Margaret Gasperich will be waked June 16th at 10:00am at St. Joseph Church, 416 N. Chicago St in Joliet, to be followed by a Mass of Christian Burial. Marge was 93 years old. She was also a Gold Star mother who buried her only child forty-four years ago. She grieved for her only child almost twice as long as he lived.
They say the only thing worse than dying in war is to be forgotten.
In my group of ‘Only Moms’ as we call ourselves, the horror of living another twenty, thirty, forty years or more with our grief is more than we can bear. This is our second greatest fear, the first being that our child will be forgotten once we are no longer here to remember them.
Frank John Gasperich, Jr. was killed in Long Khanh Province, Viet Nam on Feb. 6th, 1971. He was 23 years old. I’m told he was shot and killed while standing next to a helicopter by a NVA sympathizer in a surprise attack. There are a few Ladies in the Auxiliary at Cantigny VFW Post #367 who remember, and they say it was a horrible, terrible thing. I wonder if in part they are referring to the way his family was treated.
I don’t know that they were treated badly, but I do know they didn’t receive the small comfort that comes from being respected in their loss, having their only child’s death recognized and honored by their community. That was rarely done at the time. In fact, it was quite rare for a family to display the Gold Star Banner in the window of their home out of fear of repercussions from anti-war protestors.
Because of my involvement in the VFW and other veteran’s organizations, I’ve come to know many Viet Nam and Viet Nam Era veterans. I’m honored to call a few friends. Each time we talk about it, though those conversations are rare, they tell me of their experiences when they came home. Contrary to current revisionist historians who claim such things didn’t happen, each of them have said they were spit on at the airport upon arrival, called baby killer and were required to run a gauntlet of stank-ass hippies while trying to get to the bathroom to change out of their uniforms. They talk of coming home to a country where it was necessary to do all they could to hide the fact that they had just spent a year in hell, at least if they wanted to assimilate back into civilian society.
One of the other common memories they sparingly share is the reaction of that civilian society to the death of an American soldier.
There were no police and motorcycle escorts. People did not line the roadways and streets with American flags, standing in respect as the hearse went by. And to keep from going to jail, they were very careful with whom they expressed their feelings of loss and grief over the deaths of their fellow servicemen and women. More than one recounted spending time in a bottle when certain days of the year rolled around. They had nowhere to go with their grief, and often, could not even go to the families of those they lost because too many rejected and resented those who did come home, if they were not part of the anti-war crowd themselves.
I will be forever grateful and indebted to our Viet Nam veterans. They are to me, truly The Greatest Generation. The majority (75%) volunteered to serve in an unpopular war but in answer to our Nation’s call. They came home to an ungrateful and outright hostile civilian population. They have been reviled and misrepresented so badly for so long that the words ‘crazy veteran’ invariably invoke images of a Viet Nam vet living on the streets, attempting to blot out memories of the horrors they committed with drugs and alcohol.
And when our Nation again went to war and the inevitable flag draped coffins came home, they stood up and guaranteed that no fallen soldier would ever again be disrespected, dishonored and dismissed the way their brothers once were. I don’t mean to take anything away from previous veterans, but if there is a better definition of ‘The Greatest Generation’, I’d like to hear it. The ones who are most commonly called that nowadays are the very ones who denied the Viet Nam vets admittance to the VFW and American Legion, who stood alongside the stank-assed hippies in dishonoring those who did the same job they once did.
Most of the parents of the Fallen of the Viet Nam generation have long since passed. Too many never received support and care much less consideration for their loss from their communities. We need to do what we can to properly recognize the few who are left, even if it is only in commemorating their passing. Their children and those with whom they served were not welcomed home, but we can pray they are welcomed in their final home with the dignity and respect they did not receive in life.
Marge Gasperich you are remembered, as is the sacrifice of your only child. May your long awaited reunion with your precious son be joyous. Be at peace.
If you are not able to attend the services, feel free to add your condolences to her obituary here - Margaret M. Gasperich.
Follow this link to offer your respect to Frank John Gasperich, Jr. on the Viet Nam Veterans Wall of Faces.
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