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Washington Road Trip Article

Special Dedication Tullytown Pumper Dedication October 15th 2005

Goodbye to Willie Text By Jon Wright
Unfortunately, we Vietnam Vets, friends of Vietnam Vets, and families of Vietnam Vets, have over the last 35 to 40 years gotten really proficient at saying goodbye.

We said goodbye to friends as they left for Nam ahead of us, some never made it back. When it was our turn to go, we said goodbye to our friends and families and left. We said goodbye to friends we made while we were there, when they left to go home, or were killed in action. When it was our turn to come home, we said goodbye to friends that still had time to serve, some never made it back.

After we were home a few years some of us said goodbye to families again, this time because we were forever changed, becoming more and more withdrawn, and didn't seem to fit back in.

Then, just as we thought we had it beat, we started to say goodbye to friends, that like us, had made it home, their minds and bodies poisoned by war and Agent Orange. Friends like, Richard Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, & Mark Forman. I didn't know these guys like some of you did; I hadn't found DV3 yet.

Then one year around Labor Day, I saw something in the paper about some Vietnam Vets & a Flag Memorial at Core Creek Park. We went to see what it was all about. We were amazed at what you people had done. The next year we went back at Labor Day, but you weren't there. It took a couple of years, but again I saw something about a Flag Memorial, only this time it was at Silver Lake, it was around Flag day or Fathers Day. That's right, you not only changed the site on us, you also changed the time of year. But we were meant to be with you.

I found out it was a whole weekend thing, and the Flags went in on the Friday before the service. The next few years I was there helping to put Flags in. Then you had to say goodbye again, this time to Don Jones. I could see the grief in your eyes, his close friends and family. I had met Don a few times, I may have even gotten his permission to put a couple of Flags in with very small names attached, friends that I had said my goodbyes to over the years. I didn't know him well enough to feel the hugh loss that you did, but by watching how all of you handled this really sad time (it was only two days before the memorial), I knew how you felt. How you could tell stories about some of the things he had done over the years, and through the pain you could still manage a smile or small laugh. At this point, we joined DV3.



It took a while to make friends, we didn't know anyone. Slowly we started to make some friends. Then just as we started to know and love Willee Schmitt, we had to say goodbye again.

I also know you've had some goodbyes that weren't quite as bad. Some retired and moved away, some just moved on. I know because just this past March we met two of them, Al Newsham & John VanHorne. Al had retired and moved. John had done the same.

Shotgun, you, like Willee Schmitt, were hard to get a handle on. Willee because he was big, and had that booming voice, you with that look you can get, that feels like its going right through you. And of course we didn't know how you got the name SHOTGUN. Then we started to see the other side of Shotgun. That little smile that also lights up your eyes, and makes people feel at ease. Then there was the trip to DC for Rolling Thunder, and a trip to ,The Wall. I saw a side of Willy that probably few people have seen. A couple of years ago, when Ken had the problem after the Memorial service, I saw a man who was really afraid for his friend. Last year at Jethro and Bonnie's picnic, when you picked up the guitar and kicked back and started to play. This year at the Day of Reflection, when you again picked up the guitar and started to sing with one of the groups, quite well I might add. It was almost like every other month or so we learned something more about you. You have one of the biggest hearts of any man I know, if someone has a problem, and you can help in some way you will.

So, again it's time for another goodbye, only this time, although it's our loss, it will be Florida's gain. It will be Florida's gain because you're not going to change, and before long you'll be helping somebody in Florida. Sadly, it will be someone else that will see the smile and the twinkle in your eye. Someone else will be learning about that big heart. Shotgun there will always be a part of you with us, and you have a special place in our hearts. I know you've touched me and Sandy deeply, and I'm sure you've touched all that are here tonight, and we'll never forget you for that.

We'd like to wish you and Boop all the best, good health, good friends, and God speed in all you do, we'll miss you. So on behalf of your DV3 family and friends its not a final goodbye it's just,hey, see ya later.

Jethro,Bonnie,and Willy meet the Judge
jethrobonniewilliejudge.jpg
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This is a link to the website for the movie "Be Good Smile Pretty"

The United States War Dog Association

Vietnam Dog Handler Association