There is a metal plaque affixed to a bridge over Interstate 90 not far from our home. The text is faded and brief, but the words are haunting.
RICHARD ALLEN LIKELY BRIDGE
IN MEMORY OF RICHARD ALLEN LIKELY
MARCH 13, 1951 - APRIL 27, 1971
CORPORAL "F" TROOP 17TH CALVARY
23RD INFANTRY DIVISION VIETNAM
Passing the plaque, I always wondered about this young man. Who was Richard Allen Likely? He had walked the same streets of our shared hometown outside of Boston, but he had died at such a young age, and so far away.
At the city library, I found his high school yearbook photo from the class of 1968. He grew up less than a mile from the bridge that bears his name. The things he liked were the same as other high school seniors his age, from cars to sports to girls. "Skip Day" is a tradition that is still followed now - my son's high school class did it earlier this month, skipping school en masse as the school year winds down.
Find-a-grave has more information. To those close to him, Richard was known as "Rick," "Ricky," or "Stoney" (for "Bostonian"). He entered Basic Training in January 1970. He was decorated for pulling 4 other men from a burning armored personnel carrier.
His wife, Nancy, noted that Corporal Likely wanted to be buried in a military cemetery.
"Ricky was very clear about his wishes when he requested burial at Soldiers' Lot, at Ft. Devens saying he liked that all the headstones were identical, that all people were treated as equal."
There are plaques, street signs, markers, and flags all over the United States. They honor the young men and women who signed up to serve, and did not return home. Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember every person who died in defense of our country, and their families.
Rest in peace, Rick.