It can be too late to thank someone. Gunny died in the 90s. I never got the chance to return the aspirin he loaned me. I put it at the Wall because that is where he would be. With the ones who never made it back. He would never leave them behind.
I never got the chance to thank him for the aspirin or anything else. I didn’t thank him for his friendship. I didn’t get the chance to thank him for making it right or trying to make it right. I understand why he did what he did and I’m not so sure I wouldn’t make the same choice. Mine took a different path and I didn’t.
I remember him. I remember him every time I see a Marine. I remember him in the things I do to honor him. Can I thank him? No. He’s not here to thank but I can do things to remember and honor him and I do just that. Sometimes it is too late for Thank you.
We cannot thank the troops who went to Vietnam. We already did them dirty as a nation. We can never make it up. Sorry doesn’t cut it. Never doing that to another solider is the only thing we can do to honor them. We can’t thank them. It doesn’t work that way. The time for thanking them was when they stepped off the plane from a war we should never have been in.
We never get a second chance. There is a time for Thank You. Beyond that, it’s simply to make us feel better about ourselves. And that isn’t a Thank You. That’s emotional masturbation. And a real Thank You isn’t emotional masturbation.
I owe him. And I return it by giving his loyalty to those who would have had it. No Marine, no military person, would be left behind. He went back to Vietnam every night and his grief was he couldn’t save one of them in his dreams. Can I do any less for those walking past me today? That’s my Thank You. And it will never be enough.
Semper Fi Gunny.