Barb Holbrook

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IN MEMORY OF MY BROTHER, STEPHEN JOHN ECKLE ON THIS VETERANS DAY by Barb Holbrook

I have never had the opportunity to publish an article about my brother who was killed in action, in Viet Nam, April 12, 1968, but I now have a venue with the Bricker Bulletin!

Our family always lived on the west side in Columbus, Ohio, or the Hilltop, as it was called. As children, in the 1950's, our grade school days not only had fire drills but also bomb drills with the always present threat of Nuclear War with Russia and Communism lurking in the shadows. When the warning siren sounded, we would go to either the hallway or under our desks in an orderly manner, sit cross legged with our heads between our legs and our arms crossed over the back of our heads until the all clear siren sounded. We didn't really understand the horror of what the alert meant, had it been real, but the cold war, communism, and A(tom) and H(ydrogen) bombs were words in our vocabulary. We grew up with this threat as kids but still didn't truly understand the immensity of nuclear war, and merely acted as obedient children doing what we were instructed to do.

The fifties also gave us "B" Movies about UFO's, giant tarantulas, ants, robots, forbidden planets, invaders from Mars, creatures from black lagoons, days that the earth stood still, wars of worlds, and other such things as that. War movies were big then, too, because Korea and World War 2 had not been over that many years.

At our dinner table, discussions on religion, politics, extra terrestrials, UFO's, ESP and ghosts were common, because we grew up with those topics. Because of our upbringing, Steve was very interested in science. He was intelligent, and read a lot. He was also a tad bit daring and adventuresome, "walking on the wild side". Though he went by the beat of a different drum, having many varied interests, Steve maintained a good personality, was kind, loving, polite and funny. He was always a gentleman. He was talented, too, and wanted to learn everything. Drag Racing was big in the 50's and 60's, and he loved, literally, his 56 Chevy and racing at Hyde Park Drag Strip. He also was a self taught guitarist and once played in a Rock and Roll band. He loved dancing, partying and the girls. Partying proved to be his demise, however, in college, after flunking out of OSU, twice. A short time after the 2nd time, his number came up on the draft. The Army nabbed him at the ripe old age of 22 or 23. He was married by this time and had a pretty good job.

Steve wanted to be more than a foot soldier, or infantry, as his MOS, and Helicopter Flight School still had slots. That was most appealing to him, because he had once taken a flying lesson in a fixed wing aircraft. He passed the tests, went to Basic Training, and on to Ft Rucker for his Flight School training. He graduated with his Warrant, and got his orders for Viet Nam, which was pretty much.a given at that time in our country's history. Nearly everyone drafted might as well count on going to Viet Nam.

He arrived, in country, July of 67, and moved to his unit's location at Tay Ninh, Viet Nam. Steve named his first helicopter, or "Slick", which was a Troop Carrier, "Hilltopper". At some time, shortly thereafter, he qualified to fly Gunships, which I have been told by some of his comrades, was only given to the elite and most respected in a unit. This was nice to hear, thirty plus years later from guys I have corresponded with from his unit, the 187th Assault Helicopter Company's, Website. I have received many letters, and all spoke very highly of Steve.

On April 12, 1968, Steve's aircraft was on a mission, flying low, just above the tree line, over a rubber plantation when they took enemy fire, and went down. All but one of the crew was killed. Steve had 60 some days left before he was due to come home.

This is my tribute to you, Steve! You left this world prematurely, because you were just doing your job, not because you were trying to be a hero. Unlike today, your war was very unpopular. Some of your country's citizen's spit on those of you that returned alive after their tours were completed. I am glad you didn't experience that kind of homecoming. But you would be proud of your country today! We are in a new kind of war, one with terrorists, who have killed Americans on American soil. You and I never thought we would see this as children, secure in our "Father Knows Best" lives, even though we lived through the Russian threat of Communism. No one would dare tread on the United States, not the greatest country in the world. But now I have seen it happen to America. I have seen America attacked on her soil, September 11, 2001.

 

                        

 

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