Family Non-Fiction posted October 24, 2022

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Vietnam War boy

Whiter Shade of Pale


That Special Song Contest Winner 
I think it was the summer before sixth grade when I knew (personally) my first casualty of the Vietnam War.
His name was Victor Rodriguez and he was only 19 years old.  But to a rising sixth grader, he was old.  Older and cool, and he had this quirky sense of humor that made us all laugh.  If a song was playing on the radio, he had a habit of grabbing the nearest female and dancing.  The female could be eight or eighty.  It didnt matter to Vic.
He worked at the Parks and Rec close to my house.  He used to tell us how he wanted to be a teacher.  He loved kids.  All kids, even the bad ones, he knew he could change lives.  Vic said that his grandma told him that his life had purpose and to never forget that.
One day Vic came into the room where a few of us were working on  paper mache animals.  He wasn't smiling like usual.  Didn't really say much to us just whispered to our teacher.  She got this look on her face that I'll never forget.  She put her arms around him and hugged him. "You'll be fine, you'll be fine.  You'll see," she kept saying.
That Friday night we had a dance at the rec center.  Vic, of course, danced with everyone.  He was laughing and joking around.  He went to where the DJ was playing records and took over for a few minutes.  He tapped the microphone and cleared his throat.
"It's slow dance time, boys and girls.   So grab a partner.  I want everybody on the dance floor for my favorite song."
The needle scratched a little on the vinyl but then the song came on.  Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum.
Vic made it a point to dance with each girl, myself included, and he told each of us about how he had been drafted and had to go away for a while.  That song played about 10 times that night.
Things were different after Vic left for boot camp.  Occasionally, the other adults would read bits of letters he sent. 
He showed up once at Parks and Rec all dressed in his uniform.  I remember not only how handsome he looked but also how much older he looked.
But he never came back to us.  
Another dance, they dimmed the lights twice, then read from a letter written by his father.
"Private Victor Lee Rodriguez was killed in action ..."
I don't remember the details just the sounds of  Whiter Shade of Pale as the disc jockey plopped the record on the turntable.  Every body met in the center of the room.  Everybody danced.
His beautiful young face is what I see everytime I hear that song.
Victor Rodriguez, your grandma was right.  Your short sweet life did have purpose.  Rest in peace.

That Special Song
Contest Winner

True story.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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