Patrick Lynn Blair:Not Just A Name On The Wall!

The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
Calvin Coolidge

There are 58,245 names listed on the Vietnam Memorial. Let that thought sink in for a moment. The Wall isn’t just an artistic expression with names engraved in it for visual effect, these were men and women, mostly young, that had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. I mention this man, to give a glimpse into the flesh and blood, the spirit, and the quality of man he was.

Patrick Lynn Blair.
We met for the first time, on the playground of David Crockett Elementary school. Pat was bigger than me, which made us the two of the biggest kids in the schoolyard. Being the new kid he was quickly introduced to me by other schoolmates and he had been forewarned of my proclivity for losing my temper and going into a rage. In actuality, that only happened a few times and I was working on controlling my temper. When we met, surrounded by other kids, we exchanged pleasantries while checking each other out. I could tell from his eyes he didn’t want any part of me and I tried to disguise that I felt the same way.

Throughout our years, growing up in Marshall, Texas, we were always friends, yet for such a small town, we never did that much together and hung out with different people. Pat was even more of a country boy than I was and he was also more serious and worked when he wasn’t in school. We played on different baseball teams in Little League and Babe Ruth League. While Pat didn’t play football, which is generally expected of young men in East Texas, especially for a big guy like Pat, he truly loved baseball. One day I ran into his older brother, who was more outgoing than Pat, and I mentioned to his brother that Pat’s team and mine were playing that night. His brother’s eyes got big and he said “Ohhh, that explains why Pat was heat treating his new bat over the kitchen stove this morning.” Pat was competitive, in a gentlemanly way.

The last time I saw Pat was on the occasion of our “All Night Party” after our high school graduation, 1 Jun 68. Pat had actually graduated at mid-term our Senior year and enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly thereafter. He was one of several young men from Marshall that were serving and more would soon follow, as events in Vietnam would require more men.

It was good to see Pat that night and he was still the serious, looming presence he had always been, but he was different. His formerly boyish looks had now transformed into a lean, fit young man. He wore his Class A uniform with pride and he looked fantastic; an example for his still carefree classmates.

As we stood on the stone bridge over a creek, and having a cold beer, we talked. Not just about silly teenage things, but we talked as two men, thoughtfully, seriously and with emotion. We talked as we never had and I thought how little I actually knew about Pat and wished we had talked like this all the years we had known each other.

Pat informed me that he was on leave before shipping out to Vietnam, that he really wanted to be home to receive his diploma and see his old friends again. He had missed the simple life of a small town, his Momma’s doting love for him and her home cooking. I remember not knowing what to say about his deployment, I was young and still didn’t quite understand how deadly serious war was. I didn’t have the words, as I didn’t have the understanding.

It was at that time, that Pat looked at me and asked if I remembered the first day we met and I said that I did. He gulped on his beer, looked out over the creek and said, “I was really afraid of you, that you would beat me up.” I was shocked and in the spirit of the moment, I admitted that I had been afraid of him too. We looked at each other in stunned silence, then cracked up laughing. As we finished our beers and headed back inside to the dance, Pat turned his back to the creek, yelled ‘Geronimo’ and threw his beer bottle over his head, in a lazy arcing pattern. There was only one spot which wasn’t cement and was a mudpile, and his beer bottle hit there without breaking. We laughed so hard we had to hold each other. We went inside, never to visit again.

I called his house a few days later, to see if he wanted to go fishing with me,and his sweet Momma answered the phone. She informed me he had already gone back to his base and she didn’t try to conceal her concern for her baby boy. She did mention that he had told her about the great conversation we had.

Months went by and I was attending a local college and working at a local grocery store/deli, hanging out with my friends and girlfriend. Life was still simple, but the news from Vietnam was constant, like a dull headache. Then one day, I received a phone call from a friend, Pat had been killed in action. The information I got from others about how he died was conflicting and confusing, and I was informed it would be a closed casket funeral.

I couldn’t go to his funeral.

