Stephen W. Leslie
Joe was just another kid on the school bus. I lived in Edgewater, he in Davidsonville. The only reason I recognized his name was that his father owned a fleet of school buses which bore his last name. In 1966 when I graduated from high school I chose to go to college. Joe was a country kid. He had no interest in college and ended up in the Vietnam jungles. I was one of the first in my extended family to go to college, there was not much support or understanding of the struggle to maintain grades. Back then if your grades dropped your draft deferment was waived. A kid in my dorm dropped behind. The draft board contacted him. I never saw him again.
When Martin Luther King was assassinated my college roommates and I climbed the hill near our dorm and watched Washington D.C. burning from the riots, the red glow across a broad swath of the horizon. In the summer of 1968, I heard on the radio about a massive traffic jam caused by a concert in Woodstock, New York. When Cambodia was invaded and protests broke out all across America's college campuses, we sat on Route 1 blocking traffic.
Thirty-six years later I found myself at the Vietnam Memorial – a war that shaped me but I never fought in.
Cold black granite walls
The Vietnam Memorial
I touch Joe's name