Author: R.A. Keenan
Location: Haverstraw, New York
Silver furred and long of tooth, R. A. Keenan can often be found wandering about the forest-covered hills along New York State's Hudson River Valley. A survivor of the Age of Aquarius, look for him brandishing his shillelagh among the cliffs of the Shawangunks and bemoaning to the Moon the current state of affairs. When not traipsing across God's Great Outdoors, he'll be tucked away in a cozy pub with a good pint of beer, some darts in hand, tossing a few at the board.
His loving wife of many years, still a bride in his eyes, has the patience of a Saint.
Section 2a Site 6198
Hey, Richie. Veterans Day again, and the fall colors are just about gone. Thought I'd drop by, say hello. Been visiting my parents and brother a few sections over. Dad once called you my other brother, my Negro brother, the respectful term of the '60s. Did I ever mention that to you? Memories are funny, what percolates to the top. Pretty open-minded for an old jarhead gunny, don't you think? The times did begin a-changin' back then. You must know about Obama, right? Have you stopped grinning, yet?
Peaceful here along the southern fence; the trees add a sense of seclusion, despite the ranks of headstones. The shade softens the summer sun's touch, protects the grass carpeting the graves. I prefer the spring, the blossoms, the reawakening of the earth when Life swells, even blankets the back of your headstone, a thin coating of green velvet. The moss fades under the bite of winter and disappears—unlike the memory of you, not for those who call you son, brother, friend, comrade-in-arms. You remain in our hearts. Always.
The KIA and PH engraved in your stone's footing speak much about you, a good marine, a warrior. A hero. You didn't think so, the last time we met, before you shipped out. Thought of yourself as just a "regular" jarhead. Patrolling in-country demanded a lot more than regular courage, amigo.
So much more rattles around my recollections of you: a good buddy, your wry sense of humor, quick to respond to a friend in need. Yeah, you grumbled. We all did, passing ourselves off as the coolest of dudes. Your actions spoke a hell of a lot louder, though. Quick to tease, to laugh at yourself, especially. Quick on the handball court. Were you ever defeated at Jamaica High School? I can't recall—so many years.
One hell of a receiver, too. Remember those older honchos? Older, right, what a laugh, early twenties, maybe. Remember when they drove by, spotted the bunch of us, eight skinny teens in the middle of a touch-football game?
Winning their bar league's touch title swelled their heads. They stopped to demonstrate how the game should be played. They didn't know what hit them. We were practically telepathic, no hesitation, anticipated each other's moves after years of playing together. Your speed and cuts, low to the ground, baffled them. The last play was broken and I threw that bomb while you faked left. I knew you'd be in the far right corner when the football arrived. You knew I'd throw there. I can still see the shit-eating grin on your face as the guys drove away pissed off, their arms extended, tossing the bird out the cars' windows at us.
And the tennis racquet with Lee, maybe six-two, and you, what, five-eight, maybe nine? Mutt and Jeff. He loved busting chops, returned from the pizzeria to the card game with everyone's slice but yours. Everyone saw you oh-so-casually pick up the racquet and walk away. The lights turned off; Lee knew why. The rest of us sat frozen in the dark. He shot out of the basement like the hounds of hell pursued him, his whispered "Oh, Shit" left floating in the air. Only one hound, a terrier, chased him up the basement stairs and down the street, the racquet's string face bouncing off the top of his head. So many times afterward, if anyone ever mentioned the words "tennis racquet," tears of laughter erupted. Lee's were the loudest. Teenage males, they're a wonder.
Rest in peace, Richie. Keep guarding Heaven's streets. Not too much time left until the rest of us start showing up. That grin of yours will be great to see again.
I'll bring the football.
* * * * *
RICHARD EDWARD ADDISON JR.
PFC-E2 Marine Corps Regular.
Date of Birth: Nov 24, 1948.
From: New York, NY.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Marital Status: Single.
Length of service: 0 years.
His tour began on Jul 18, 1968.
Casualty was on Aug 18, 1968.
In Thua Thien, South Vietnam.
Hostile, Ground Casualty.
Gun, Small Arms Fire.
Body was recovered.
Buried at Long Island National Cemetery
Section 2a Site 6198
Simultaneous acceptance; also published in The Shine Journal, April 2009