A Tribute to
Frank Holguin
by
Daniel Statnekov (Danny Stat)

June 14, 1943 ~ March 15, 1964

 


"Maybe it's because I left Calif. when I was 15 that my memory of those years at Paul Revere are still intact. Unlike most of you who went on to graduate from Uni, I didn't have the following years to overlay those 7th, 8th, and 9th grade memories.

Sure, I have subsequent memories, but they're of a very different ilk: east coast, no beach, new schools, unfamiliar surroundings along with kids who were already well on their way when I arrived on the scene a couple of months into the 10th grade.

As with everyone, life progressed for me too, but my brief years in Southern California stand out, frozen in the sort of time warp that might develop under such circumstances. Consequently, names and faces on the Uni site photo page align with a discrete memory bank that's been preserved in it's own sheltered place, largely unscathed by the subsequent 40-odd years that have passed since we all first set foot in University High School. Although Frank Holguin's photograph is missing from the Islander graduation lineup, his name and the announcement of his death in Vietnam came as a palpable shock to me this morning.

So I did the only sensible thing and got back into bed, curled up with a couple of cats, and thought about Frank, a boy I hadn't seen or thought of for more than 40 years, and who had been dead for more than half my lifetime. I remembered Frank's jet-black hair combed back into a D.A. .....like mine; I remembered Frank's stark white tee-shirt....also, like mine; I remembered that we both had switch-blade knives (only somewhat illegal then) and how we had once tempted authority by throwing them into the wood floor at the back of our classroom when the teacher had her back to us.

I remembered that we both used to ink a tiny cross with three dots above it in the crease between our thumb and forefinger on our left hand. I remembered that Frank was the first to get his girlfriend to "go all the way," but then Frank had his house all to himself for a couple of hours after school before his mom came home from work.

So, as I lay there curled up in bed this morning with those cats, feeling this knot in my gut, I worked through (although I can't really say that they're "through.") other feelings that I have about Vietnam: other losses: friends as well as relatives whose names along with Frank's are inscribed on that black wall in Washington.

I thought about my own dumb luck in having been rejected after volunteering in 1961 to be one of Kennedy's first thousand to go there. Maybe Frank and I might have even met up again in Vietnam, I thought, maybe we'd become pals again, talk about the good old days at Paul Revere, carry guns and hand grenades together into the jungle, and maybe both of us could have been the first to die from our state or city: Frank from Los Angeles and me from Delaware; after all, there was a first from every state who died there. So Frank didn't walk through that door alone, and there were certainly plenty that followed.

I saw Frank this morning, as he walked through death's door with that wry smile of his, first guy from Southern California killed in Vietnam, his tee-shirt white as snow, jet-black hair slicked back into a D.A., comb sticking out from the back pocket of his jeans.

But I'm not going to remember Frank as the "first" boy from Southern California who was killed in Vietnam; I think I'll remember that he was the "first" to get his girlfriend to go all the way; I can live with that.