I have had quite a year, I just received my first retirement check from the Navy. Being a reservist for nearly 18 years and serving on active duty in Vietnam and later in the Philippines has really been an honor for me. My first years were on an LCU in Assault Craft Unit 1, but my last 15 years were as a Seabee in NMCB-18. I retired as an EO1 in 2000. Of course you have to wait until you are 60 to get the retirement. I didn't have a lot of points and only 2 and 1/2 years on active duty, but it added up some money coming in now. Early this year (January) my very close friend Steve Nelting passed away. We first met as part of the LCU-1481 boat crew going to Vietnam in 1967. Steve and I kept in touch and found time to see each other almost every year since then. Steve was diagnosed with Lukemia in the summer of 2007. It was never proven, but suspected that he may have been exposed to Agent Orange. Only a few weeks later in February another shipmate, Lloyd Cunnington also passed away from cancer. I hadn't kept in touch with Lloyd like I had Steve, but when I called to tell him about Steve passing, his wife informed me that he too was gone. I have not had the money to travel much and have put off the few chances I had to attend service related reunions. Now with two of my shipmates gone, I think I will try very hard to make the next reunion for Landing Craft Veterans in San Diego set for May of 2009. I wrote a tribute to my friend Steve and it was published (thanks to one of his dear friends that worked at the paper) next to his obituary in the local paper in Snohomish, Washington. I am adding it here for anyone who would like to read it. I have other issues that I would like to share when I get time. If you want to reply to this message, please feel free to do so.
O’ My Brother True
In Vietnam our bond was forged aboard a rusted LCU,
boating on the rivers brown or steaming on the ocean blue.
How many trips did we share, where the threat of death was our constant worry?
Could we have known at our young age what friendship we would always carry?
Do you remember O’ My Brother True the first day we met? Well I sure do!
Could I forget your silly hat or your baby face that made me laugh?
I’m still haunted by dreams of our first night anchored in deep darkness and full of fright!
Could that sound be a sapper near? Will he blow us up or cut our throats?
When up behind me on that pallet load with that creaking board upon which you strode and as I turn with weapon cocked to shoot the enemy, but NO, it is not! It is you O’ My Brother True and I just miss shooting you!
Eight months almost we lived our lives with loads of work and little fun aboard the 1481.
Fifteen shipmates was what we were during those days of our first tour, yet later on near the end we were a family of men, I’m now so sure.
From ‘67 to ’69 we served our country, our Navy, and our friends.
Yet even as you ended your Navy days, I was there to whisk you away.
Our friendship strong through all these years and now my eyes - all filled with tears.
How could it be through all the jokes, the homemade cookies, the stale smokes, the happy years since ’69, the trips to your beloved Seattle and your short journeys to my Idaho that you could be leaving me again?
How could it be that somewhere in war torn Vietnam that you could be touched by death alone with me right there to never know?
Could it really be that Agent Orange caressed you over there in ‘Nam and now your blood cannot keep you fair or sustain your life of which we care?
We are not old at 59, in fact we are supposed to be in our prime.
Yet now I hear from your dear sister that you will leave me here alone to journey to your heavenly home - where all souls go to meet our Savior, to know why we wore this mortal coil and upon this Earth came to toil, and of his love for us Eternal perhaps to live with Him again and no longer struggle for the end.
O’ My Brother True how can you go?
Know you not that I’m so low?
But if you must be the first to go; then please take with you my friendship true and all the love I have for You – O’ My Brother True.
For a true friend who literally saved my life many times and always kept in touch with me over the years and miles.
Thank God for you Stephen James Nelting!
Your friend forever,
Earl Kelley Boyd