For the past few years, I have been marking Memorial Day with re-postings on two of my high school friends who died in Vietnam. One of them was Michael Gene Vinassa, who died before he was twenty one.
This past weekend I was in the North Hollywood area and decided to swing by Forest Lawn Cemetery before heading back to Orange County. I wanted to visit Mike's grave because on the one previous occasion I was there, I had only found it after great effort and in a driving rainstorm which drove me back to my car after only a few seconds. I wanted to pay a proper visit where I could spend a few minutes and meditate. I also wanted to find my great-aunt's grave, which I had been unable to do the previous time. (Even with the marker numbers, it's still like finding a needle in the haystack at Forest Lawn. For the second time, I failed to locate her grave.)
When Mike was killed, I was just arriving in Germany after finishing Military Police School at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. It's one of the things you think about when you visit the grave of a vet killed in Vietnam. How is it that fate sent me to Germany and Mike to Vietnam and an early death? How is it that I am still alive standing at Mike's grave all these decades later? I am now 69 and Mike is forever 20.
The circumstances of Mike's heroic death are found in this article by a survivor of the battle in which Mike lost his life. As I reported before, Mike was due to finish his tour in Vietnam within days and had to beg his commanding officer into letting him go on the mission.
Mike's mother, Glenadine, survived him by 8 years and is buried next to him. I don't think Mike had any siblings, and it was my recollection that his father was deceased when Mike was young. Mike was all she had.
May you both rest in peace.