Oh, I could have rescheduled the dentist appointment and gotten off of work, but I didn’t try. I couldn’t go because I was afraid. Afraid of how I would feel, afraid to face my own mortality and the fragility of life, and I was afraid that the fond memory of our last meeting would be replaced with that of a funeral for a childhood friend. A good man, a good son and a good friend.

I have not, nor will I ever forget, Pat. He was my friend.

Not just a name on a wall.

*UPDATE*-Received an email from a friend of Pat, that served with him in Viet Nam.  The following is from his email.

“Pat and I often shared the same bunker.In fact, we shared the same bunker on LZ White, the site of his death. I would be out on missions for 4-8 days at a time. When we returned to the rear these spartan bunkers were home. On March 20, we returned from a mission, and the company commander instructed me that it was time for me to have a break, and to return to the rear area with the supply chopper, and to get a shower, fresh cloths and to get drunk. I did so, and was awakened in the early morning hours and advised that LZ White had been hit by special sapper units.

Before catching the first chopper out, I knew that we had casualties, but had no names. Upon arrival, I learned that Pat was among the dead. He was killed in the bunker we usually occupied together. While he did not die rushing to the mortar pits, it does not detract from his courage. I learned that the enemy rocket fire was so intense, that few people were able to leave the safety of their bunkers.

The sappers who infiltrated the perimeter not only directed rocket fire into the perimeter with devastating effect, but also was comprised of individuals who ran from bunker to bunker hurling satchel charges inside. This is what happened to Pat. The satchel charge produced an intense concussion which claimed his life.”

I am glad to know, finally, what happened to my friend Pat, as painful as it is.  A decent and good man.

37 Responses

  1. A Poem.

    Be Proud Of Me.

    Mom! Dad! Today, I have taken another step in becoming an adult.
    Today, I have joined the ranks of the Military Veteran…
    Just like Wayne, Tobey, Russell, Alan, Evan, Brian and all the rest…
    Of my forebearers who have served proudly before me.
    I will do my best in all things possible, “Be Proud Of Me !!!”

    Just like my cousins Lynn, Becky, Rhonda and all the rest…
    I will be leaving home soon to take our training …then it’s overseas.
    On to Vietnam, to be part of History, helping men to be set Free.
    I’ve arrived and it’s a terrible place, having just survived Day One…
    Only (364) more days to go, “Be Proud Of Me !!!”

    Today, is a day like many others here, it’s just that Today…
    Like so many others, the enemy did their best, trying to kill us all.
    Many of our friends were wounded and some were killed.
    The numbers just keep going up each day. I know that I have…
    only (213) more days too go, “Be Proud of Me !!!”

    Today I was hit, they say it’s bad. Please, am I going to make it?
    They called the chaplain, he’s here for me; now I know it’s bad !!!
    I’m scared and want to be there with all my family and friends…
    Although I do have my friends here. Mom! Dad! I didn’t make it, I wanted to!
    The wound was just to great for me to overcome, “Be Proud of Me !!!”

    I see my name on the “Wall,” panel number and line number…
    There are more than 58,479 names here. Brother’s and Sister’s All!

    Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister and Family, it’s good to see you here…
    At the “WAll.” “Now, I Know That You’re Proud Of Me !!!”

    — Charles E. Penley, Copyright 1998 —

  2. Hi Nuke,
    Thank you for sharing your memories of your friend Pat. He sounds like someone I would have wanted to know. I understand why you didn’t want to go to the funeral and replace your memory of your friend full of life, with a closed casket.

    No, they are not just names on a wall, they were all living, breathing caring human beings who went when duty called.

    God Bless,

  3. Vietnam was over and done before I graduated from high school; the only military casualties that I knew were from training accidents. They did not serve in time of war but were ready should they be needed.

  4. Wow, powerful story there bud… Have a great week everyone, I gotta hit the salt mines again tomorrow.

  5. Sorry to have missed you Robert D.

    On another note, SheeHag is a quitter.

  6. Thank you for your words, and for your service to our country, n2l.
    I hope Pat’s family sees your moving tribute to your friend.

