Last night my father-in-law, Ward Meston, of Albuquerque, NM, passed away. In a way, he was another combat death of the Vietnam war: his death was due to Parkinson's Disease, which he contracted as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.
What strikes me most about his life was the intensity of his courage. I never saw him brag or try to intimidate anyone, but just a few of his Vietnam stories, told in a dry, matter-of-fact tone, would stay in your mind for ages. While Ward certainly didn't suffer in silence, no one could have ever called him a moaner or a complainer, or one who gave into self-pity. One time he took me out fishing. We were walking down a gravel path, with Ward pushing his walker and shuffling along, until we came to a spot about 8 feet over the creek we were taking on.
This was a slope that looked nearly vertical. I was hesitant to go down, and that was before I blew my ankles out. Ward folded up his walker, laid it down, and scrambled down the steep embankment.
He was the kind of American that we just don't see enough of these days: tough, self-reliant, and a man who made no apologies for how he lived and never asked for one. He fished waters from farm ponds to mountain streams to the deep seas, and he kept going hunting until he could no longer hold a gun. John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Ernest Hemingway would have been proud to be in his company. He was a role model for me, he was proud of his grandchildren, and I know anyone who knew him will miss him.