I am going to use my time with you this week to talk about the Viet Nam war. I am not a vet. I graduated in 1967 from HS and got a student deferment. When the lottery came in 1970 my number was 350. I was supposed to be born on June 28–which would have given me 57. There were 64 Viet Nam deaths from Pueblo, County —I knew two of them. But first to this movie which I saw yesterday.
One of the joys of my life has been welcoming into my life my step- daughters 38 years ago. Stephanie was 10 when we met, she is now 49. 21 years ago I had the privilege of performing her wedding to Patrick. I remember asking Patrick “What drew you to Steph”? He was quick to answer “She is NOT from California”. At that time he was an assistant editor in the film business. What I knew about that is that he worked long hours with the hope of someday being a Senior Editor. Well, that happened. Three years ago he edited “Green Book” and we got to see our seven-month pregnant daughter on the Oscar stage while the Oscar for best picture was awarded. Recently he was made a lifetime member of the Academy.
This past year he was working on a movie called “The Greatest Beer Run Ever”. He shared a bit about the movie and what I knew is that it is based on a true story. Simply, it is a story of civilian that decided to bring beer to his buddies who are all over Viet Nam. I had watched the trailer which perked my interest, and we decided to go to “Opening Day” at a theater in Boulder. I was prepared to laugh, which at many points I did. What I was not prepared for was how well the brilliant storytelling accessed the tragedy that is war.
I have found myself reliving those times and thinking a lot about two friends who lost their lives in Viet Nam—
Pat Lucero. Pat was a year older than me. To be with Pat was to feel special. He was the Quarterback on our football team but that never went to his head. My Junior year we hosted an exchange student from Belgium. His hame is Paul, and he remains my “big brother”. Paul was the soccer style kicker on our team and he became fast friends with Pat. What this meant is that I got to hang
out with them. It was a couple of months after I graduated that I got word that Pat, who had volunteered for the Army, had been killed. It seemed surreal. There is now a library bearing his name built on the very ground where he died. There is also a twin library in Pueblo’s lower east side which carries his name. I know that all who loved him would rather have Pat smiling in our midst.
Leslie Williams— he was a quiet kid who was part of my youth group at Central Christian Church. He did not seem like the warrior type but he also volunteered for service. Leslie was in a control tower near Saigon when a wounded helicopter slammed into the tower, killing everyone.
In 1981 I returned to Pueblo and became the associate minister at Central Christian Church. Leslie’s parents were in the church and would often just sit with me at pot-lucks “We just like being around someone who knew our son”. They wore their grief without shame, as do the millions of families affected by war.
Back to the movie—I would not call it an “anti-war” movie. Rather, it just tells a real story about friendship which continues today. All of the survivors of this story live near each other in Florida. Peter Farrelly, the Director stays in touch with them all and worked hard to keep the story real and honest—with help from “the boys”.
The musical score alone goes deep into the memory bank of this baby boomer. Thanks Pat, and Leslie—your names are on a wall in Washington DC, I really wish they were on some grandkids’ lips.
Onward and Upward, Mark