35th Infantry (Cacti) Regiment Association

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  SGT Wesley William Sperling    In memory of our fallen brother

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother"

Alpha Company
1st Battalion
35th Infantry Regiment

Vietnam War

"Not For Fame or Reward
Not For Place or For Rank
But In Simple Obedience To
Duty as They Understood It"

National Defense Service Medal Vietnam Service Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal

The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, SGT Wesley William Sperling, who died in the service of his country on April 5th, 1968 in Kontum Province, Vietnam. The cause of death was listed as Small Arms/AW. At the time of his death Wesley was 21 years of age. He was from Arlington, Nebraska. Wesley is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 48E, Line 20.

The decorations earned by SGT Wesley William Sperling include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.

Wesley graduated from Arlington High School in 1965 and from Universal Technical Institute in Omaha, NE in 1967. He was active in Legion baseball. He was a life-long member of St Paul's Lutheran Church in Arlington and was buried there May 8, 1968.

(The following is from Joann Schlapfer whom attended high school with Wesley. She is referencing their 40th reunion at which a Cacti marker was put on Wesley's grave.) This past weekend was like turning the clock of time back many years and imagining being 18 again and just being out of high school. Remembering the fun times we all had together, watching the guys including Wes and my husband Gary play football, basketball during the school year and Legion baseball in the summer time. Wes's nickname was "Spider" for his long legs. Back then it seemed like all the guys had nicknames for each other. To me he was Wes. I still think about him and wonder what his life would have been like today. That is something we will never know.

(The following is from Roger Fuchs whom also graduated with Wesley) Wes is buried in the cemetery of St. Paul's Lutheran Church located in gently rolling farm country four miles north of Arlington, NE. Between the cemetery and the church, a pseudo-Gothic design built in 1890, stands the yellow brick single story school and gymnasium built in 1950 where Wes and I went to school from 1953-61. We were in a class of 15, had our Confirmation in March of 1961 and graduated from St. Paul's Lutheran Elementary School in May of '61. From there, we went to Arlington High School and graduated in a class of 41 in May 1965.

St. Paul's is a large and growing rural congregation. The school, which was three classrooms when Wes and I were there, has for years been bursting with five classrooms and several temporary ones on the property. A major expansion is currently under construction. Many people are buying little plots of the farmland for their country acreage and new house, need a good place to send their kids to school, and end up joining the church. Still, at the time of Wes's funeral, it was the largest gathering the church had ever seen. Church was packed and so was the gym. I think they even had chairs outside. I'd bet at least 800 people attended.

Since I was Sr. Class President and this is our 40th anniversary of H.S. graduation, my classmates have asked me to come back to lead the invocation at the annual Arlington Education Foundation alumni banquet on June 25. I'll say just a few words about Wes before the prayer and also invite any classmates and others to attend a little graveside commemoration after church on Sunday, June 26, weather permitting.

(This is also by Roger Fuchs, a very powerful narrative.)

After all this time...
--by Roger Fuchs, Portland, OR
on behalf of the Arlington, NE High School Class of 1965

After all this time, after 37 years, I finally took the time to go to the Virtual Wall. There I found
the link to the Cacti 35th's website and clicked the mouse. After all this time I decided to sign the guestbook, throwing my little message in a bottle into the great sea of cyberspace. I wondered if I would hear from anyone who knew Wesley and had served with him in Vietnam. When would I hear, and from whom? After all this time...I wondered.

About 18 hours later I heard from Dick, and over the next several days I heard from Sonny and one or two others. I cannot begin to describe what it felt like that first day when I read Dick's message. At last I was not reading about some other place, some other day, some other company, some other equally intimate but remote details of a battle and lives saved or lost, none of whom I knew. This was the day, the day in the Central Highlands near Kontum. This was the day I will always remember because it is also my mother's birthday. This was that momentous day on Mile High, 05 April 1968. This was the flesh and blood who knew Wesley and had lived and served with him for nearly a year. Dick Arnold was the man I had hoped for years to find. After all this time...

Dick and I exchanged e-mails several times that day and in the following days. He's a Hoosier as my father was. Together, Hoosier and Cornhusker, we share a kind of Midwestern rootedness in our own native land, the USA. We are both Class of '65. I mentioned that I was going back to Nebraska for a 40th high school class reunion. Dick asked if I would visit Wesley's grave and place a 35th Infantry Regiment Association gravesite marker there. I said I would be honored. Immediately I began thinking about doing a little commemoration service in the St. Paul's Lutheran Church cemetery on the day after the alumni banquet. I told Dick where to send the marker, thinking it would be a solid object.

