Choices made — by us or for us — forever change our future footsteps

By Todd Franko

It’s back-to-school season, and with three grade-schoolers, we have been invaded by list after list of school supplies.

I wanted to complain about the crazy industry that has been made of school supplies, and how schools and teachers have deployed a full-on assault that has weakened the fortitude of parents.

Well ... that was the Friday column plan.

But it will have to wait.

Work got in the way.

Specifically, I had to edit two stories Friday; they are stories you can read today on A1.

The stories involve a dramatic period about 40 years ago and the way it changed forever the lives of some local young men.

The contrasts in their lives weren’t much growing up as young Valley men.

But the contrasts were dramatic once in pivotal places on Earth in the throes of changing times.

As were the results.

One story is of the anniversary of Woodstock, and how three Valley men stumbled onto a weekend concert that became a key event in the lives of many.

The other story is of Richard “Doc” Powell. He was in the fields of Vietnam, not Woodstock.

And one day, he was dead.

Life is choices, and we make them every second we live. And often, choices are made for us.

Choices are as small as vanilla vs. chocolate.

They’re bigger, like buying this house or that house.

They’re life-changing, like moving cross country for a job.

And they’re permanent — like the choice made by Doc Powell — and made for him.

In our stories today, you get a chance to digest and process the choices made and the layering effects of them.

Who chose the Vietnam War and why? We’ve lived for decades with the decisions made back then. This summer, I was able to take a picture of my sons reflecting off the Vietnam Memorial and the thousands of names engraved on that wall and that choice. How was it decided that Doc Powell ended up in the killing fields of Vietnam and not the musical fields of Bethel, N.Y.?

Doc Powell made a decision to rush into the middle of an intense firefight to tend to his comrades shot, wounded and in pain.

As told by one of his war buddies, Powell tended to one of the wounded just yards away from an enemy machine-gun nest. With one arm disabled from a gunshot wound suffered minutes earlier, Powell attempted to tie off the wound of a comrade using his other hand and his teeth.

That’s the final image Jeff Lannan of Newark, Ohio, has of Powell before Powell took a fatal bullet wound.

In Lannan’s arms, Powell died.

He made the choice amid pleas and orders to not charge into the field as it was under intense fire. To this day, Lannan lives with that moment.

I paused reading the stories and just wondered what Powell’s life might have been had he been in the fields of Woodstock instead.

There’s nothing unique about this, and it happens every day. It’s just not often that you’re able to hold up to your eyes, and place side by side, simultaneous events and dramatically different results.

I wanted to complain about school supplies.

I still do.

But today, my choice is that I won’t.

In reading the final moments of Doc Powell’s life, I’m just glad I have the chance to choose.

Choose to get to the story today on Page A1.

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