others recounted the helicopter crash that took his life…they finally ended with the obituary.
Eight years after answering the door in my pajamas…eight years later, sitting alone, at our kitchen table…the tears finally came and this time they were mine. I wept for my dad. I wept for my family. I wept for his troopers. I wept for my country. I wept for every ‘war-orphan’ that Vietnam had created.
That afternoon, the Lord began the healing process. As, for the first time, I really owned my own grief, I felt Him beginnig to put back together the pieces of my broken heart. Since then, the healing process has been slow but steady. Being introduced to the Bullwhip Squadron Association has been a huge factor in my healing process. (But that is another story for another day.) Over the years, I found evidence of my father’s faith in Jesus. It makes the hope of the resurrection even sweeter – to know that one day I’ll see my dad again. And when that day comes…there will be no more war. There will be no more helicopter crashes. There will be no more men in uniform standing at my door. There will be no more tears. There will be an eternity of celebrating Jesus with my dad at my side. Thanks be to God who makes all things new.

Teri Nave
Daughter of Major Billy Joe Nave
1/9 C Troop Commander
KIA – June 27, 1966, Republic of Vietnam

Written, October 11, 2010
DAVID’S STOCKING Julie Kink
December 2005

I wasn’t looking forward to hanging David’s Christmas stocking this year. I’ve found that most of the things in life I didn’t want to do – because they remind me of people or things that aren’t here anymore – are things I really need to do.

So I lifted his stocking carefully out of its box like Mom used to do. Seeing a tiny hole in the heel, I turned it inside out to sew it. A few old, brittle scraps of wrapping paper fell out. What gift, I wondered, what year? What little thing had our parents placed there in the stocking to be found on Christmas morning – was it for David or for me?

An aunt knit woolen Christmas stockings for all three of the Kink children years before I was born. The names Paul, David, and Susan were knitted in bright red above a fuzzy white Santa face, and a pair of crossed candy canes. They were magnificent, large enough to hold an apple, an orange, a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a can of smoked oysters, and a Life Saver Sweet Storybook. I was born last, nine years after my sister, so I never got my own knitted stocking, but I loved the look and feel of the others. They were a special part of our Christmas.

The year that David was killed in Vietnam, Mom started filling his stocking for me. It made me feel special, sharing my big brother’s stocking like that. Even though I got everything that was inside. It was still David’s stocking, and it still needed to be hung up at Christmas.

Looking back, I think it was one of the important lessons of my eighth year: you don’t have to quit hanging a person’s Christmas stocking, just because they’re not there to see it. For so many years, I watched Mom brush away tears as she would lift it so carefully out of its box, and pack it away just as carefully after Christmas. We eventually sent Paul’s stocking off to him in Montana, and Susan’s stocking off to her in South Carolina. Mom went into the nursing home, but David’s stocking stayed right here with me. It has never missed a Christmas.

And now, Mom is gone. And now, I am lifting David’s stocking out of its box and wiping away a few tears, just like Mom used to do.

This year, I shed tears for people I don’t even know, the more than 2,000 families who will wonder if they should hang a Christmas stocking this year. The families of the young men and women who, like my own brother in 1969, went off to fight a war and never came back.

The families wondering if you ever stop thinking about them.

You don’t.

I wish to the core of my soul that there was something I could do or say that would let them know they aren’t alone. What I really wish, is that the war would end, and there wouldn’t have to be any more families like mine, left wondering.

What do you do with a person’s Christmas stocking after they’re gone?

You carefully take it out of its box, you hang it up, you fill it with treats or gifts. Or just memories . . . and then, you go on.

Julie Kink
sister of WO David Kink
C Troop 1/9th CAV KIA 8-3-1969
http://www.virtualwall.org/dk/KinkDR01a.htmGrowing up without…Uncle Ray

This story is about Cordis “Ray” White written his Aunt Debby White Baker

Hard to know what he would have been or would have done, but I am sure he would have had a family and some of the family and buddies in the Cav think he would have made a career of serving in the Army.

I don’t have a lot of memories of Uncle Cordis Ray White, I was 10 when we lost him and all I really remember was he was a quiet man, I think this is why I don’t have a lot of memories of him. Seems he was always doing puzzles and figuring things out. That makes me remember that after he was killed my Grandparents always had a puzzle started at the house, wonder if they did that for him….