To my surprise I received an electronic file on my computer the next day. Two files, actually. One was the 35th Infantry Regiment Association web address and phone number. The other was a color image of the cactus insignia of the 35th Infantry Regiment. "Our Fallen Brother" and "Cacti Forever" it proclaimed. Indeed! After all this time..."What will I do with these," I wondered? One of the Cacti advised that when laminated, the color printer image would be fairly durable. I know Nebraska summers of scorching sun and heat and the cold winter winds. I know the sometimes heavy rain and hail. I know what these things do to thin, soft plastic.

I began to think and dream. After all this time, I wanted this marker to stand with all the pride and dignity that a fallen soldier and his comrades in arms deserve. Maybe the color image should be placed inside a frame, under glass. But it needed to be waterproof, windproof, sun-proof. Real. It had to be real. Plastic? Resin maybe? Who could mount it for me and get it done in time? A trophy shop, perhaps! I called several. Nobody would do a job like that, not soon anyway.

Clear plastic, heavy plastic? I checked the McMaster-Carr catalog. Clear acrylic seemed the best choice. Sheets were expensive and more than I needed. The days were going by. I knew a plastics shop in the area. I visited on a Saturday and found remnants. One side would even have built-in UV protection. I just had to get the printed sheet sandwiched between the two acrylic sheets and sealed somehow. I wanted no mold to grow inside, no fog to form. It would have to be an airtight sandwich, sealed with acrylic resin. But the resin wouldn't stick to the smooth surface of the Lucite acrylic. Perhaps I could blast it with glass beads at work, roughen it slightly... Clear resin. I had never worked with it before. This had to work right the first time because there would be no time to do it over. The days were going by ever faster, and soon I would board the plane for Nebraska.

Then there was the frame or stake or pole, whatever I would put it on. The metal salvage yard was completely out of brass remnants and scrap when they had been overflowing just a few months before. China was buying everything in sight! I would have to make something out of what I could get at the hardware store and whatever remnants I could find at work. A design began to emerge, dictated more by the parts available than by a preconceived notion. But the brass bars and strips and plates took over. Each part led to another. Thirty years of machine shop skills converged on one of my final art projects to come out of the after-hours work on the lathe and milling machine in my closing company. At last it all got done, barely! The white paint on the back side of the plaque that will help keep out the sun's rays was still tacky when the entire marker went into a UPS Next Day Air shipment to my mother's house. I barely made the pickup.

After all this time I would be going home again, to see classmates and family I had not seen in a long, long time. And we would remember Wesley in a special way, an opportunity that probably would not come again in our lifetimes. What about Wesley's siblings and their families? Relatives? I needed the permission of the family, but I hoped for their presence and their blessing. I had been thinking about this as Memorial Day approached and passed, as the days of June ticked by. First a message via e-mail to a classmate, Karen... She sent it to several others. I heard from them. They would talk to Jerome and David, Wesley's brothers on the farm. Word reached Wesley's sister Janelle in Blair. She called. We had a good chat. It would be OK.

I arrived at my Mom's house late on the afternoon of June 23. The package containing the plaque was already there. The phone rang. It was Janelle. She had been trying to contact me. She wanted to talk about the commemoration. She would be over in a few minutes.

Janelle was a few years younger than Wes and I, and I barely remembered that she was the youngest of the seven Sperling siblings. She did not remember me, but we had some important common ground. She had lost her husband, Les, not so long ago. In high school, I had dated Les' older sister Linda seriously for a year. Linda also had died young. Both Linda and Les were unusually loving, generous and joyful people who touched many lives. Both are missed. And Les is buried right next to Wesley's parents.

But there was more... The Sperling family agreed that it would be OK for the high school class members to have a little commemoration service at the cemetery, but the family wanted to have their own gathering later in August and actually place the gravesite marker themselves. For the first time, the entire extended family would be together. Dick Arnold had talked about coming out from Indiana. Would it be OK if the family did not attend my service? Would that hurt my feelings?

