Forever Nineteen


Submitted by Fred Caleffie

Bob Gaffigan should be 53 years old, but he isn't. He should have married his High School sweetheart and raised a family in Silver Springs, Maryland, but he didn't. He should be nearing the conclusion of a successful career and looking forward to retirement, but he isn't.

On October 26, 1970, Bob Gaffigan became forever nineteen. On the 38th day of his tour in-country he joined the men on the Wall. His sons and daughters were never born. His parents never got to welcome him home for Christmas dinner. His brothers never got to share with him a welcome home beer and ask all the questions that brothers ask. His girlfriend never got to send that next letter to tell him how much she misses him, and to be careful. He never got to buy a legal drink.

Most of you guys already know the circumstances of his death, so there is no sense in going over that again. Bob was my A- gunner, and he was a damn fine Marine. Bob was only with us for one fire fight, but he accounted for himself well. It was the darkest night I remember. We had just saddled up and moved out toward a treeline to our bush sites. It was so dark that I couldn't see the barrel of my gun. I had to listen for the footsteps of the guy in front of me to tell where I was going. I know Bob was scared shitless because my asshole was puckered up pretty tight. I could tell we were getting close to the treeline because I could smell it and feel the difference in humidity. The VC opened up from our left front. I dropped and pulled the trigger. God, how I loved to pull that trigger. Before I could empty my assault pouch, Bob was there on my left. I reminded him to hook up a belt of ammo, but he was already ahead of me. I don't know if he fired his M-16 or not, but I do know that he had belts of ammo hooked up. I was very proud of him: his first firefight and he did his job before being told.

So Bob is more than a name on panel 06W, line 23. He is more than forever nineteen. He is forever a Marine, and a damn fine Marine. On this 34th anniversary, give him a thought, join me in a toast, and remember that someday we will be the FNG's and Bob will be the old salt.

Semper Fidelis

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