On Aug. 12, 1969, inside Vietnam’s Hobo Woods, my dad, a staff sergeant with the 25th Infantry Division, was wounded in the knee and the chest by grenade shrapnel thrown during a militarily unremarkable skirmish with the North Vietnamese Army. As Dad lay exposed on the small battlefield, a lieutenant named John Fuller, who had taken over the unit only a couple of days earlier, fought off several Vietnamese soldiers and helped pull my dad to cover, likely saving his life. The army soon shipped my dad off to Japan for treatment at a military hospital, and then it sent him home. He never saw or spoke to John Fuller again.
At various times, my family has unsuccessfully tried to track down Lt. Fuller, who may have become Major Fuller, or Col. Fuller, for all we know. We are sure that he’s not on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Hopefully, he’s out there somewhere. And maybe someone reading this in our interconnected culture might know somebody who knows somebody who knows something about him. If you do, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My dad’s children and grandchildren would like to thank him.
Memorial Day exists to remember and honor our war dead. For me, it’s also a time to reflect on what might not have been for my family and what isn’t for so many others. Thanks to John Fuller, my Dad is alive, my mother is my mother, my sister is my sister, and our kids are their grandkids. I think this is a day for considering the enormity of that.