Michael Edward Berdy
Cadet Company: I1
Date of Birth: December 29, 1943
Date of Death: December 26, 1967 -- in Vietnam from hostile action.
Age: 23 years, 11 months and 28 days young. - View or Post a Eulogy
Interred: West Point Cemetery, West Point, N
Location: Sect XXXIV, Row D, Grave 157
I am looking into the bathtub at two happy, and very beautiful boys and, although they are my sons and your nephews, I am actually seeing two completely different children. As I gaze into their sparkling faces my mind is flooded with thoughts and emotions that go back some twenty-five years to when you and I shared a similar tub. In a frustrating moment a montage of mental images passes before me which takes us out of that bathtub through your years of young manhood and my awkward years of adolescence. The memories of love and closeness, which few people on this planet can ever claim, pass so quickly that it only tends to exacerbate the ache of loss and grief which remains a part of me since your death in Vietnam, Christmas 1967. The tears fall from my eyes and, as they do, the entreaties of your oldest nephew Erik to stop, bring me back to the present. You would be proud of him, Mike. He is a good son and brother who is remarkably sensitive and perceptive about the world around him. He stretches his arm out to touch me while simultaneously telling his little brother Mickey that Daddy is crying because their Uncle Mike is gone. For a moment this six year old appears ten years older and somehow his acute awareness of my sorrow lessens the trauma of your early death.
This present undertaking has been a most difficult task for me. I have sought to complete it on many occasions and have failed. A fear that I could not do justice to expressing, in words, the death of the love enjoyed by our family, and a hope that one of your Classmates might assume the task, provided an effective self-imposed obstacle for me. Ten years is too much time, however, and With the past year seeing the end of the War and the concomitant drive to reinstate draft evaders and deserters to a position of total social and political acceptability I feel that the time is propitious for the printing of this farewell to you.
Yes, the years since your death have produced feelings of acrimony and vindictive-ness in your family. This is due, in part, to the frustrating conclusion of the war you died in, and, additionally, to the exoneration of those who violated the law of the land and fled, only to be hailed for their “sacrifices” like some cruel epitaph for the thousands that died. However, if anything has been able to assuage the rancor in our hearts it has been the powerful love which permeates the entire fabric of our family relationship, and the knowledge that in such a short amount of time you had been able to touch so many people. How sad that most men pass a lifetime without experiencing that love or knowing the admiration and respect which you did. Indeed you were a very fortunate man and your family was as equally fortunate for being a part of it.
When I think back to our years together, which is usually every day, what do I remember? Primarily I recall an older brother who showered me with love and sought to ease my own growing pains by passing along the things he had learned before me. Our father, wisely gauging the breadth of your capabilities, allowed you great latitude and autonomy in guiding me through my early years. Always present to apply the brakes if necessary, Dad recognized the special bond between us and allowed it to manifest itself through this subordination of some of his prerogatives to you. No, they were not all days of wine and roses for many were filled with fights and recriminations. However, through it all the one overriding impression that prevails is that there was always a conscious desire on your part to teach me, to prevent me from erring along my path of growth. There was never a selfish motivation or jealous reaction characteristic of most older to younger brother relationships. Or, if there was, you had enough love and understanding to shelter me from it. Whether it was academics, athletics, or just life in general, you assiduously sought to impart in me those lessons which would assist me in achieving the very successes you had. You were not always successful with me and often I would have to learn from my own failures. But ultimately you did succeed in transferring to me the need for hard work and dedication and above all an abounding degree of love and loyalty to our family. That family has grown to include a wife and two boys and I hope that the example you have set lives in my relationship with them. If there is any sadness in this it is the knowledge that we will never be able to share in the common experience of family and career which has marked my life since your departure. I can only hope that you are watching us from afar and gaining pleasure from your observations.
I recall the day of your death and the subsequent traumatic period afterwards as some dark cloud. Tears, hysteria, and above all an aching helplessness to want to strike out at something that simply was not there. We only knew that you would never be coming back to us again and this stabbed at Mom, Dad, and me like a knife piercing our hearts. Your burial at West Point was marked by one overriding aspect—specifically, the attendance of an entire community and scores of classmates wishing to say a last goodbye to their friend and comrade. What was so special about you to command an appearance of so many people? Why did the Corps chant for “Igor” on the football field when you certainly could not be termed a star in a true sense of the word? There are a myriad of reasons, some of which I am probably unaware of. However, foremost among them was a rare blend of leadership, charisma, dedication to hard work, and love and respect for your fellow man which few people were fortunate to have. Your physical, mental, and moral strength impressed all who had contact with you and the flood of sympathy which attested to these qualities serves as testimony to your accomplishments and is a more worthy epitaph then the one alluded to earlier.
You died as a professional doing that which you cherished most—leading an infantry company. Your letters to me were flowing with pride and accomplishment as you recounted your experiences as an infantry officer in combat. They were not filled with the bombast of someone thrilled by the exposure to battle. Rather they reflected the serious nature of war and the death contiguous to it and the role that the leader played in limiting the latter in this destructive experience. You were wounded once and could have avoided return but chose not to knowing that there was a job to finish. Your joining of The Long Gray Line can be noted with pride as you served your Army and country honorably.
We miss you dearly beloved brother. However, our loss is mitigated by the memory of love that we held for each other and by the knowledge that you died doing that which you most wanted to do.
May God be with you. I love you and always will.
—Your brother, Andy