    It reminds me of the final moments in the movie “Saving Pvt Ryan”, when the old vet is overcome with emotion at the Normandy cemetery and turns to his wife and says, “tell me I’m a good man,” knowing that a life well-lived is the best that we can do to repay those who give so much.

  7. /not callin’ you “old” or anything like that. heh

  8. Oh, dang. I’d go cry in my beer now if I had any. Which I don’t.

  9. It’s okay, nuke. I’m old, and getting better every danged day.
    As for Pat, he was a solid individual, the very salt of the earth. I wish I could have been more like him.

  10. Henh.
    Swampie, don’t you think that news is worth a trip to the local Quicky-Mart, for a quart bottle of Colt 45…or a Slushie?

  11. Make that a Coke Slushie and a Snickers bar.

    /Nuke just reminded me that there is a possibility that I am mortal.

  12. Oh, don’t believe that guy on that, it’s just rumors and propaganda.
    / 🙄

  13. How about a Coke Slushie, a brain freeze, and a triple chocolate Moon Pie?
    /or should it be a RC Cola?

  14. Michael Yon has an interesting Memorial Day E-mail posted at Instapundit.

  15. ROFL! Yeah, and don’t forget the peanuts in a bottle of Coke.

  16. No-No-No-No!
    It’s a bag of Tom’s salted peanuts in a bottle of Dr. Pepper.
    /good for what ails ya’

  17. Hunh. Ms. Universe 2007 is Japan.

  18. No, no, no. NOT Dr. Pepper. Coke and peanuts.

    /Finished off with a package of candy cigarettes.

  19. Well, it sure ain’t Miss Sweden.

    Dr. Pepper and peanuts!!!!

  20. Finished off with a package of Snow-Balls.

  21. Finished off with a package of candy cigarettes because it’s so politically incorrect.

  22. Hate to go, but I’m flat wore out.
    Company left almost an hour ago, all the food is put up, the dishes are washed, coffee press is ready, and I gotsta get up at 00:yougottabeshiiteingme:30hrs.
    See ya’ manana.

  23. Speaking of Sweden, did you see the article in “Gates of Vienna” where some preschools/kindergartens give lectures on, er, alternative sexual practices and behaviors to 3 to 6 year olds?

  24. Nope.

  25. Dang.
    Went to close the window for Gateway Pundit.
    Check it out.

  26. Goodnight, everybody.

  27. I was by there earlier but I’ll recheck.

  28. Gateway Pundit for anybody curious as to what n2L is talking about.

  29. Thanks for getting me out of jail. I was thinking maybe it was Guangxi province because of the forced abortions and subsequent riots.

  30. And so many more, I just realized, too many to list.

  31. My son is named after Pat. He was one of only two people that I allowed myself toget close to in VN. I also had the unpleasant duty of placing his body in a body bag to be sent to the rear. His loss has had a profound impact on my life, and for too many years I carried the burden of blaming myself for not being there on the night he was killed. I felt that I might have prevented his death. Each of my children know the story of Pat Blair,and his importance tomy life. Each has visited his grave site, and made a solemn promise to me that they will tell there children about him. He is, indeed, more than a name on a wall. It has been over thirty years, and yet, seldom does a day pass without my having thoughts of him.

  32. Bret, I’m so very glad you found this post.
    Our class of ’68 has a reunion every five years, and we always have a Memorial board, for our classmates who have gone on before us. I am struck with the memories in my story, every time I go and see Pat’s picture on the board.
    At least I know one other person in this world knows how solid Pat was.
    I understand your survivors guilt, and I know that Pat would absolve you of them.
    You honor him, and our shared memories of such a fine young man, with your loving tribute to your children.
    I have so many questions about what happened, and wish you would correct me if the information I posted is incorrect. I know your memory of his death is painful, but I would appreciate any info you could share, and I would gladly update this post with any information you could share.

  33. […] I knew some of the men listed in the ranks of the fallen, one in particular, and feel anger growing within my pain. I sense it in others who have lost brothers and sisters in […]

  34. […] I knew some of the men listed in the ranks of the fallen, one in particular, and feel anger growing within my pain. I sense it in others who have lost brothers and sisters in […]

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