Farewell to a friend
My friend Douglas Fargo passed away last week after a long struggle with cancer in the Community Living Center at our local VA hospital. He just observed his 90th birthday last month which was the last major goal on his horizon.
Even though he knew that his medical situation was hopeless (the tumor on his kidney was inoperable) he maintained a stoic selfless attitude and demonstrated the self confidence and courage that had long been his most evident traits. They were recognized in World War II by General Patton who observed his performance in the field and ordered that he be given a battlefield commission.
Following the war he returned to the U.S., attended college, and became an automobile quality control engineer. He was mobilized for the Korean War where he led eleven combat patrols at a place called “Heart Break Ridge.” He prided himself that in those very dangerous operations he only lost three men. Demobilized after the cease fire, he returned to civil life working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its inspector general.
Doug remained a leader throughout the rest of his life raising a family and moving here after retirement, actively engaging in numerous civil and military organizations in the Eastern Panhandle.
He was proud of his military experience and the sense of purpose that it had always provided. He instilled those values in his son and grandson who also served proudly in the U.S. military. He lost the grandson who he adored, a U.S. Army Medic in the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.
So after this challenging and very rewarding life, we always found him sitting up in a reclining chair at the Martinsburg VA hospital (taking to his bed would have been giving up). While he was still mobile and able to get around in a wheel chair, we included him in our periodic 40 and 8 dinners. When that was no longer possible we visited him weekly and shared in celebrating his 90th birthday which was moved from his church to the hospital, but still very well attended.
As his symptoms grew more severe and continued to reduce his quality of life he refused to complain or feel sorry for himself. He remarked that he was still being cared for by one doctor who hadn’t given up on him “That Doc upstairs.” The only complaint that I could elicit from him when I asked about the food was that “they don’t seem to have any red meat in this place.”
The staff of doctors and nurses and all-important volunteers were wonderful and treating him with care and respect. They called him “Doug” or “Lieutenant” which always brought a smile. His WWII and Korea War ball cap was always in evidence along with maps of where he had served. On my last visit a few days before his end I asked if there was anything I could bring him. He shook his head and after a big sigh he humbly looked down at his feet and said, “No you know, I am just bored.” My surmise is that after this long struggle, he had simply gotten tired and quit.
The point of all this is that just maybe, if more of us had taken the time to go see him, spend some quality time with him, his final days and hours would have been more rewarding. After all that he had done for us, it would have been a small gesture. There are still many “Doug Fargo’s” over at the VA hospital who would be delighted by a visit. It would be a nice to way to thank them for their service!