Each Memorial Day I think of several friends who lost their lives while serving our country. I've mentioned one many times before, Joe Somogyi. He was a surfer and my best friend here in Hampton . Hell he was more than a surfer, he was a pioneer in discovering and naming many of the breaks we surf around here. He died of exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. The things he did in the war are legendary. I could write a book just about him.
Another friend of mine was Brian Hubis. He was hands down the most athletic person I ever knew. He could play any sport, and play it well, and he was as intelligent as any college grad with a Masters degree. But more importantly, he was the funniest person I ever met during that time.
He was an Officer in the ARMY. He gave me and my friend, a ride home, during a snow storm, the night before he shipped out. I remember how strangely quiet he was that night. Like he knew something that we didn't know. We were leaving for Marine Corps Boot camp that summer. He told us to pay attention to our Drill Instructors. And that this war was no joke. He was killed by a sniper's bullet a few months later. My buddies and I in boot camp, were freaked out. How could they kill Brian Hubis?
It was a sobering week in Parris Island when we lost Brian.
But honestly, when I think of all the friends I lost in that war, there's one, who's story I'd like to share with you all. Mikey Guzzetti from Cambridge, MA. The photos below is from our time in Parris Island. That's me on the left, and Mikey on the right.
Michael T. Guzzetti Jr was 18 yrs old when I met him. We were both 18. We both enlisted at the tender young age of 17. That's almost too young. What the hell am I saying? It was way too young.
Next time you see a 17yr old kid walk by, try and imagine that kid going off to war. It's too young.
We met during our advanced Infantry training in the Marine Corps. He was from the Boston area, and I was from the North Shore. In the military, that's close enough to be considered "Homeys". Guzzetti was my Homey. The first thing I noticed about Mike was, he didn't have a hair on his face. Seriously, he had a "baby face."
In fact, his face had fresh scars all over it, due to a severe car accident he had been in, a few months before, while home on leave.
The Marines wanted to discharge him. But Mikey insisted on staying in the Corps. He could of been Honorably discharged, and no one would of thought any different or less of him. But beneath that baby face, was a true Patriot, a man, who believed in something greater than his own self being.
Mikey was a Marine...
...and the Marines, unfortunately, are in the war business. And, as it turned out, during those times, business was pretty good. Too good. Mikey was part of that. We all were. Like our fathers before us, we heard a calling, and took an oath to defend our country, and to preserve freedom and democracy all around this globe.
Mikey took that oath to heart.
When we got our WESTPAC GROUND FORCES ORDERS (aka VIETNAM) things were about to get real for both of us. A little to real.
The 17 hour plane ride to Southeast Asia is quite the experience.
I sat next to MIkey on the plane. And man, we talked about everything under the sun. But mostly, we talked about the plane ride home. Exactly one year from that moment. I can recall telling Mikey, that when we got "back to the world" that I was going to take him up North to Hampton and introduce him to surfing. We laughed at the thought of him trying surfing. He was after all, a city kid. He never really hung around the beach much. But I could tell, he was looking forward to it.
I described surfing to him, the best I could back in those days.
He was getting stoked, with the help of my active imagination in my description, of what surfing was all about. I told him, that the girls would love him and he'd fit right in in Hampton. We laughed and joked about it all. In return, he would show me around the big city (Boston). I was as clearly lost in Big cities, as he was on the beach. It seemed like a good trade off.
All we had to do, was survive the war. We made a pledge that we would be on the same "Freedom bird" that would take us home. And when we landed at Logan, we would go and visit his family and friends first, and then we would head north to the beaches, and meet my family and friends.
When we landed overseas we went through our initial indoctrination, and got our assigned units. Mikey got the 1st Marine Division down south, and I went north to the 3rd Marine Division. We said good bye to each other before heading out on the trucks, that would take us to our units. I told him, I'd see him in one year, and he better be ready to go surfing when we got back. We both laughed, albeit somewhat nervously. Little did I know at the time, that we would never see each other again.
I remember thinking at how young he looked to me. Like he was 16yrs old.
He looked like a scared kid. Which is exactly what he was. Shit, we were all scared. Mostly of the not knowing. One week later, while we were out on a "hump" in the bush, we were all taking a break in the blazing hot sun. I was still a FNG (F---king New Guy) and only knew a few of the guys who I came over with. So this skuttlebutt (rumor or story), circulated throughout the platoon and it finally got to my squad.
"Did you hear about Guzzetti?" I heard someone say.
"Wha..wait...who? Did you say Guzzetti? Mikey Guzzetti?"
"He got killed yesterday." Someone said.
"No way". I said. "No f--king way!" The Marine who told me was this black kid named Nelson. "They got ambushed and Guzzetti caught an AK round. They couldn't save him. Wasn't he your friend?" I can't imagine how I looked, but I'm sure it was of complete shock and disbelief. It was our first week in country.
I don't think I cried. But I know I shut down. And I know I buried it for a long time, and I absolutely refused to talk about it, or believe it for that matter. It was my way of dealing with it. If I didn't talk about it, maybe it didn't really happen. I was like an ostrich with my head in the sand. It didn't happen. Mikey was not dead. We had plans to go surfing. This did not happen. I refused to believe it.
never spoke of him the rest of my time in the Marine Corps.
Fast forward to 1985. I was in Washington DC with my then girlfriend, and future wife, Cory and her father Jerry. We were at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It was time to face the facts. I looked up several names of other friends of mine.
But I was really there for one name in particular. Mikey Guzzetti.
