I had been in Vietnam for two weeks and was waiting to be assigned to a unit. I had not yet experienced combat. It was October 1967 and I had enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating high school in Houston Texas.
One of the Marines who had been in country for some time asked me if I wanted to go to graves registration. It was an opportunity to take a ride and get away from the sitting and waiting for an assignment with not much to do in that time.
When we arrived at graves registration there were a row of bodies, all Marines. There was a body bag lying beside each body, but some of them were not in their bag. I could see the tag on the toe of one of the bodies. I saw some with unattached arms and legs lying beside them. I walked past, and immediately knew the meaning of death, and the reality of these people no longer being here.
It was something I had never experienced and the reality had replaced my perception of death as it had been portrayed in the movies, and comic books. I counted twelve Marines in the row and walked past almost in a trance unable to comprehend what I was seeing and feeling.
When I looked up I saw a dead looking bush off to my left, withered, except for one white bloom. My thought was “as long as I can perceive that one white flower I’m still here, and I will do everything I can and fight as hard as I can to remain here to continue to see that white flower.”