FINDING PICKLE

I came home a changed man, seldom talked of Viet Nam until the summer of 2016.  As explained in the last story, after being diagnosed with PTSD, Phyllis suggested that I should confront the memories that had been suppressed for years.   She convinced me that writing could be therapeutic.  And it was.  After talking to Pace, I felt confident that I would find Sergeant Pickle.

Phyllis and I attended the 1/35th Infantry Battalion annual convention in Springfield, MO, September, 2016, to question attendees about Sergeant Dill, (AKA, Pickle). But to no avail.  Although two fellow soldiers knew that he was ill but did not have an address or phone number.

I got a call four months later

Pickle was a nickname given Sergeant Dill by the men of B Company.  His bravery, integrity and friendship was an example to everyone.

In picture, I’m talking to the soldier with a weapon on his shoulder.  Sergeant Dill is leaning against a tree in the background, talking on the radio, a Captain, Artillery Forward Observer, front right and a Lieutenant ,Platoon Leader, right rear (Summer, 1969).  

 We needed a Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) to replace the one who rotated home.  Because the RTO was a position especially important to the success of the Company, Sergeant Dill was chosen.  He was the most competent Non-Commissioned Officer In the Company.   

We became friends and worked together for the remainder of 1969.  Sergeant Dill returned to the States and was discharged.  He served the Army Infantry with honor and distinction.  Forty-eight years later I started looking for him.  The medic who was in B Company called and us gave Donna Dill’s telephone number.  I called and spoke to Donna.

She spoke of Eddie (his given name) explaining, he recently had a stroke and subsequently two brain operations.  He was put on hospice care and not expected to live much longer. 

My wife immediately said, “ we are going to North Carolina.  The next morning we left.   After driving two days, we met Donna and other family members at the nursing facility.

Donna, explained, her husband obtained a theological degree and had worked as a layperson in a local church.  He seldom talked of his time in Vietnam.  There had been no improvement in his cognitive abilities since the operations.  Donna told us that Eddie did not respond either physically or verbally to family members.

After relating stories about Eddie to the family, how brave he was and how he served his country honorably, I went to Eddie’s bedside and told him what an outstanding soldier he was and how much the company had depended on him.   Discussing what we did together in Vietnam and asking him questions, knowing he could not answer.

Phyllis and I left later in the afternoon and returned the next day.  When we walked into his room, Donna handed me a letter written 48 years earlier.  I didn’t remember writing the letter of appreciation but, but it was my signature.

Walking to Eddie’s bed, I paused and looked at the Sergeant for few minutes before talking to him as if he would understood every word said.  Then I took the letter, braced myself, and addressed Eddie directly, placing my hand on Eddie’s arm and reading the letter of praise, pausing at times to gather my emotions.

About half way through the letter, Eddie reached with his other hand toward me.  Grasping his hand, I noticed a tear had dropped from his eye and ran down his cheek.  Finishing the letter, we said goodbye to the family.  They thanked us profusely.

 A few hours went by as we were driving to Fort Benning, GA where we had arranged to meet Pace and Dot.  Pace was another veteran who fought in the war with me. 

Donna called and told us that Eddie had passed away.  It was a sad time.  But we were fortunate to have been able to talk to Eddie before he was taken home to be with the Lord.  But most of all, we were a blessing to Pickle’s family.

As we look back at the unlikely circumstances that fell into place allowing old soldiers to be reacquainted, we are heartened to know that Sergeant Dill’s family had experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior.

Thank you, Phyllis for encouraging me to write and being a partner in doing what we are doing.  Writing has been both therapeutic and liberating.  Soldiers written about, contacted me and ultimately led us to Eddie.  We believe that God has used this endeavor to further His purpose.   Perhaps He is not through with Phyllis and I yet.

Sergeant Douglas Edward Dill received the following awards and decorations:

Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal w/2 Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Medal, Letter of Appreciation (3), 1st Class Gunner (M-60MG), Sharpshooter, Rifle.