"Not only does that not hurt my feelings, but I am thrilled! This is absolutely the best possible outcome! You, the family, should place this marker," I replied. "And if Dick is there, he will be the flesh and blood link to your brother and that time so long ago. He will be Wesley's presence for you."

Janelle and I talked a long while. I shared my memories about the Vietnam War era. I related how writing one poem had set me on a course that led to other poems and eventually a two-hour drama in honor of her brother and a cousin of mine also KIA. That led to my involvement with the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial Fund and eventually to my work in chaplaincy at the Portland VA Medical Center. I shared my scrapbook "While You Were Away." We parted with tears and a long hug. Our meeting was a blessing. I, too, was a link to this woman's brother. After all this time...

The class reunion on Friday evening, June 24, 2005, was fun. I brought along the memorial plaque and related how it had come about. We shared more memories about Wes. Then came the alumni banquet on Saturday evening. It was a day that my mother would describe as "beastly hot." It was entirely too hot for a tie and jacket but I wore them anyway. I wanted to look my best to give the invocation. I read my poem prayer "In the Memory of Genesis."

Later, during the awards and class recognition time, there was an opportunity to announce the commemoration service at St. Paul's cemetery at noon the next day. I began with some history:

1968 was a turbulent year in U.S. history. Our nation was at war. On April 3, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "promised land" speech. North Vietnam offered to talk about beginning peace talks. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupted and raged for a week in the black ghettos of 120 American cities. On April 5, 1968, relief troops finally arrived and ended the bloody 77-day siege of Khe Sanh. Meanwhile, in the Central Highlands west of Kontum, North Vietnamese regulars continued their infiltration and attacks.

Several companies of soldiers from the 1st battalion of the 35th infantry Regiment engaged the NVA at a hilltop called "Mile High". The fighting was heavy, and a medic named James Pemberton went down, mortally wounded. A fellow soldier went straight into enemy fire to retrieve the fallen medic, a man he most likely did not even know. In the process, this soldier gave the best that he had, all that he had. He gave his life. He was the finest that Washington County, Nebraska has to offer, the finest that Arlington, Nebraska has to offer. He was our friend, an athlete and a great guy. He was a member of the Arlington High School class of 1965, Army Sgt. Wesley W. Sperling, a true American hero.

Just a month ago, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I made contact with a fellow soldier who knew Wes in Vietnam and considered him a buddy. This man, Dick Arnold, told me the details of that day in April 1968. Members of the 35th Infantry Regiment Association have provided me with their regimental insignia which I have mounted into this memorial plaque. At noon tomorrow, we will have a commemoration ceremony at the gravesite in the cemetery of St. Paul's Lutheran Church located four miles north of Arlington on St. Paul Road. It will be brief and respectful. All are welcome and cordially invited to attend. Thank you, and God bless!

The next day, Sunday, was warm and on the humid side. The sun was shining, but there was a little haze in the air. A stiff breeze blew out of the South helping to keep things more comfortable. The cemetery looks out over several square miles of gently rolling hills on a wedge-shaped piece of the county sandwiched between the Missouri River 15 miles East and the Elkhorn River about three miles to the West. Where the land drops away to the valley of the Elkhorn that flows southeasterly toward the Platte, the land becomes famously flat for 400 miles. "Nee-brath-kah", the Pawnee had called this land, "Flat Water." Hence the name of the Platte River that begins in the Rockies and flows eastward across the flat but tilted table of its valley. Originating at over 5000 feet above sea level at its source, the Platte River descends to about 1600 feet where the Elkhorn meets it.

But here we were on this wedge of hills just East of the Elkhorn. To the West and South, St. Paul's cemetery overlooked deep green fields of soybeans and young corn. A half mile to the West was the gently sloping valley of the Brown Creek. Although it had always been called St. Paul's Lutheran Church since it was organized in the 1800's, older people in my day had often referred to it as "The Brown Creek Church" on account of that adjacent valley. Names that rise out of the land tend to last a long time, just like the names of soldiers who rise out of the land and enter it again. After all this time...

The land was as green as could be after spring rains, and even the grass in the cemetery looked as though it had been watered by a loving caretaker. It had been, after all! The One who cares for all of us had seen to that. I thought about that creek and how it got its name. Ever since the prairie had been plowed the creek had likely been a brown creek. But before that, I'm sure the waters had run clear most of the time. The tall grasses would have held the rains and the soil, keeping the water table high. Erosion would have been unheard of. Springs all along the valley would have added their little trickles to the creek. Tall grass prairie, a complex and enormously fertile ecosystem, this had been. Yet that seemingly endless inland sea of grasses covering the land when Lewis and Clark journeyed through would only survive another "threescore and ten" years.

