Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eldo Is Dead

Eldo was a character. He attend the Church I nominally belong to. Eldo was a small man in his 60s. He was stationed in or around Cu Chi when he was in Vietnam. Eldo was a Tunnel Rat. He was one of those people who crawled into small holes in the ground and crawled about in damp spider filled tunnels dug by the enemy. Sometimes the tunnels led to three story underground hospitals or command centers. Most of the time they led to small rooms or bunkers where the enemy took shelter from our multi-million dollar air strikes above. Many times they led to booby traps, Claymore mines, punji sticks, cobra snakes tied to the beams above, and of course the enemy and their weapons. Eldo probably went in to the tunnels several times with only a knife and a small caliber pistol. Couldn't take a 45 automatic in, made too much noise in the tunnels and would burst your ear drums.

Eldo came back to the states with "issues". I ran into him late in his life. He self medicated with booze and other substance. Sometimes he came to Church under the influence of spirits that were not so holy. The congregation cut him a lot of slack and took pretty good care of him. I didn't know him well, but I understood him.

Eldo like to fight. Got into bar fights on a regular basis, from the looks of him some days, he apparently lost most of the time. He needed those demons in him beaten out on occasion I guess. Sort of a self punishment, or maybe even a way of testing whether he was alive that day or not.

Most men with heavy duty issues like Eldo killed themselves within the first five years after returning from Nam. Most people are not aware of that heavy suicide/accident rate. During that period of history Vietnam Veterans only made good news copy when they robbed a bank or something. Eldo danced between life and death for forty years or so. That's a pretty good run actually, forty years. He lived longer that the median life span of his In-Country-Nam Veteran buddies. That median span is now known to be about 56 years (regular types live 73.5 years on the average). Two-thirds of us are dead already. Only about 850,000 or so left. About 350 or so die every week. This week Eldo was one of them.

Eldo was found dead. No official word from the medical examiner yet. Most bets are on an overdose. Accidental? Doesn't matter much, he is gone.

Yes, I'll go to his funeral, that is if it is anywhere nearby. A warrior needs all the support they can get, even in death.

Eldo my boy, got two things to say to you. First, thanks for your service. Secondly, and most important, Welcome Home.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

You made me cry, man. Thank you for the beautiful tribute. God speed Eldo to his home and a real rest.

Cayla Lynes-Ballard said...

Amazing, Joe. Thank you for your kind words.