I will never forget how I spent my 21st birthday–that big day that I had looked forward to for so long. Finally, I would be “legal”–free to vote and buy alcoholic beverages. Never in the past twenty years did I imagine the way my big day would be spent.
We were pulling recon duty off Firebase Vegal on April 26, 1970. I had pulled first watch, and when I came off my first hour watch, Joe Perrito, Tim (T-Bone) Pellicotti and Easterday were waiting for me. Joe had melted M&M’s and made icing for a C-Ration pound cake. He stuck a match in the middle of the cake for the lone candle. They softly sang “Happy Birthday” to me in the dark of the night, with the single match giving off a warm glow.
I became “a man” in the jungles of Viet Nam–in more ways than one. I’ll never forget the kinships that were formed and the brave men who were my brothers. Joe was killed on September 2, 1970.