Andy Pierce, Mike Talley, Rich Wilson, we had been the best of friends.
The three of us had united and shared our thoughts our experiences and our
views on how and what the world was. Or at least what we thought it was at
those tender years of inexperience. We were tight, we supported each other,
even when we ridiculed or antagonized each other. It was us against the world.
We werenít the most popular, the smartest students or the best athletes but
we genuinely liked one another and saw something unique and valuable in our
The seeds for genuine friendship were sown at Bitburg. We trusted one another,
we shared our thoughts and fears, we gave each other the space to be stupid or
unreasonable and accepted that this was a temporary state, an aberration like
snow or rain that visited but did not change the landscape. We didnít know it
at the time but we were storing experiences that were to become powerful memories
and influence how we were to live the rest of our lives.
When Mikeís wife Susan called to tell me that Mike had passed away my shock and
sense of loss was exceeded only by a flood of memories. I thought of Andy and when
Mike had told me that he had seen his name in Washington D.C. on the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial. I remembered Mike at Washington State University where we had
shared a house. I Bitburg to have a beer and play foosball then stopping for pomme
frites on the way back to the base. I remembered benchwarming on the football team
and having better success as soccer players. I remembered hanging out at the Teen Club
and making jokes about teachers, other students and ourselves. I remembered hitchhiking
to wine festivals. I remembered working summers at the Mess Hall making money so I
could buy something cool if it ever showed up at the PX. Most of all I thought about
how easy those days seem now. The freedom we had to get to know who we were as individuals.
That is not to say that we werenít subject to the usual teenage angst but maybe the
structure of being military dependents gave us a stable environment to mature.
It was my good fortune to know Mike when we were teenagers, young men, and middle-aged,
a friendship that lasted close to forty years. We should all be so lucky to have friends
like this. After college when life took us on its different currents, into calm or troubled
waters, we kept in touch. We always seemed to reunite periodically and seamlessly picked up
where we had left off. Some parts of our lives had similarities; we graduated in education,
remained living in Washington State and attended the Orlando reunion as bachelors but brought
our wives to the Texas reunion.
Like so many of those who attended BHS, Mike went on to a successful life. I like to think
that the many experiences we had in Germany have played a large role in who we are today.
Aside from leaving us too soon Mike got the life he deserved, three fine sons, a loving wife,
success in socially rewarding work and a zest for life. Mike was a comfortable man to be around;
he was open and curious, centered and self-effacing. There was solidness to Mike that helped to
ground those around him. He was a man we would do well to emulate.
It feels strange to be the last of our trio, that Andy and Mike are not here to speak for
themselves, that the details of their lives are now presented second-hand and interpreted
by others. It was my eternal good fortune to call those guys my friends. They are missed.
but not forgotten. If there are any lessons from this experience it would be to treasure
your friends, keep in touch, make the effort to call or write an E-Mail. Memories are
precious but take advantage of the here and now.