Thank you for putting my dad and me in your cool Memorial Day poster. I’m sending this to you on my blog because it’s the best way I can include text and pictures.

I look like a real Rambo type dude in that picture on your poster, but that was just a lucky shot by my friend and combat photographer John Stidham. I was no hero. All I did was go to the Vietnam war for my country for two years. I was always uncomfortable, often bored and sometimes in danger, but I was never heroic. And actually, going to Vietnam was never about keeping America free. I thought it was to help keep the South Vietnamese people free.

John Stidham and me at our Public Information Office in Nha Trang -- 1968

John Stidham and me at our Public Information Office in Nha Trang — 1968

Your great-granddad, on the other hand, was a real hero in a real war that we fought so we could stay a free people. He flew his P-51 Mustang in Europe in 1944 and 1945. That was during World War Two when America and a lot of other countries were fighting against Germany and Japan.

DSC_6832My dad told me he thought he was really lucky for three reasons:

1 – The wings of his P-51 were filled with cameras and not guns. His job was to take pictures of German factories and military bases. He was so happy that he didn’t have to kill anyone. He told me that was especially important for him because his family was from Germany and some of his cousins were probably in the enemy army.

2 –When Babe’s Flash was shot down over a wheat field in Belgium, a local farmer hid him from the German army and helped him sneak back to the American lines.

3 – Most important of all, he said, was that he was able to come home safely from the war in Europe and again later from the war in Korea. He said he was happy just to be alive and to have a good family.

A whole lot of other people were not so lucky. Memorial Day is a time when we remember all the men and women who died fighting for America in all our wars. It all started 150 years ago in Charleston, South Carolina during the Civil War. A lot of the northern prisoners-of-war at the Charleston prison died. Black men and women who were kept as slaves had to take care of the dead.  They had to dig holes in the ground, put the bodies in and cover the graves up with dirt. It was a terrible job and they really felt bad for the men they had to bury. So, each time they buried a man, they said a prayer for his soul and then they decorated the grave with a bunch of fresh cut flowers.

305bhFor a long time after that, the holiday was called Decoration Day. The name changed to Memorial Day after World War Two. Memorial is from the word memory and this is the day to remember the people who died fighting for our country.

lbb+memorial+day2Here in Japan there are no American military grave sites near us. What I do on Memorial Day is look at a picture of my old friend, Doug Noel.

Doug Noel - Phu Hiep, Vietnam 1967

Doug Noel – Phu Hiep, Vietnam 1967

Doug was a really cool guy I served with in Vietnam. He was a door-gunner in a Huey helicopter. One day he went out on a mission and he never came back. His ship crashed in a rice field. Everyone on the ship died. They were not as lucky as my father and I were. I still miss him.

So, Zenji, I am really honored that you include my dad and me along with your Granddad Infante in your Memorial Day tribute. It is really an extra special honor to be remembered with all those heroes and victims who lost their lives for their country in all those terrible wars. But actually, we don’t deserve such an honor because we lived to come back. Our day is Veterans Day, November 11th. That’s the time to remember heroes like your Great-granddad and ordinary soldiers like me.

Thank you again for the nice art installation. And before I sign off, I’ve got to say, your penmanship is looking good and you did a really impressive, colorful layout. I can’t wait to see your next graphic production.

Love, Granddad