This morning at 9:00 am eastern time my friend Lloyd A. King will be laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Funerals/Funeral-Schedule/Daily-Funeral-Schedule
He was an interesting and remarkable and special man who genuinely did not think himself special, remarkable or interesting. Compassionate, generous, I could list many qualities and still not capture the full essence of the man.
I met him in a barbershop in March 2017. I struck up a conversation and learned the outline of his story: He was a combat veteran of Vietnam. A native of New York, his family moved to west Texas where he graduated from high school. He aspired to be professional golfer and was very good. But life happens. In Vietnam he was awarded two purple hearts and several other medals and citations. After that he worked as a safety manager in the petroleum business and traveled the world.
After his wife of 25 years died he began organizing unit reunions and each succeeding year was larger and more elaborate. He held them in Branson, MO because it is a central location for the US, it easily accommodates large groups, there are plenty of activities, and it is easily one of the most veteran-friendly places in the country. In March of 2016 he sold his home and moved to the area with the intent to buy a little land, build a cabin, buy a bass boat, and plan a reunion each year.
But then he was suddenly hospitalized in August of that year. The diagnosis - cancer, likely caused by a fluke that had laid dormant in his system for many years. https://www.livescience.com/61057-liver-flukes-vietnam-veterans.html
His family all lived in other states. He had made only a few friends here because he hadn't been here very long. He was essentially on his own. Not a bad thing usually, and he was a very independent and self reliant sort, but when really sick someone else needs to take you to the doctor.
And so for a year I was his driver and his friend. I cherish the time we had together - one brief year. I won't and can't go into all the times and discussions we had together; there's no time, and it's personal.
He wanted to make it to his birthday; he did, and then died the next morning with his youngest brother at his side. He was out in his bass boat once, and never did get his land or cabin - perhaps he has that now...
Through me, my pastor and church also came to know Lloyd and care for him. He spoke to our church on Veteran's Day Sunday. He secretly provided financial help for several families.
My pastor is currently in Washington D.C. as I write this. Lloyd's company commander became a chaplain after the war and is conducting the service.
In September there will be another unit reunion and though I am not a veteran I have been invited to join the group. They are wonderful group of men. We will remember Lloyd at a special memorial service.
Rest in peace, Mr. King. Thanks for sharing his story with us.
Thank you for this story. It is amazing how someone can change our life, and become such a part of it, just by chance like that. I love these type of stories, because it just shows how one small act of kindness, just a simple "hello", can be life changing.
I am glad you two met, and you could be there for him. I had a similar situation with a now passed friend. Just a chance thing, that builds a beautiful friendship.
Rest in Peace, sir.
You are richer for having had him as a friend. May he rest in peace.
I'm sorry for your loss, Mike.
I enjoyed your post about his life and your friendship with him.
I'm glad you met him and glad he met you.
I’m sorry you lost your friend. It sounds like he had an impact on many lives and he will be missed.
You showed a lot of kindness to him, and he surely appreciated it very much.
I’ve never heard of liver flukes before. Scary stuff.
Yeah, what everyone else said!!!
Sorry to hear about your friend Michael, but glad you got to know him and share!!!
I noticed the book of poetry "From 'Nam With Love" -- could you perhaps share some snippet with us?
The poems were written by him contemporaneously to his time in Vietnam. Some were written even as he was in the field. Only a great many years later did he dig them out, edited them, and had them published. Some are tough to read, but they give an interesting and harrowing point of view of a young man given responsibility (he was a squad leader) and thrust into a war.
I'll try to type one out:
16 June 1968
Incessant, eerie sounds of static
Like heavy monsoon showers
Rushed through hammer and anvil
For endless minutes into hours
While I logged notes diligently
Tracking a unit's whereabouts
On search and destroy Ops
By LRRP's and Hawk Scouts.
On radio duty for a long night
When the cries pierced my ears
Breaking the constant drone
Raising my hair and worst fears
As screams echoed certain trouble
While approaching their NDP
Surprised by a deadly ambush,
Triggered to the second at 1733.
The firefight raged fiercely
For days in my mind it seemed
Men were hit and bleeding
I heard a few as they screamed
Trying to fight and help on another
Not knowing where they were
Forced to listen on the radio
My mind was a complete blur.
Moments later I learned
My squad was caught in a trap
Walking point and exhausted
Probably thinking about taking a nap
And a hot meal before nightfall
To ease their aches and pains
From fighting heat and terrain
And the chill of the monsoon rains.
At sunrise I left the commo bunker
Starring blankly into the haze
Trying to understand the night
Wondering why I was in a daze
Not knowing the final outcome
Whether they were alive or dead
Feeling guilty about being here
Wanting to be with them instead
Only to learn that nine had died
The unthinkable ... my heart bled.