Because my Mom is 98, we drove the several hundred yards down St. Paul Road to the cemetery after church. The metal arch above the gate has been repaired, restored and repainted. The name now shines forth in brightly gilded letters. As we drove, I saw people walking down the sidewalk to the cemetery. These middle-aged people were familiar to me. They were my classmates and their spouses, people I had come to know again over the past two days. Some of us had gone to high school together for four years. And before that, some of us had spent another six or eight years in school together there on the hill at St. Paul's Lutheran School.

Childhood and school... So much to remember on that hill... Snowdrifts and winter, Christmas programs, clouds of frosty vapor from the cars with iced-up windows. Church picnics and evening dinners when missionaries spoke. And, yes, there were those evening events at church when we kids would play "Ditch 'Em" in the dark pastures and grove, in the cemetery and athletic field just behind the church and school. There were those Walther League hayrides and watermelon feeds, wiener roasts. There were the times that young boys and girls shared their first kisses in the darkness of summer evenings out there. They were extraordinarily beautiful evenings of starlight and moonlight in those years before myriads of obscene mercury vapor lights, one after the other, began to turn all that sacred summer darkness into some sort of otherworldly, garish Hollywood glare. On those nights in our youth, we never dreamed that one of us would so soon be resting in the field surrounded by the aluminum-painted fence--right next to where we played our games. French Indochina? What was that? Where was that? We never dreamed...

But on this day the breeze was blowing, the tree leaves fluttering briskly. Every blade of grass was astir. The wind chimes on Lyle's grave were playing continuously but unhurriedly. Each note was softened by the breeze that created it. Just 50 feet to the North, my father's grave patiently awaits my mother's eventual arrival; but today she is with me here. On this day, after all this time.

We gathered, a bit early, we classmates. We were joined by my mother and Joyce's mother, Sally, as well as by two of Lois and Stan's grandkids. As a group, we spanned nearly a century of life in this place. I wore the cross and carried the Bible I had brought to so many bedsides at the VA hospital. It felt right to be in this place with these things. The veterans I had seen and prayed with would certainly understand. I gathered the group of classmates and friends so that they faced West in a half-circle around Wesley's grave. I stood behind the marker and faced them. The breeze fluttered the pages of my Bible, and I was glad for the marker ribbons my wife Jean had provided many years ago. I noted the faces of the little group. I could see the stirrings within them. The Spirit was moving in this place and in us, after all this time.

I began in the name of the Triune God. I read words of Scripture that in the farming community of the present, as in my youth, would have a powerful and immediate tangibility, Isaiah 55:6-11. Rain and snow from heaven. . .the faithfulness of the Word of God. How often we needed to recall the faithfulness of God when it seemed there would be no end to the drought, no recovery from the hail that had flattened crops. I described how much the next reading had meant to so many people at the VA Medical Center in Portland, Romans 8: 31-35, 37-39. "Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

"Thank you for coming and welcome to this place, this sacred ground on this special day. We are here in God's Acre, as it says above the gate where you entered. That's what it says today, but it didn't always say that. When I was a kid, and for many years thereafter, the gate carried the original name of this place given by the German forebears who built this church and settled this place, Gottes Acker. Now I didn't know German as a kid, but I always knew two words: Gottes Acker equals God's Acre. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?

It wasn't until many years after I had actually studied and learned the German language in college that I understood that Gottes Acker doesn't really translate as God's Acre. The German noun Acker is not primarily about a unit of measure like the English noun "acre." No, our German ancestors intended to say something else. Gottes Acker means God's field, God's little farm. In the midst of all these other fields and farms, this is God's field, God's farm. And here it is that God has sown the seed and planted a crop. And here it is, according to God's Word, that God will raise up a harvest. God's Word is faithful, the promise sure; and the last word from God is life.

Our friend and brother Wesley, whose body lies here, was born out of this land. And there in that church in late 1946 he was washed in the waters of Baptism and reborn to eternal life. There God placed his seal upon him and promised to never let go. And we give thanks today for the work that God has done in him, for his life and friendship, for his heroism and courage, for his service to our country and for the sacrifice he made on behalf of all of us, all of us. We gave thanks. Would you join me in prayer?"