Uncle Ray, we called him Ray but I have since found out he was Cordis in the Army. Something that makes me laugh as he just never seemed like a Cordis to me … that was my Grandpa!
Uncle Ray was married and I don’t believe I have seen her since the days after / during the services. She was devastated by the loss of him as we all were…. You see we had lost his brother just about 2 years before in the same war. His brother, Donnie was the more out going one … the football player…the funny guy, much different then his brother.

Uncle Ray’s wife lived with my grandparents while he was in the service, which means I got to see her every week end when we would go to Lamar to get grocery’s to see my grandparents and my grandmother. That’s what we did on Saturday!

When we as a family lost Ray we all were just in shock, how could they have taken two from us…? My grandparents at that point would be burying the fifth of their ten children! They lost their first born at 18 months, Lila, my father (Bill) was next oldest, then Uncle John, Uncle Tom, shortly after birth Mary, shortly after birth Roy, Uncle Donnie, Uncle Ray, Uncle Jack and Aunt Helen. My Grandmother was the sweetest woman ever but this just put her over the edge… we almost lost her with the blow of burying another.

My grandparents had these unique pictures made of Uncle Donnie and Uncle Ray, wood carved silhouette of them with a photo type picture laid on the front. In their uniforms and then they had their metals framed to put beside them. The pictures of the boys were the first thing I saw coming into the living room and it always made me smile. I always loved seeing them. So when my grandmother passed in 1995 I was honored to go to the funeral home with my aunts and uncles to make plans for her services (Grandpa was also ill at the time). While at the funeral home my aunt Helen made the remark about burying the boys with Grandma. I just about lost it that these precious keepsakes would be gone forever just because no one could decide who would keep them together. I said to one of my other aunts that I would be honored to keep them both. Well a few days later my aunts and uncles had decided when Grandpa passed I would receive them. Oh my I was so honored that they trusted me with something so special, so precious to us all.
Since that day they have come home with me they have held a place in my living room just like at Grandma and Grandpas, on the wall for all to see.

Now you see we live in a tornado area…we live just a few miles from the devastating Joplin Missouri F5 tornado of May 22, 2011 that killed 153 people.

One night we were having a really bad storm…the storm sirens sounded and I went into disaster mode. I go to the wall take “the boys” down, wrap them in beach towels, place them in a box and place it in the area of the house that we go to for shelter. I then came back to the living area and sat down and wait on the storm to do its thing. My husband thinks it is the funniest thing that those are the only thing I placed in the “safe zone” while we kick back and watch TV. Make perfect sense to me!

I do know that getting receiving pictures from the men that knew them and getting to know the men that were there that day or just the men in general that knew them has helped me to get past some of the issues. My Dad does not talk about the boys much but when I get to know someone that knew one of them or get a picture or any contact he always is moved by it, I feel like that keeps them alive. Away that they are remembered!

Well thank you all for sharing what you have with me about his (uncle Cordis Ray White) time with you. If someone out there has not shared with me and would like to I would love to hear your stories.

Thank you for listening

Debby White Baker

To Debbie White Baker,

Reading your story is really heartwarming especially for those of us who served with Ray. Actually, I remember him as White, the second squad RTO. I remember he was tall blonde kid who volunteered to carry the radio for the 2nd squad.. I was the RTO for the Blues and when I went on RnR in Sept 1969, he took my place.
It’s been something that has bothered me since that time, because he was were I would have been if destiny had not intervened. I remember receiving an email from the Chaplain who was assigned to our unit the week Ray was killed. He remembers it because Ray’s service was his first assignment with Charlie Troop. The word in the camp was the Blue India had been killed while out helping rescue a LRRP unit that was in trouble. The came under fire.
When I return, since everyone knew me to be Blue India, they thought they saw a ghost. but found out that it was Ray who was Blue India for the week.
As the years go by all the Cavaliers I’m in touch with honor those who we lost while we here there. I was an honor to know them, serve with them, and their sacrifice which in many case saved other so they could come home.
I just was contacted by the daughter of Sgt George Slye who said much of the same you mention and how much he is missed. I was able to find a picture of Slye which she has never seen and orders which showed he was on at least 50 missions with the Blues. I know it helped being able to talk about it and to see that those of us who served will always miss and remember those who gave their all.
I think for those of us who can now help family members with filling in some gaps and to show that their family members that they are and never will be forgotten.
I wish my memory was better about those time and I could share some stories but honestly it all seems like it went by so fast that most everything is just blending together.

Thanks for your thoughts and memories.

Tom, Blue India 69

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