By Vanessa Mallory Kotz
I come from a military family, all Air Force, four generations worth. My grandfather, William Mallory, made a lifetime career of it. I don’t remember him talking about his rank or daily tasks, but I’ll never forget the stories he told of taking over as pilot on some missions because his brothers in arms had partied a little too hard the night before. It was their little secret. His buddies knew they could always rely on Bill to complete the mission and bring them home safe. He served during WWII in Paris. As a child, I was told his job was to help free the Jews and all people oppressed by Hitler, a very bad man. Only as an adult do I understand what that meant, and I do so with pride.
Both his sons served during the Vietnam War, enlisting as soon as they were old enough. My uncle was older and sent to the front lines where he worked as an aircraft mechanic. During a raid at the air field a Vietnamese man rushed him, and my uncle was forced to shoot to save his own life. When he looked at the lifeless body of his would-be-assassin, he realized it was his barber from the village. A man he was friendly with and fond of. It was his only kill. Well into his 70s, my uncle still dreams about this man. He’s sure that the Vietnamese solider didn’t recognize him in the heat of battle. So the story goes.