I led a prayer of thanks for Wesley's life, for continued blessing and healing for his family, for the families of all who serve our country in far and dangerous places, especially for those whose loved ones will not return to them in this life. I prayed for all who serve us, for their protection and for the success of their mission.

We shared some memories and stories of times we had together with Wes. We laughed, we cried we reflected. It felt good. It was good. It is good...after all this time. As the words and the memories subsided, I asked the group to think about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, DC and to visit it, by all means, if they had not. I recalled my fourth visit to the Wall. For three days over Veterans Day, 1997 I was there to take pictures for the play I would do in honor of Wes in 1998. I asked the group to transport themselves from a warm, breezy summer day in Nebraska to a cool autumn day in Washington, DC on the National Mall. The air was crisp and moist, they sky blue and graced with clouds. The grass was lush and bright green, the trees beginning to shed their leaves. The leaves were every color that leaves can be. As I looked around to see all the aging veterans I thought, "Each one who falls and takes his story with him is like one of these falling leaves." At 4:00 AM in my hotel room in Arlington, VA, I awakened to write this poem on that weekend:

A Time of Changing Leaves

In a time of changing leaves
In a time of leaves that bleed the colors
of the seasons all
We pass and place our fingertips
Familiar spellings on the wall of those
Whose journey passed its outer marker just
Just a little sooner than our own...
In a time of changing leaves.

In a time of changing leaves,
In a time of leaves that shed their passing quietly
Upon the earth once more
We are again confronted by
The passing of ourselves
And even the passing of our passing...

Whose familiar letters, whose the names
Well worn into our hearts?
And whose the memories which rain again into the earth
Now in a time of changing leaves?

One day, no one shall come here
Who has ever heard the voice of any
Upon these sacred walls
And yet, they shall keep coming
To pause, to pray in passing
When all have taken their turn in passing quietly
Into a time of changing leaves.

--Roger Fuchs
November 10, 1997

Copyright 1997 by Roger D. Fuchs, 16821 NE Wasco Street, Portland, OR 97230-6151. All rights reserved.

We prayed the Lord's Prayer together and exchanged the peace of God. The breeze blew and the wind chimes played softly. We stood there, moved and changed.

And there we remained. No one was in a hurry. More thoughts and memories were shared. Many thought about other friends, family members, spouses and loved ones who rested all around us. We thought about those times, those chaotic times of the Vietnam War years. I thought about the day that a carload of us drove up from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln to attend the funeral for Wes. We rode in Steve's '64 Ford. What a crowded, confused and bitter day that had been! I remember how much I resented the sound of the gunfire as the honor guard from Offutt Air Force Base fired their 21-gun salute. What did any of us know about Vietnam; and where would that knowledge, or lack of it, lead us in life?

It had led us here on this day after 37 years. After all this time... It felt good. It was good. It is good. Holy ground, Gottes Acker. Finally. After all this time.

* * * * *

After returning home to Oregon, I wrote to all of my high school classmates. I asked that they share some memories to be added to Wesley's page on the 35th Infantry Regiment's website, or send them to me. Some did and some contributed also to the memorial plaque. I thank them all for their generosity and compassion. The plaque does not say, "From the members of the AHS Class of '65." Still, we know who it's from and whom it honors. And below are a collage of thoughts and memories my classmates wrote or shared in person during our time together in June 2005.

So often our days get so busy I don't stop and think what our service men and women do for all of us. Wes was a special person and hero.

It was a tough time. Wes and I were together in basic training, and it really tore me up at the time he was killed. It wasn't right, and it still bothers me today.

I remember that night when six of us tried to find the GAA (Girls' Athletic Association) campout that Miss Biermann (later Mrs. Pals) had organized down by the Elkhorn River. We were sneaking up to the edge of the woods when she must have heard us and aimed a big spotlight our way. We boys were blinded by the light and hit the dirt in two's. Wes was in the last pair to hit the dirt but just a foot or two too late. He cut up his face on a barbed wire fence as he came down, and it's lucky he didn't take an eye out. One of the women in the group replied, "Why did you guys have such a hard time finding us? We girls thought we'd given better signals." (laughter)

He sure could dribble a basketball!

