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Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado

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Preface

 

Life is often measured in terms of months, decades, and years. For the young soldier facing combat on foreign shores life can be defined.... and lost....in fleeting seconds. In one moment of horror a bond was born between Jaime Pacheco and I in Vietnam, a bond that would impact my life forever. In yet another fleeting second, Jaime lost his life.

This booklet was written six months after Jaime was killed in Vietnam. I never really intended it for publication and perhaps thought of it more as a personal diary or journal. The single copy I made in 1973 remained archived for 25 years with my black beret, Jaime's letters, the letter from our Ranger Executive Officer detailing Jaime's death, and a letter from Jaime's wife (written to me a month after Jaime died.) Through the years and several moves, all of my photos and other physical memorabilia from two tours in Vietnam were lost. Only the aforementioned survived the quarter century.

Of all the photos, copies of news stories I had written, and other personal memorabilia; the one I lamented the loss of most was a picture taken of Jaime and me shortly after the mission referred to in this booklet. But through the years I found I did not need a photograph to keep Jaime constantly in memory. As an active public speaker much involved in veteran's programs, I talked of Jaime often. And throughout the years there was seldom a night that I did not wonder where Michael Pacheco, the boy who was only 18 months old when his father was killed, was. My four children knew both Michael and Jaime by name, though they had never met. My reoccurring dream was that one day I would visit Jaime's grave in Hobbs, New Mexico; and while standing there would finally meet his family.

 

 

Of the millions of photographs in the historical files of the First Cavalry Division, the fact that the picture of Jaime and me that meant so much would one day be "randomly" chosen and published on the cover of the 1997 Cav calendar, is beyond coincidence. I should not have been surprised, for it seems God has interwoven Jaime's and my life from the moment we first met. With the publication of the calendar, I felt a renewed urgency to find Jaime's family and share the calendar with them.

On January 20, 1998, a year after the calendar was published, I received a long distance call from Texas from a young lady identifying herself as Lenay Pacheco, Michael Pacheco's wife. After all the years, all the wrong phone calls and lost letters, thanks to the staff at Angel Fire, New Mexico, Jaime's son and I would finally meet.

The phone conversation that evening was long and emotional, but a dream come true. Michael asked, "What can you tell me about my father?" For the first time in more than 20 years I pulled this booklet from my files and reread it. When I finished I felt that it said more about Jaime and who he was than anything I could say over the phone. That same evening I faxed a copy to Michael. The following day, after making photocopies for myself, I sent him the originals of Jaime's letters, written in his father's own hand twenty-five years before.

Within a month I was contacted by one of Jaime's sisters, and shortly thereafter spoke with Jaime's mother. I shared with them copies of the calendar, and Michael shared with them copies of my fax to him containing this story. At their request I am sharing it herein. Almost without exception, it is word-for-word as I wrote it months after Jaime's death.

As I speak and visit with veterans groups around the country, I am constantly amazed at how the friendships forged in battle so often become lifetime associations. The friendship Jaime and I shared was not only forged in battle, it was nurtured by God. Though Jaime is gone, the impact of his life on mine has survived not only the test of time, but his own death. In many ways when I speak, write, or serve our Nation in any capacity; I like to believe that a part of Jaime Pacheco lives on in me.

C. Douglas Sterner
21 May 1998

FOOTNOTE TO PREFACE:

On Memorial Day, 25 May 1998... 26 years to the day after Jaime's death...I met Jaime's family. As Michael and I went through his father's personal effects, he handed me a box containing a Bible. As I held it in my hands for the first time in 26 years, I opened it and read the inscription: "To Jaime Pacheco, From Doug Sterner, 15 March 1972." That same Memorial Day, wearing the original beret presented to me on behalf of Ranger Team 75 by my closest friend, I held Jaime's mother in my arms as she introduced me as her "oldest son". At the close of Memorial Day Services in Angel Fire, NM I was overwhelmed by emotion as I watched my 21 year old daughter join hands with the 28 year old son of Jaime Pacheco on the platform of the Vietnam Memorial to sing "God Bless America".

Today my best friend's son calls me "dad", and though I know I can never replace the father he lost, I have made the commitment to become the father he found. Somewhere above I believe Jaime is looking down at me with a smile on his face and saying, "Doug, you were a true brother." GOD IS GOOD!

 

 

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