Part Sixteen
by sarAdora


We found Billy today.

He'd been lost for thirty-eight years, lost in an unforgiving war. His dog tags lay hidden under muck and rock. Pieces of shaved and scarred bones were found scattered in a dark tunnel in Viet Nam, remnants of a long-ago and unpopular war. So many bones were fragmented, some whole, belonging to others as well. DNA testing matched some of them to Billy.

His elderly parents died not knowing what happened to their son. Missing in Action doesn't say much about where he breathed his last, how it happened, as if war was an excuse for a satisfactory end to a life. When she was notified that Billy's remains had been found, his sister nodded her head, thanked the Army chaplain and officer for the news and signed the papers for Billy's remains to be buried at Arlington. She didn't attend the funeral ceremony. She had written Billy off long before he enlisted, long before he carried a gun, long before he went to war, long before he died in service to his country.

Cowboy, David, Bull and I flew to Arlington. Along with an Honor Guard, we witnessed the burial of a very old childhood friend. Old Glory was removed from his casket, precision folded and handed to me with comforting words from a very grateful nation. The tears flowed, my arms trembled.


I was twelve when I met Billy. He was a massive muscular and angry 18-year old. He was mad at the world, mad at the neighborhood we lived in, mad at what he didn't have, mad at the parish priest, mad at God for ignoring him. He'd been kicked out of school for disorderly conduct – translation: he beat up the football coach for punching him. He'd been arrested countless times – petty theft, vandalism.

Deep down, I thought he was a softie.

I spotted him sitting in a back alley – not far from the old Berghoff Restaurant, his back against the wall – waiting for a handout. He was hungry.

I know hunger. Been there, done that countless times.

"Come with me," I told him, taking his hand, pulling him to his feet.

"You're kinda young for me, kiddo. Don't do babies."

Laughing, I told him where he could get a good meal, eat every day.

"Not going home; folks kicked me out."

I didn't ask why; took him to Molly's Diner. Molly took one look, sat him down in a booth and fed him like a king.

Billy mumbled that he didn't take charity; was loud and clear that he couldn't pay for the meal.

Molly smiled at the angry boy. "Come every day," she said. "I'll feed you."

The next time I saw Billy, three big guys were beating up on him. Alli and I carried baseball bats… Alli was a better fighter than I was. We swung those bats at the back of knees – gave Billy a chance to get on top of them – cracked a few skulls – ran like the dickens when we heard the police sirens.

Billy came to our apartment to formally thank me. Max was furious with me; I was grounded for a month. Even so, I would have done it again.

The next time I saw Billy he was in uniform. "Going off to Nam to make a difference," he said.

I never saw him again.

Alli saw the notice in the Chicago papers; remains of MIA soldiers identified. She recognized Billy's name.

Billy was lost to us so many years ago. A life cut short; a life that had so many possibilities. When we buried him, we lost him again. I whispered to God to accept Billy's soul, this boy who had barely learned to live before dying.

Wars are killing our youth, our futures. Will it ever end?

I post this in memory and in gratitude for those who serve and in sorrow for those who have lost their lives in service to their country.