Capt. David R. Crocker, Jr., 1969

The Legacy of Vietnam


May, 2017, marks the 48th anniversary of my husband’s death in Vietnam. I don’t like to pin it down to May 17 (1969) because of the peculiarities of the time difference between where I lived at the time in Connecticut and where he died in Southeast Asia. The 8000 miles between us made it seem that we were days apart. Perhaps when managing this kind of tragedy, we play with anything that offers freedom from exactitude.

The Life-Cycle of Grief

Each year, remembering this event takes on a different shape in my inner world as it reverberates through wherever I am in the present. This “anniversary” is the only aspect of the experience of his loss that is locked in time, irreparably, so I note the similarity of the weather, then and now, and who I am, today. I remember that it was finally spring, trees were blossoming, and I remember the commencement of the grief process back then as I reabsorb this moment from long ago, again. Each year at this time I pay more attention than usual to my life navigation and where I’ve sailed from that lightning bolt of catastrophe.

The most important thing I’ve done in all the years since his death was to understand the experience of war and loss by writing about it. Richard Hoffman says about writing difficult stories that you can never entirely redeem the experience, but you can make it beautiful (human) enough that there is something to balance it. When we restore balance, we integrate our experience and feel our own truth. It becomes manageable. Writing about it caused me to dig into understanding who I was when I married at age nineteen and how I managed the unexpected catapult into widowhood at age twenty-three.

And when we find the courage to tell our stories, we discover others with important stories.

Among the gifts I received from knowing Dave are my friendships with the special guys of A Co 2/22 who also hold him in their hearts and who have helped me immeasurably by sharing their memories and giving me new stories to help me continue to meet him. I’m not sure if time actually heals wounds, but it definitely provides opportunities to understand them better. I give thanks for time and good people with stories on this Memorial Day.

Dave Crocker & friend, March 1969, Vietnam