2008-12-05 / Letters

Glad You Are Home

Dear Editor, It was the spring of 1971, the Vietnam War had expanded over the border into Laos in an effort to shut down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and rid Laos of the North Vietnamese Army, the Allman Brothers Band had just finished their historic string of concerts at the Fillmore East and I was a fifthgrade student at my desk in Miss Bird's history class in St. Francis de Sales. There was nothing special going on that day; it was a typical spring morning. Sometimes an errant wren might find its way into our classroom through one of the open windows and spend a minute or two flying circles over our heads. The girls would scream and the 10- year-old boys showed off by trying to chase the bird back out into the wild blue yonder. But not on this day, no birds, no excitement just lessons………….. Then it happened, the door burst open and a soldier flew into the room. He was wearing class "A" greens with a single chevron on his sleeve and a row of ribbons on his chest. If memory serves, there was also a Combat Infantry Badge above his pocket. Time stood still, what was this we thought! Then the soldier spoke, "Is Ellen Rayder in this class?" Before Miss Bird could answer there was a voice from the back, "BILLY!" Ellen ran from her seat and leapt into her brother's arms. Private Billy Rayder turned to the teacher and said, "I'm taking my sister out of school for the day if that's alright." The tough old teacher now choked with emotion couldn't utter a syllable, but nodding her consent she gestured towards the door and the soldier and the student were gone like a wren out the window. I have been told that Billy collected all of his siblings in the same manner that day, one from this classroom and one from that. Knowing how many Rayder kids were in St. Francis at the time I suppose this scene played out 5 or 6 times. It was a moment rich in love, patriotism, happiness and relief, relief that Billy had come home and was now a veteran. Unfortunately, 58,000 soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and coastguardsmen never did make it home alive; they never did live to become veterans. So to all of the Billy Rayders, from all of the wars I would like to say, "Thank You." We are so glad to have you all home!


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