Or "Rednecks, Black Rock and Fallen Heroes"
by Uncle Hiram
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
I would like to tell y'all a story that has its beginnings in 1968 and involves a person I never met. In 1968 Larry Keith Hocutt was just another Good Ole Boy in Mobile Alabama, more concerned with his Friday night dates than a war halfway around the world. But sometimes reality intrudes on the fantasy that is youth. His Uncle Sam called and Larry smiled put on the uniform and said “Yes Sir.”
He took the training, learned the weapons and marched off to war. I don’t know if he understood the geopolitical theories that involved us in that war. I don’t know if his taste in music was the Rolling Stones or Hank Williams. I don’t know if he preferred Football or Baseball, I don’t know what his friends called him and I never will. What I do know is that on March 29th 1969, 34 days after arriving in Vietnam he paid the ultimate price for American Freedom in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I will not argue the correctness of that war because weather or not it was correct matters not one whit. Larry put on the uniform, went where his Uncle Sam told him too, and DIED doing his duty. Most people would say the story should end right here, but in this case it does not.
In 1984 I was a Ssgt in the USAF stationed at the Pentagon. The lady I was dating at the time was also in the Air Force and since neither of us had ever been to DC we decided to go sight seeing. We spent weeks visiting the museums and monuments around DC, then she decided she wanted to visit “The Wall”. I knew that some of my family had gone to Vietnam but I didn’t know about Larry.
We slowly walked in front of the wall, reading the 50,000 plus names. I will be honest the wall affected me but I still could not completely understand the emotions that were pouring out of the other people visiting the monument. Then my girlfriend noticed Larry’s name (Panel 28W, line 82) and asked if he was related. I squatted down in front of his engraved name and stared at it. Larry Keith Hocutt. I dint know him, I had never met him but he was family. Suddenly I understood, I reached out and touched his name. I cannot explain the reason that I was overwhelmed. The stone was cold to the touch but I felt a connection to this unknown cousin. I learned later that he was from Mobile Alabama, a distant cousin.
I spent two more years in DC and made numerous trips to “The Wall”. Placing small flags in front of his name. Then my hitch in the Air Force was done and I went home. I though about Larry on Veterans Day and Memorial Day but the business of living pushed the experience into the back of my mind.
In 1995 I started doing Genealogy and investigating my family roots. I remembered “The Wall” and the feelings that it had invoked in me but Larry’s name had been buried among the memories of all that I had lived through during the intervening years. Again the story of Larry Keith Hocutt almost ended.
During 1996 the “Mobil Wall” came to Dallas. I thought it was important for my daughters to understand the sacrifice veterans make so one cold Saturday morning we loaded up and headed for Dallas. I don’t know if my conscience was taking an active hand, if my faulty memory was having a good day or if Larry was just lonely but I walked straight to his name. Once more the emotion overwhelmed me. My Youngest daughter who was seven at the time asked me “Daddy who was that?” I told her “Sweetie he was a member of our family, a cousin I never knew.”
Then she asked me a question that made me finally understand why his name on this black marble wall affected me in the way it did. It made me understand why I and thousands of other people feel compelled to make this pilgrimage to “The Wall” and place flags, photos and other memorabilia in front on these names.
The question from the innocent mind of a child was “Daddy is it his blood that the red stripes on the flag is supposed to remind us of? Was he a Hero?’
The only answer I could give her was “Yes, he was an American Hero.”
You see now I understand. Larry died but his story did not, as long as our flag fly’s his story lives on.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)