You Walk Point, Steve, I'll Take Tail End...
Steve was about my age;
Hell, we all are,-
and none of us have hit twenty-five yet.
I don't think he ever got much older, either.
I have a photo of the four of us,-
Jimmy, Tom, Steve, and me,
taken twenty years ago,
at The Wall, the first time we went down there,
when we all walked down Constitution Avenue together.
Steve was the only one in the picture
who didn't look like he was stoned or wasted;
the rest of us looked like your average vet.
But that day, we were the four musketeers,
and all of us were actually smiling in the photo.
One for all, and all for one.
The funeral service was today,
but I just couldn't go.
The Steve I remember is the one in the photo.
That is the way I'll remember him,
and if I went to the service
that image would be replaced
with whatever I found there.
I'm too damned old
to try to drive while I'm crying, anyway.
I met Steve the year that he and Jimmy
and a few others started the Organization of Vietnam Vets.
It was neat, back then;
laid back, mellow, no hassle, no muss, no fuss,
just come on in, find a seat,
and relax - it was a safe area
and you had your brothers there
to watch your back for you.
That was the O.V.V. in the early years.
If you can imagine a combination of a coffee house,
and a reunion,
all rolled into one comfortable thing,
then you have an idea of what it was like, then.
Steve was the Second Man there.
Jimmy and Steve... Heart and Soul...
heart and soul.
You know (and this is something important-)
back then you could call Steve in the middle of the damn night,
and whether it was a stupid question,
or a fear that was gnawing at you,
or if you were just remembering too much,
he was there for you.
No hesitation, no qualification,
no special requirement...
other than that you were a brother,-
a fellow Vietnam vet...
if you needed him,
then he was there.
I think he needed you, too.
I really want to say something here
that will sum up Steve,
some written way to show others
what Steve was,
what his memory is,
what he meant, and what he still means,
to all of us who knew and loved him.
There is just no way to do that.
I am not talented enough
to put that kind of emotion into words.
I don't know what I could say
that would put his strength and quiet beauty
on display on this page.
He wasn't one of a kind -
he was just one among us
who knew how to do what he did
with concern, with sincerity...
and he shared those feelings and qualities with us
every single day.
He could smooth a confrontation
with his quiet presence.
He could calm your worries with his voice.
He was your brother,
your confessor, your confidant,
and the beautiful thing was that
you could talk with him about anything.
He didn't judge you,
but if you wanted his thoughts he gave them.
If you only needed a sounding board,
If action was needed, he was at the front
of whatever it took to get the job done.
That's why I sometimes called him Point Man.
It seemed that it was a natural place for him to be -
he stepped easily into the forefront
whether it was for a vet seeking help with a claim,
or a political meeting downtown,
or any of a number of problems related to the O.V.V.
and the rest of the world and the membership,
...Steve took the point.
We never told him, but we loved him for it.
If you could follow behind a man walking point,
then you had faith in him,- you trusted him.
You knew that he was your eyes and ears
at that moment in your life.
You knew that he was capable,
that he could handle the job he was doing,
and he was the best one for that job.
In country, the point had your life in his hands;
he was responsible
for your safety,
and you did what his hand signals told you to do,
and if he did his job right,
then you all walked back through the wire
when it was over.
Back here in The World,
Steve still took that job very seriously;
he held your concerns and your problems
in his heart and mind,
and he guided you with his knowledge
and if you let him walk point for you,
then more often than not
he got you back inside the wire
at the end of the mission.
That was something that Steve could do;
he knew how to handle problems,
and he knew how to help us understand
how to help ourselves.
But one thing that he couldn't do
was prepare us to go on without him.
We'll kinda have to pick up on that by ourselves.
I think we can do it -
it's something that he would expect of us.
I can almost hear him saying it...
"...Charlie Mike, guys... continue the mission."
That's all we can do, ...but it's enough.
And Steve will still be up there, walking point.