Four members of my squad and five members of our platoon and company were killed on 16 June 1968. My best friend, Ned T. Dybvig, was among the dead.
There is another poem dated August 12, 1968. It is the account for which he was nearly killed and received his first Purple Heart. I'll wait until Sunday to post it in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of that event.
I was given a few books after Lloyd's passing. KE, if you would like to have one I'll send one to you. Just pm me. Also, if there are other Viet vets interested in having this book please let me know and I think I can get one to you. And as Lloyd said to you VN vets, "Welcome Home."
That's pretty powerful, both the note and the poem. My deepest, kindest thoughts.
Unimaginable strength and self-awareness to have written so expressively of events that were so close in time and still emotionally raw. Your friend was a remarkable human being.
And thank you for typing that out. Probably wasn't easy.
Edited by - KE on 08/10/2018 15:22:40
Michael, I can't express how sorry your loss is to me, and how much that poem touched me. I was in the generation that protested the war (I was in high school in 1973-1976). I never protested the war, my wife's brother Dale, served in the navy on the Constellation, (69-70 ?) died in 2012 from complications from agent orange,(our SIL is still fighting this). I thank all the vets, that fought, and welcome back home.
12 August 1968
At dawn, we started picking up from our ambush site
The precarious position we held during the foggy night
While my squad was busy, I guarded the well-worm path
And thought about home and my needing a good bath.
I was standing well concealed behind an enormous tree
Barely exposed, but just enough so I could clearly see
Snake, my M-79'er, was off to my right on an incline
And was having trouble locating my claymore mine.
I told Snake to look to his front next to the biggest tree
Located at the base of the third tree between him and me
Snake crawled and found it while I pointed to the spot
When a VC sniper fired although I never heard the shot.
I was knocked unconscious as the bullet struck my head
My squad, frozen with fear, naturally thought I was dead
As no one could see me with my left heel under my back
And I couldn't see either because everything was black.
Coming to, I felt the warm blood oozing into my left palm
I didn't know whether to rejoice or recite the 23rd Psalm
And when a bright glow illuminated my closed eyes
I thought it was another spirit penetrating the foggy skies.
I decided I was alive because I was hurting and weak
So I opened my eyes just to make sure and take a peek
I remembered not to move, but to play possum instead
And then prayed the VC sniper would think I was dead.
Through narrow eyelid openings...I glanced around
But it was hard to see lying on my back on the ground
I heard my RTO radio for help, others calling my name
And I listened to frantic "cherries" go mentally lame.
Miraculously, I saw a smoke ring silhouetting the leaves
And like a ventriloquist I said, "Look high in the trees!"
Then I said, "On three, I'm going to run like a gazelle
As you aim forty feet above the knoll and fire like hell!"
For a while there was silence then loud 'Airborne' cheers
Hearing my voice stirred emotions and a few shed tears
My voice had scared my squad who thought I was dead
But I was lucky to be alive after being shot in the head.
I figured my chances were probably zilch or next to none
Being able to physically roll, get up, then having to run
I had a little feeling in my back...none at all in either leg
And I was wheezy like I'd just chug-a-lugged half a keg.
Carefully, I said, "Get ready!" through tightly pursed lips
My head was throbbing and I had severe pain in both hips
Snake yelled, "We beez' ready Sahge, dah' guys beez' set!"
But I said, "Wait one, Snake, I'm not quite ready just yet!"
I was practicing, mentally, how I was going to move and roll
And I was trying to muster some strength in body and soul
I said a quick prayer, yelled, "Ready, One - Two - Three!"
Rolled quickly, sprang like a cat, and lunged behind a tree.
Hearing weapons blazing away was a truly comforting sound
But feeling faint and weak, I slumped and fell to the ground
As bullets continued ripping into the trees above their heads
And when I looked up again the entire jungle was in shreds.
Later, after Doc bandaged my bullet wound and swollen knot
I stared in total disbelief at the gaping holes in my steel pot
Somehow my steel pot had saved me...this was easy to see
And spared my squad the added grief of another tragedy.
I've never said much about the details of this incredible day
Keeping the ordeal within, dealing with it in my own way
But it's time to share what until now made little sense...
"In war, soldiers must be vigilant or pay the consequence."
The Purple Heart was awarded to Lloyd A. King for his combat wounds received 12 August 1968.
It's the fifty year anniversary of Lloyd being shot in the head. Lloyd was given his nickname "Angel" by his friend Snake. Snake told him he must have had an angel sitting on his shoulder to not have been killed. I have held the helmet/steel pot in my hands. His squad did kill the sniper, and gave Lloyd the rifle that shot him. I have held that in my hands as well.
Thank you again, everyone, for your kind words.
'Sunday Good Morning' 2 hrs
'Stockwell Moon Bridge 5/8"' 11 hrs
'Woodie Banjo' 11 hrs