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By Pat Lisi

 

          Time goes by so quickly!  It seems like just a few years ago that I and my buddies from Madison’s LaFollette High School signed up with the Marines to go kick some serious butt in Nam to avenge the death of an upper classmate, there.  One of the guys in our group was Dave Hron who we called “Chopper”.  He got this nickname, because he was the only person in our class who rode a motorcycle.  It was a Honda, “just a goofy little motor bike” – (Beach Boys?)

          Anyway, when it was time to go to Marine boot camp, Chopper was held back in Milwaukee following the final physical exam due to his very flat feet.  The doctors would not sign off with their approval, yet.  So, the rest of us headed off on our new adventure with the Corps and we found ourselves right in the middle of MCRD San Diego with a DI’s boot about half way up our —es!

          Chopper eventually came to boot camp, too, but the rest of us had graduated and were already WestPac.  This meant that Chopper got to Nam about three months after the rest of his companion. I had occasion to see him on Operation Maui Peak in October, 1969 as we all headed down Route 14 to come to the aid of an Army Green Beret camp that was under heavy siege.  He was perched atop a tank as it rumbled down the dirt road, and about all we had time for was a wave and a shout, “Hey Chopper!”.  “Hey Greek!” he yelled back, using my nickname from high school.

          Chopper would eventually spend two tours in Vietnam, his second as a Marine sniper, and in the end he was awarded three purple hearts for wounds suffered along the way.  He got out of the Marines in ’72 and returned to Madison, Wisconsin.  Back then it was easier to get into the US Postal Service if you were a veteran, and purple hearts carried ‘bonus’ points to your civil service test scores.  It was easy for him to land a job at the PO.

          I can only assume that Chopper was exposed to Agent Orange while in Nam; I know I was, and he and I worked some of the same, sprayed jungle areas even though I was in 2/5 and he was in 2/7.  It doesn’t matter much, anymore, because Chopper died of cancer on June 28, 2011.  A few months before his death I spoke with him on the phone and asked if he had ever put his name on the Agent Orange registry, which he had not done.  By that time, he had already gone through a liver transplant and a throat surgery to remove tumors.  It was actually too late to make any difference as to who was going to pay for his operations, but his health insurance from the post office paid for almost all the procedures, so it was okay.

          The whole point is that the time from high school to Chopper’s demise was way too quick.  How could an entire lifetime go by that fast?  I guess in the long run it just proves that we are mortals and that our time on earth is terribly microscopic.  Take care of yourselves, fellow veterans, and keep in touch with each other while you can.

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