Reminiscences of Summer 2022

Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker here: I was writing this on September 12, 2021, and here in the north country, we are starting to see some of the trees donning their autumnal finery. Autumn (Fall if you prefer) has always been my favorite season. I believe it’s because when the trees approach their peak color, and the sky is a stunning blue and cloudless, the entire landscape seems to be at its brightest. It’s always surprised me how such a bright and beautiful season is, in reality, the precursor to the cold, dark, dreary winter. I’ve always thought that fall is Mother Nature’s last opportunity to dress up before her long winter nap.

It also makes me pause and review the summer past. The past year has been anything but boring up in The County. It started in its usual way. The sun sets around 3:00 pm, and it is full dark by 3:30. In my pre-retirement days, I drove to work in the dark, worked in a windowless office, and then drove home in the dark. It made me feel like a  mushroom– kept in the dark and fed B. S.

Then in February, the nonprofit company that runs the Maine Veterans Homes announced its intention to close the homes in Caribou and Machias. The closure decision was made in October but kept secret until February. Why the delay in the announcement? I can only think of one reason. They feared that if they announced the pending closure (it was to happen in May), staff would immediately start searching for jobs elsewhere. In short, they were screwing their employees. This action lit a three-foot fire under the local veteran community. When Troy Jackson (Democrat from Allagash), President of the Maine State Senate, introduced legislation to stop the closures, county veterans (regardless of political affiliation) rallied around him and went to work. At the risk of sounding cynical, the Maine Veterans Homes should have known better than to attempt such a wrong move during an election year. To make this short, the legislation passed the Maine Legislation with 100% bipartisan support.

In June, I was asked if I would be willing to join a group of veterans for a whirlwind trip to

Wreath Ceremony June 17, 2022

Washington, D.C. We left Caribou at six o’clock on Thursday morning, June 16, and drove all day and night, stopping only for gas and food. We arrived in Washington around 1:30 am on Friday the 17th. We checked into our hotel, slept for a few hours, and performed a wreath ceremony at The Tomb of The Unknown at Arlington Cemetery. The temperature that day hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but as we watched the honor marching in dark blue uniforms in the blistering heat, we knew that we had no business complaining. I had an epiphany of sorts. We may never again have an unknown… the military now routinely takes DNA from all its members and stores it in a database.

It made me think of my first friend in Vietnam. Joe Zutterman, from Marysville, Kansas, took me under his wing when I arrived in-country on January 29, 1968. Joe had some

Visiting Joe Zutterman’s name on Vietnam Wall, December 2016

trouble early in his Marine career and had been demoted. He was due to return home on April 20, 1968. He was offered a promotion to Sergeant (E-5) if he would extend his tour for an additional six months. On April, the first day of his extension, the helicopter in which Joe was door gunner was blown up. When I visited the wall, Joe was listed as MIA (Assumed Dead) Body Not Recovered. I saw the wreckage; all the recovery crew found were bits and pieces. The crew and Joe Zutterman’s remains have never been recovered. With DNA technology, all that is required is a small piece of the body, and identity can be determined.

Now that I’m thinking of Joe and how his death made me realize that the movies have no idea what war is like. Wouldn’t it be great if, after a battle, the director could shout, “Cut…that’s a wrap…” All the participants, dead and alive, got up and went home. I recently read somewhere that since the American Revolution, there have only been 23 years in which there has not been a war in which our armed forces were involved.

Maybe no longer being an unknown soldier isn’t a bad thing after all. This winter, on those cold, dark nights, I’ll big this blog post up, think of Joe… and feel warm all over.

About Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker has published six novels and numerous short stories. He is a member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, and the International Thriller writers. Three times he has been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards Crime Fiction category, SNIPER, in 2015, THE FISHERMAN in 2016, and WENDIGO for the 2018 award. The second installment of his Ed Traynor series, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER was released in July 2019 and is available through all major booksellers. A signed copy can be ordered directly from Vaughn (vhardacker@gmail.com). THE EXCHANGE his most recently published crime/thriller was released on September 4, 2020. His next thriller, RIPPED OFF, is scheduled to be released by Encircle Publications in January 25, 2023. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Stockholm, Maine.
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13 Responses to Reminiscences of Summer 2022

  1. dickcass says:

    Beautiful, Vaughn. Never forget. Thanks.

  2. Amen, Vaughn. Thanks from an old squid. I lost a high school friend almost the same way. His helo was shot down before he was old enough to legally drink. RIP.

    • That’s another thing that has always baffled me… Have you ever noticed that old men start wars but stay home and send young men to fight them? I turned 21 in Nam and was probably considered an old man by most of the guys. Where would we be if we had not wasted many of our young men and women fighting wars that governments start. I’m 75 years old and in my life time we have fought in Korea (3 years), Vietnam (we say 15 years, but had been in the country since the mid-1950s), Iraq and Afghanistan (20 years). That’s not to mention any number of incursions in places like Granada. It reminds of something Mark Twain said: Man is the only animal that says ‘My country, right or wrong and then goes to war over it.

  3. Judy Moore says:

    Thank you for your viewpoint. I never thought about the time between wars. Twenty three years is not long. Dark at 3:30 was new to me. I have visited the Yukon in September, but not Maine. Light does touch our lifestyle.

  4. John Clark says:

    Kate and I have a cousin on the wall. He stepped on a mine. I was his stand-in at his sister’s wedding my freshman year at Arizona State. It would be impossible to pass, but a bill limiting active combat to people over fifty with an annual gross income in excess of $200,000 would stop most combat in its tracks. I, too l, love fall over the other seasons.

  5. kaitcarson says:

    Thank you for your service, Vaughn. My brother became an advocate for many who were initially told that they didn’t qualify for the Wall. Most of the denied were deaths due to what we now call PTSD. His advocacy helped him come to terms with his own Viet Nam service and as of last year, following his death from Parkinson’s attributed to Agent Orange, his name will be there as well.

    • The purpose of our trip to DC was twofold. The wreath ceremony was only part of the reason. The Vietnam Wall Foundation has added a plaque to the monument honoring the vets who have died due to the war, but were not killed in combat. Once a year they have a two day event (usually in June) and on day one, they read the names of every vet who has died due to Agent Orange exposure, PTSD, and any other cause that can be traced to Vietnam. The second day they all members of the family of vets who have died that year to go onstage and speak about their loved one for 3 to 5 minutes. We traveled there to honor two Aroostook County vets who passed in the past year. We took members of the family with us and footed all of their bills. If you go to https://www.vvmf.org/Honor-Roll/ you can see this years additions.

  6. Oops. Its the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation not The Vietnam Wall Foundation. Sorry

  7. Pingback: Remeniscences of Summer | Tough Guys Write

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