After a few moments of silence, Butch surprised me with, “I’m going into the Marines!”
I realized he was joking and replied with, “Throw me the bucket! You can’t be serious.”
Butch smiled and replied, “All I ever wanted to do since I was a kid is be a marine.”
For your missed part four of this series simply click on this link: https://www.ufodigest.com/article/general-trailer-and-cover-part-four
Without hesitation, a warning escaped my lips, “They are killing people over there, ‘specially marines. This is not the right time… I’m sure my recruiter could move you over into an Air Force slot…”
Butch’s answer although masked with a smile caused me to cringe in disbelief. With a smile he casually admitted his belief, “If it’s my time, then I will have to go.”
After shaking hands with Butch and wishing him “good luck” I made a quick getaway from our conversation and the store.
The next time I came close enough to see Butch I was not able to see him. He was in a vehicle. My father had picked me up from Byrd Airport in Richmond upon my coming home from a six months formal training assignment at Chanute Technical School in Rantoul, Illinois. While temporarily parked on City Point Road getting ready to make a left turn on Mesa Drive, a policeman drove his cruiser in front of my father’s Pontiac and parked perpendicular to it. A long precession of cars began coming towards us with a black hearse leading the way. After dozens of cars had passed us and with a line of cars behind them looking much like an endless parade, I asked my father with some feeling of shock,
“Good Lord! Who died?”
He replied with two words, the first was, “Butch…”
“He came home with a purple heart and told everyone he would never see them again…He was right…He must have had a premonition…” was my father’s explanation.
I could not say a word although dozens of thoughts were bouncing through my mind. (Butch, I guess it was your turn – right or wrong!) Butch’s determination of going into the Marines, knowing he was bound for Vietnam, was completely alien to my way of thinking. My father had let me know at a very young age that I was eventually going to die along with everyone I would ever know in my lifetime. At five years of age, I was taught that there is no easy way out. I was also taught that extending anyone’s life by even one day was a blessing, and Butch’s philosophy seemed to be 180 degrees opposite to my belief. After my father had delivered his first cold reality check to my five year old mind, I cried myself to sleep at bedtime for weeks knowing everyone I knew would die at sometime. A year or two later, he revealed to me that only our bodies died and our souls continued to live in heaven or elsewhere. But at age five, this new awareness of a definitive ending to life was initially traumatic and frightening because I was not sure how many friends and family would be breathing their last at the same time. One of my fears was everyone but me might die at one time leaving me alone with dead bodies everywhere. Believe me, five year old kids should never be told they are going to die, or that their family members and friends are not long for this world.
Years later inside the clothing store when Butch disclosed to me his willingness to leave our world behind, my mind went back to my father’s revelation. Butch died before I was assigned overseas and I believed he had given up his life for a good reason; he loved his country which meant he loved the people in his country and in his hometown – and especially his family. There are very few nobler reasons for leaving this life behind. Nancy and I broke up for six months after I left “tech school” and I volunteered to go to any place in Southeast Asia which included Vietnam. Before signing my name to the document making me a volunteer, my conversation with Butch in the men’s clothing store passed quickly through my mind.
The property where Butch’s childhood home was located, on Jackson Street, was also the same piece of land which the black UFO (which my father had called a blimp) had floated over during that sweltering night in July 1952 (See earlier chapter.). My father and I along with some neighbors watched as this odd silent aircraft left our home on Lee Street floated over Jackson Street and where Butch would spend his entire childhood. Does it seem like everything and everybody are connected? I thought so then and will probably believe this philosophy even more tomorrow.
Both Butch and Cookie left this world while they were in their 20’s. Cookie left behind two very young daughters, a husband, and a large extended family. Butch, who was barely 20, left behind his parents and a sister. I really believe the phrase, “Only the good die young” applies to both. (God bless them and their families.)
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