It was hot that day. In the 90's and humid. It felt like Vietnam. I was fumbling and sweating, trying to find his name in the directory and almost gave up because of the long line of people behind me were getting agitated. And then just as I was about to walk away, there it was. Michael T. Guzzetti. Seeing his name in the directory gave me a sick empty feeling. But seeing his name on that black granite wall, brought it all back to me. It was true. Mikey was gone. I guess I knew it all along, and I was only fooling myself. It was right then and there, that it all caught up with me. I mean all of it. For the first time since leaving Vietnam. I cried. I mean, I cried a river of tears.
I was no longer that ostrich with my head in the sand. Reality had hit home.
My father-in-law Jerry passed away in 2005. That next January
of 2006, we went to Washington DC for a memorial service for him. After the service I brought my son Max with me to the Mall to visit the war Memorials. I wanted to get a rubbing of a few friends names off that long black wall. Here's a photo I took of Mikey's name. You can see my reflection in the black granite.
There are close to 59,000 names on that Wall. I've got at least 5 friends there. And some others that I knew, but can't remember their names or their faces. I'm getting older and more forgetful. But I will always remember that baby faced kid from Cambridge. Mikey Guzzetti. The kid I was going to take surfing when we got back to the "World."
So Memorial Day means a lot of different things to many people, but to me and my fellow vets, it's a time to reflect on how lucky we truly all are because of the brave Americans like Brian, Joe, and Mikey who were willing to sacrifice it all, for Freedom and Democracy. Since WWII to the current GWOT, some 525,510 Americans have given their lives for our country. And, over 1.5 million more have been wounded. Think about that.
We owe each and every one of them, our most sincere respect, and heartfelt thanks. And may we, never, ever, forget their sacrifices, or the sacrifices that their families and friends have endured.
Honor, Respect, and Remember.
"REMEMBERING THE FALLEN, HEALS ALL WOUNDS!"
This week's Ed's corner pic is from May 1st, 2008. This is young Kainalu Nichols. Who I have heard is back in town from Hawaii. I'm hoping there's some surf in the next day or two so I can shoot him. It's been too long. Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local and National News
FROM MY FACEBOOK PAGES.
TBT (Throw Back Thursday). This certainly fits that criteria. 52 years ago, the last photo my father took of me, (with my mother watching) as I boarded the plane to Camp LeJune in NC. I'm holding onto my WestPac Ground Forces folder. AKA VIETNAM. It occurred to me years later, after seeing this photo, that this could very well have been the last photo my father ever took of me. If not for the grace of God and pure shit luck, it would have been. Seeing this younger, innocent version of me, and the pending shit storm I was about to embark on, I have these overwhelming mixed emotions. If I only knew what I know now.
Please DON'T THANK ME FOR MY SERVICE on Memorial Day.
Most Veterans are very uncomfortable being thanked on Memorial Day. Thank us on Veterans Day. And Remember the fallen on Memorial Day. We know you mean well, and that your thanks are truly sincere. But trust me. We feel uncomfortable being thanked on Memorial Day.
And while we're at it, there's NOTHING HAPPY About Memorial Day. It's like saying "Happy 9-11 Day." So try and refrain from saying Happy Memorial Day. It's a day of remembrance for those who died in all of our nation's wars.
Honor, respect, and remember the fallen.
I belong to other Private Members only pages and as you can see by the numbers of likes and comments, I really struck a chord with these fellow Marines and brother and sister veterans.
2,400 likes and 346 comments. I got some really encouraging comments from my brother and sister Marines.
877 likes and 116 comments. From my fellow Nam vets.
679 likes and 120 comments from another Vietnam Vet page.
As of 5;00PM on Saturday May 29th I have 4,185 likes and 657 comments. I'm sure that number will rise. And to think I almost didn't post this. I wasn't sure how some people would take the "NOT thanking us on Memorial Day. Well, 99% of the comments agreed with me. We feel uncomfortable being thanked on a day that is set aside every year to honor and pay respect to those who did not come home. You can thank the veterans in your life on November 11th. But Memorial Day? That's strictly for the Fallen.
Please don't be offended by any of this.
KSM Photoshop of the Week
I was unaware that they let KSM visit the grave site of Osama Bin Laden on Memorial Day. I think that's pretty admirable of the US to allow Khaliddy to pay his respects to the tall lanky (and stinky) leader of Al Qeada. Seeing his old boss's sandals floating around in the ocean must be pretty emotional for the Sheik. Not that any of us care. But it's always nice to hear that we are above any of that spiteful mean stuff that he's into.
And so my friends, please take advantage of this weekly photo shop of the mastermind who planned 9-11 and resulted in the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians by KSM (Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
*Note to self -must pick up a case of used FLIP FLOPS at
Home Depot this week.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Peter Stokes May 22nd, 2021!
CONGRATS TO THE B'S FOR BEATING THE CAPS
in the First Round of the Playoffs! It's off to Round II.
BRUINS BEAT THE ISLANDERS 5-2 in ROUND II!
CONGRATS To Local Surfer MAYA and JAMES on Getting Married on Monday May 24th, 2021. Mom Melissa (girlfriend/surfer of Markey J local surfer) and Maya's brother Wesley are in town for the wedding. We wish you guys the best! May you both share a lifetime of Happiness and LOVE!!
PLEASE Keep 90 yr old Chuck Dreyer (Kim Grondin's dad)
in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers from surgery.
PLEASE Keep JoEllen Bunton in your thoughts and prayers too.
PLEASE Keep longtime NH Surfer Greg Smith in your Prayers.
PLEASE Keep local Surfer/Musician Pete Kowalski in your thoughts and prayers throughout the year.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE DIPG AWARNESS TEAM!
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to
Ralph's Pic Of The Week every week for the last 16 years.
** BUY a HIGH RES Photo
from any of the weeks on RPOTW.
my friends... Surfing Heals All Wounds.
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.