With all the heightened rhetoric these days about the potential for armed conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, it seems especially fitting this week to commemorate National Purple Heart Day on August 7. This special day honors all of the brave men and women over the years who have been injured or given their lives for our country. This post specifically honors my husband, 1st Lieutenant James Larry Hull, and father to our daughter, Laura.
Larry was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his mission in flying an unarmed Cessna O-2A in Laos as a Special Operations Forward Air Controller. He was killed on February 19, 1971, while coming to the aid of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol deep in hostile territory. Larry’s bravery placed himself directly in harm’s way. The citation bestowed upon him reads, in part, “The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Hull in the dedication of his service to his country reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Airforce.”
Today’s musical blog focuses on “Ballad of The Green Berets”, which was released in 1966, the year Larry and I were married. During our first blind date, Larry told me his goal was to become an officer and a pilot in the United States Air Force. I understood and valued his dream, just he valued mine, which was to become a teacher and maybe even a principal. Graduation was the first step towards realizing these desires; in my book, Where the Water Meets the Sand, I wrote, “We promised to love, cherish and graduate.”
With Larry, I believed anything was possible. Not until after he earned his pilot’s wings and received orders for Vietnam, for survival training and for Cessna O2-A training, did it occur to me that my beautiful, brave, blond, loving husband might never return home from the war. At the time, I quickly pushed that thought out of my mind, because we were young; living and dreaming as if we were invincible, until I suddenly came to learn we weren’t.
The “Ballad of The Green Berets” (listen here) was a favorite of Larry’s as soon as it was released. Written by Staff Sargent Barry Sadler as he trained to be a Special Forces medic, it was one of the few popular, positive songs from the Vietnam War. In fact, it reached number one for five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and eventually became the number one single in 1966.
The song has double significance for me and my family, as my brother, Lt. J.G. Clifton Rodney Decker, earned two Purple Hearts while serving in the Navy, commandeering PT boats down the Mekong River Delta. He came home before Larry left for Vietnam, and Larry and Rodney became very close over their shared military journey.