It was the 1960s. I was in high school. The boy next door was handsome, kind, friendly. Three years my senior, Ronnie was a casual friend of my brother and I doubt he ever knew of the giant crush I had on him.
His parents had died young and he was being raised by his ancient grandmother, a dour woman I did not know well. He had no siblings. After finishing high school, Ronnie joined the Marines and the last time I saw him he was in uniform, heading for his first deployment in Vietnam. He died there and his grandmother died shortly after.
Every year on Memorial Day I think of Ronnie because there is no one left to honor his memory. Every year his death reminds me of the cost of war and ultimately, the cost of freedom. Though I believed that war to be wrong, the sacrifices there were no less noble.
Ronnie never saw his 20th birthday.