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James Clarke

“Jim was 19 and I was 18 when I met him. He was take your breath away handsome and eyes that danced when he laughed. He was home on leave after a two year stint in Germany. Jim wanted to be a career military man. His next base would be Vietnam. We became engaged the night before he left. Vietnam wasn’t a popular war, but I would support our troops no matter where they were. We decided to get married in Hawaii on his R&R. We had two wonderful weeks and he was gone again. I wrote daily and every once in a while I would get a relay call from him via a ham radio operator. Jim came home a very changed man. He stapled blankets over the windows and doors. A gun sat ready beside every door. I finally talked Jim into going to the VA. He went to group therapy and by himself. He had days and nights he seemed fine. One day he told me he was afraid he would hurt me. I left and we were divorced shortly after. We continued to be friends and we talked for hours and hours each week. He worked with teenagers wanting to go into the military. He owned and operated a body shop and did beautiful work. We tried to become a couple a few more times. It never worked. He stopped therapy and became a recluse. He would only answer my calls once in a while. Sixteen years to the day he came home from Vietnam to people spitting on the soldiers and throwing rotten tomatoes and eggs at them at the airport. Jim had had all he could endure. He tapped all of the openings in his body shop, turned his favorite music on and sat in his prize 1976 Pontiac Firebird and drank a fifth of Jack Daniels and ended his suffering. In the note he left behind he said he was afraid he was going to hurt someone he loved and if only the people he was trying to protect in the country he loved had only loved him back. He was and still is my hero. May he rest in peace and have the love and the respect he thought he should have from people he fought to keep free.”
Final rest – Wellsville, NY
From Friendship, NY