An Open Letter to the Next of Kin
by Hospitalman Eric K. "Doc" Hefright
2nd Battalion, Ninth Marines
DMZ Area, 1968
In the midst of the war there was a moment of quiet, an instant when I held your son, trying to breathe for him, to cover his wounds, to stop his hurt. I don't know his name but I see his face nightly; once he was a Black from Pennsylvania, or was from Texas with Mexican heritage, or was the White kid I never got a chance to know.
When I tasted the blood in his mouth and smelled the sweat I saw the last tear in his eye and watched as the fear left him. I closed his eyes and said, "Bless you, God loves you," and went on to the next and the next, and the next...
I wanted you to know how hard we tried, how hard I tried to save your son. Others were wounded and others died trying to save him. I was afraid but he was my brother and I loved him. Forgive me for not being there sooner to help him. The guilt I have carried each day since your son's death is really the feeling of shame. I was helpless and powerless to change what happened although I did everything I was trained to do and expected to do, and everything I would have expected him to do for me.
I will always honor the memory of your son and see him peaceful, far away from the hurt and in company with the other fallen heroes of my youth. Bless you for allowing me to be with him. I will remember him always.
E. K. Hefright