I visited the web-page last night. Seeing Wes in his uniform brought back a lot of emotions. We are all so very lucky to have lived to our 'ripe ol' age'. For whatever reason, God wanted Wes early. I think about him often and that silly grin on his face. You just knew that he had some mischief up his sleeve. . . I have never been to the Vietnam war memorial but would certainly like to travel there someday.

He was over there doing that... (tears well in her eyes) while I was back here going to college, making friends and having a great old time!

I think of Wes, particularly with this current war in progress. I remember a very thin and lanky kid, quite unassuming--but could he play baseball!! Remember recess at St. Paul's? The boys played on one diamond and the girls on another? Those were the times--lots of wonderful memories!

I left for the Navy and made it a career. I never saw Wes again after graduation.

November 22, 1963. We were having the final rehearsals for our Junior class play, "Arsenic and Old Lace," in the high school gym when we heard the hum of the speakers as the PA system warmed up. We knew that in a few seconds we would hear the voice of our Principal, Mr. Chesley; but we had no idea what we were about to hear. "Students and teachers, I just wanted to inform you that President Kennedy has been shot Dallas this morning. We will keep you informed." We were caught off guard by the news; but I remember thinking, "He's the President. He'll have the best doctors, the best medical care."
A few minutes later we heard the speakers hum again: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have just received word that the President has died." We were stunned and did not know what to do but keep going. It wasn't the day of instant communication, e-mail or cell phones. If we had canceled the performance, we would have had no way to let all of the ticket holders know. So, we went ahead. And who, along with Larry Meier, had to play one of the shady characters? Wes! Of all the days in history to have to deliver lines about 13 bodies in the cellar! Of all the days... And if only JFK had lived, the future of Vietnam and Wesley W. Sperling might have turned out very, very differently! I wonder if he ever thought about that play in Vietnam?

Remember the great hands of 7-Point Pitch after Walther League meetings? High, low, double Jack, double Joker, game...

I was just back from 'Nam a couple of weeks, stationed at Ft. Carson, when I heard that Wes had been killed. His family wanted me to be a pallbearer. I asked my captain for time off to come back for the funeral, and the captain refused. I called him a chickenshit bastard, got an Article 15 and lost a stripe. I've never quite gotten over that.

And this one:

24 March 1988

Dear Wes,

This letter has been a long time coming. It should have been written years ago, when you could have read it. I saw "Platoon" a few weeks ago and a whole flood of memories came pouring back. Was that what it was really like over there? Were you scared? How long did you suffer? Not long, I hope and pray. Pray? Oh yes, I prayed. Many times that you and Rod would come home safe and sound. Only half my prayers were answered.

Twenty-two years ago, Vietnam was a distant land, inflamed in a war that I didn't really understand. I was here in the States, secure in my own little world; but you and Rod were thousands of miles away fighting for a cause that I'm not sure anyone really understood.

I look back now and I get angry, and hurt, and confused. All those lives lost. All those bodies hurt and mutilated. All those minds forever changed or lost. And why? Politics? Greed? Power?

You were there to do your duty. You didn't shirk the responsibility. I'm proud to have known you and what you did for me and all Americans. My biggest regret is that you didn't live to tell of your heroics. But I'm sure that wouldn't have been your way. You were never the class "loudmouth." Rod didn't talk much about it, either. He still doesn't. Those in the thick of it never really do.

Oh, by the way. We Americans finally came to our senses and erected a beautiful monument to you and all those who sacrificed their lives. It was built in Washington, DC and has statues of three soldiers dressed in fatigues and carrying weapons. One is a white man, one a black and one is Hispanic. And, off a ways, is this black granite wall carved with all the names of the fallen heroes of Vietnam.

I found your name and ran my fingers over "Wesley W. Sperling," trying to remember you and trying to forget how horribly you must have died. Thousands come to that wall just as I did. All are trying to either remember a loved one or to forget the pain of war. My fingers are still touching the wall when a chill comes over me. I see your name on Memorial Day, too. I see the grave, and it almost seems like yesterday when I could hear the "Taps" and then the 21-gun salute. The wind blows and I leave.

Heroes? You're the only one I've got. I'm sorry it had to be that way, but it was just God's will. You gave the supreme sacrifice and I'm so proud to have known you.

Your friend,


* * * * *

Rest well, our fallen brother! God's peace be with you now! After all this time, and for all time,
"Welcome home!"