David Fitts: A Tribute to My Older Brother

Ricky Fitts

I was born second in line behind my older brother, Ricky.  He was 3 and 1/2 years older than me. 

Early on, sibling rivalry developed between us.  I always wanted to tag along with Ricky and his friends but being as much younger as I was, they didn’t want me around. 

At one point, Ricky and his friends formed a Yankees fan club.  I really wanted to be part of it only to once again be denied.  That year, the Yankees played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.  Since I couldn’t be in the Yankees fan club, I rooted for the Pirates.  The Pirates won the series and I became a fan for many years. 

Ricky went away to a Catholic seminary for his first two years of high school.  In spite of our sibling rivalry, I found myself missing him at times.  When he came home, though, the sibling rivalry resumed.  As I had developed my own circle of age appropriate friends, the intensity of the rivalry was far less.

When I started my first year at Catholic high school seminary in Missouri, Ricky was in his senior year at local Catholic high school in Louisville.  I was homesick at times. 

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up and many of the local St. Louis area boys going home to be with their families, the homesickness was particularly intense.  Ricky took the Greyhound and came to visit me over that weekend.  His visit meant the world to me.  The bitterness of the sibling rivalry was completely dissolved over that weekend.

After graduating from high school, Ricky began a job as a union sheet metal
worker.  The Vietnam War was going full tilt by then. Ricky, being the young patriotic man that he was, felt very strongly that he needed to serve his country.  In the fall of 1967, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.  The following spring, he came home to Louisville before shipping out to Vietnam.  I had to get special permission to leave the seminary to visit home before Ricky left. The time of the visit flew by and Ricky took me back to airport to fly back to St. Louis.  He walked with me to the tarmac.  As I reached the top of the stairs to the plane, I turned to wave goodbye to him. 

Our eyes locked and I immediately knew that I would not see him again.  I
remember going to my seat with tears in my eyes and a stewardess asking me if I was okay.  “Yes,” I said “I just said goodbye to my brother who’s going to Vietnam.”  I didn’t tell her what provoked the tears.

On June 15th , 1968, just 10 days after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, one of Ricky’s heroes, Ricky was killed in action in Quan Tri Province, Vietnam.  It was the day before my 16th birthday.  On Tuesday, June 18th, I was standing on our front porch with some friends when the Marine Corps car pulled into the driveway.  My heart sank and there was a pain in the pit my stomach.  I knew why they had come and that our lives were never going to be the same.


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