Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day

At this time of the year, I always pause to remember our classmate, Charles Mateer, who was killed serving our country in 1961.
He was the first American to lose his life in Laos, when his helicopter was shot down over the enemy stronghold called the "Plain of Jars." It happened on Memorial Day 1961.

The day after his parents, my uncle Harry and aunt Kathryn, were informed of his death they received Charles' last letter. Their awful sadness was tempered somewhat by Charles' obvious feeling of happiness and fulfillment from his chosen mission. He wrote that he was trememdously impressed by the mountain people of Laos (Hmong) and their dedication to freedom and willingness to fight for it....amisdt abject poverty. His job was to get food, medicine and supplies to these isolated people, whom the communists were doing their best to starve into submission.

The sound of an American helicopter became music to the villager's ears since that was all that was keeping them alive. Charles described how they would come running out of their huts to greet the Americans.

Saving lives every day was something that Charles found great pleasure in.

What he failed to mention in the letter to his mom and dad was the fact almost everytime he landed his helicopter....he had do so while being shot at by enemy artillery.

Charles Mateer 1936-1961

My cousin Jo Ann (Sizer) sent me this American Greetings card. It's a nice way to start the summer of 2005.
Amazing Grace