To The Daily Sun,
I recently saw the obituary for Steven Selig in the Sun. I only met Steve briefly at a mutual friend's house one evening a couple of years ago. We discovered that we had been serving in Vietnam at roughly the same time. It was a social gathering, so we did not talk too much about our experiences. Steve mentioned that he had flown over 250 missions in B-52s. This is a staggering number of missions especially when you consider the MiGs and anti-aircraft fire the North Vietnamese used against them. As grunt infantrymen we were grateful to have the awesome power of B-52 strikes on our side. There was usually nothing left standing in the area of a B-52 bombing. "Like walking on the moon," one of my platoon members described going into an area after a bombing.
Although we did not get a chance to share too much of our feelings that night, I feel I have walked close enough to Steve's shoes to have an idea of how he felt. He had to have felt a great deal of pride in carry out so many missions successfully under extremely difficult circumstances. I am sure he had many stories to tell. I am sure he felt the stress of putting his own and others lives on the line so many times. As bad as one day might have been, the next might be much worse, and possibly THE day. The stress of doing such a dangerous job so often for so long had to be incredible.
Finally, having to deal with the destruction he was asked to do for his country had to be quite a burden. These feelings and the realization he had to go back and be in the middle of this again had to weigh heavily on him when he had to come back for his father's funeral during his tour.
Discussing his trip back and what it was like to come home then is what struck me most about our conversation that evening. I am so happy that the men and women fighting our recent conflicts have been greeted with gratitude, appreciation, and respect. However, I have to hold back a tear every time I see one of those commercials showing returning service men and women being spontaneously applauded as they come through an airport after a tour overseas.
I think of all the guys I served with, the tremendous things they did, and know that most threw their uniforms in the garbage upon landing in the U.S. rather than be identified as a soldier. Steve did tell me about his being pelted with rotten tomatoes at the LA airport as he kept his uniform on while making connections to come back to New Hampshire to mourn his father. I had hoped to resume our conversation assuming we would see each other at the golf club we both played.
His obituary gives me an idea why our paths did not cross again. Since I did not get the chance to speak with him again, I am writing this as a way to say thank you for your exceptional service, and welcome home, Steve.