You see, I come from a small town in Arizona surrounded by the Colorado River Indian Reservation. We were/are a modern day Mayberry, USA. That is not an exaggeration. The main town is only one square mile. We were and still are a very close knit community but not like it was during the 50's and 60's like most cities were.
We had many championships in all of the major high school sports. The players consisted of Native Americans and the 'city' boys (blonde, blue-eyed). They were all 'brothers'...even though none shared similar blood through their veins.
Our world was polarized when the Viet Nam war began. I don't care how big or small your city might be, no one was excluded from this horrible time. We all held our breaths during the draft. In those days if you went to college you were deferred from service. I didn't understand it then and I still don't. Some even awol'ed to Canada or Mexico.
I don't have a count of how many of our boys were drafted or how many volunteered. My husband volunteered because his brother told him, "if you volunteer they won't send you to Nam." Yup, you guessed it. He went to Nam.
We had three Viet Nam casualties and one in Korea. Rusty Crider, Robert Lee Flores and Vallance G. Arkie were the casualties and Jon Grimm died in a non-combat mission in Korea. My story is about Vallance G. Arkie.
I never knew much about Vallance. That is, until Monday, September 13th. You see I maintain a high school alumni website. A place where alumni can keep in touch with old classmates and friends.
It was through that website that I received a message from a gentleman in Australia. His message below:
This is probably a bit strange but…I am an Australian and was in Vietnam on leave late last year with my family. I purchased a “dog tag” from a street vendor..VG Arkie who I have since found was killed in September 1967.I have tracked down his military listing, and a memorial at Parker High and your tribute to him on another website(VVMF). I would like to return this tag to his family if that is possible. Do you have any other information on Vallance as I feel as if I want to know more about him. I have attached a photo of the tag. Can you help?
Needless to say I was stunned. I sent him a reply asking pertinent questions to make sure he wasn't some sick crackpot. I also did my own research on this person and found out he was indeed genuine.
In one of the email exchanges he attached two photos. One was the vietnamese vendors table and the other was a photo of a single dog tag with the name ARKIE, VG inscribed on it. It sent chills throughout my entire body.
It seems this man, who I will not mention by name just yet, had been to Viet Nam on a vacation with his family. While on his journey he came upon a vendor's table. On that vendor's table was an array of dog tags. He purchased all of the tags and has since spent a year looking to find the families that go with the tags. On his quest he found Vallance's name via the alumni website.
I went to see Vallance's sister on Tuesday. She was shocked and overwhelmed by the news. I think she's still trying to come to terms with the news. Afterall, it's been 43 years since her brother died in Viet Nam.
His parents have since deceased and he also has a brother living in Oklahoma but they rarely speak. Time and tragedy sometimes separates family. I'm hoping this might mend the relationship between the last remaining brother and his sister.
My angel from Australia who is named "Geoff" will always have a special place in my heart and I'm sure in Vallance's family too. He has asked for any information I can give him about who Vallance was. I've sent him a bio of his life so he can get to know about this soldier who served his country with honor and even before those days. It was my pleasure to "introduce" these two men.
The tag was sent from Australia to Arizona yesterday. I get anxious just thinking about the arrival.
In October we will be holding our 5-year All-Class reunion. I will be presenting the tag to Vallance's sister during the opening ceremony. It will be a day to reflect, respect, and rejoice.
Thank you Geoff O'Donnell. You are truly an angel.
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