It’s Like This By Bob Palmer

Memorial Day weekend is more than just a chance to go play

Coleman was a good kid.

A Kansas farm boy, Gary Coleman was solid and square. He had a working man’s strong stubby hands, fair hair and whipped puppy dog blue eyes. He was a little naive and not overly bright. When he transferred out of the platoon, he bought a division yearbook and had everyone sign it like he was back in high school.

I wrote the cliche about loving and losing that harkened back to the night he received the letter from his fiancé. She explained that not only was the wedding off, but she was marrying his best friend.

We passed the hours of darkness talking in hushed sentry whispers, trading the lines men use in such times.

“Any woman who would dump a guy while he’s in Vietnam doesn’t deserve you.”


“You’re better off without her.”

“He couldn’t have been that good of a friend.”


“Would it have been any better, if they had waited for you to get off the plane?”

A few weeks later, when headquarters sent a request for a crewman for the squadron commander’s armored personnel carrier, I thought of Coleman.


He had been in the field for eight months, at least as long as any other member of my platoon. He had been from Dung Ha to Quang Tri, from Laos to the South China Sea. He deserved a break.


The CO’s APC never left squadron (the rest of the Army has battalions, but the cavalry has squadrons) headquarters. All Coleman had to do was keep his nose and his machine gun clean and he was guaranteed a ticket home in four months.


A short time after Coleman went to headquarters, I transferred to another outfit and worked in another part…

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