“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
-- George S. Patton
A friend of mine, Russ Niemann, died on June 15, 2007, at the age of fifty-nine.
He was a career drummer in a rock band.
He was a retired mailman.
He was a Viet Nam combat vet.
And he was one of the finest men I ever knew.
Russ told me that he knew, even when he was in First Grade, what he wanted to become in life.
He said were always three things he wanted to be.
He wanted to be a drummer.
He wanted to be a soldier.
And he wanted to be a father.
He became a drummer. He played in bands since he was in high school. And opened for groups like Tommy James and the Shondells and The Grass Roots. And continued to practice and record and play in groups until he died.
And he served as a soldier in the United States Army; saw combat in Viet Nam; was awarded several medals, including two Purple Hearts; and achieved the rank of Sergeant.
I think his biggest regret in life was that he never became a father. But he always said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
And now, his parents and brother are all dead. And except for an elderly aunt and a cousin or two, Russ has no family left to pass on the story of his life. And the stories in his life. That responsibility rests with his friends.
This is not an attempt to be a eulogy. I made several attempts to do that already.
And found that I couldn’t make it short enough.
Instead, this is a reflection on the kind of man Russ was.
And collection of the stories he told me.
I don’t claim this to be completely accurate. This was drawn from my memories. And sometimes our memories become what we want them to be.
Nor do I claim this to be complete. I took no time to interview Russ’ friends and collect their thoughts and stories.
But I hope this will give you a glimpse of a well-loved man.