A Flower of Hope: A tribute to Richard Boltz, A Veteran and my Brother

Updated: July 25, 2015


Richard was the middle brother a peace keeper and the man in the middle. When we were young, we lived in a house with a dirt road running up from the main black top. It was an extension to our cousin’s driveway. We were a hard group of boys and our parents often used corporal punishment and Richard always seemed to get the worst of it. At the age of 11 Richard was shot in the chest, just above his heart. His rib redirected the bullet and saved his life. When this happened everyone was crying, except Richard, he never cried. Our oldest brother seemed to be the most physically gifted and Richard lived in his shadow.

In high school David, the oldest brother, was a decathlon winner and overall track star. Richard decided to follow in his shadow once again. When they raced Richard would finish last and would laugh it off and say someone has to lose. He was proud just to have made the team. Richard was more academic and generally made the best grades, so he was the smart one.  With parents that often drank and used a lot of physical discipline, we all had become detached socially, except Richard. He seemed to have a greater understanding of life early on.

Big brother David was a natural and he joined the Army and became a Green Beret and set the bar very high for the rest of us. When Richard followed in his footsteps and joined the army, he was selected for the Presidential Honor Guard. Once he finished training he went to become a computer technician. Richard had found his niche. He was superb, top of the class. I remember he was burning the candle at both ends. When he was driving back to base one night, he fell asleep and totaled his car, escaping any serious injury. God always had an eye on Richard. He had to overcome many obstacles.

I remember Richard getting orders to go to Vietnam. This was a moment of truth. I remember his last night before he left. We went drinking at the quarry and went swimming in the middle of the night and there was a full moon. This was the last time I would ever see Richard wearing his heart on his shoulder. He was always a caring person. We didn’t have it easy as children and had to tough it out. Our mother’s favorite book was the “Profit” and her favorite passage was on “Children” and how they were not our children;

On Children

By Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

This is a great philosophy, but with our mother would become a somewhat distorted and dangerous tool from a mother constantly drinking every day. Times were different and at times I believe this became a crutch and an excuse for her not to be very nurturing. This had a significant impact on all of us, but especially Richard, as he was very intelligent and thoughtful “the smart one”, not many knee jerk responses from him. Also the drinking would become a mark on the path of life.

Vietnam was life changing for Richard. I believe Richard had the most caring heart of us, but was lacking certain direction, attempting to follow in his big brothers footstep. In Vietnam Richard became a victim of the worst of war. His group was far north and in constant contact, getting motored daily and going out on patrols, clearing the jungle for the front line infantry, who was immediately behind his group.

All of his friends and comrades are gone today and I am sure happy to have the reunion in a warrior’s heaven.  He described the ambushes he experienced in Vietnam and he survived the worst. For Richard the worst was yet to come. There was no part of this war that prepared Richard for the rest of the war, when he got home. I didn’t even recognize him upon his return. Richard was emaciated and withdrawn, smoking a cigarette in my mother’s kitchen with a thousand mile stare as if he had left something behind. Richard did leave something behind, but returned with his demons that would never leave him.

It was Richard’s heart that kept him going after his return, constantly trying to do the right thing by fitting in, while fighting his personal demons, dreams and nightmares of war. Richards’s new war would haunt him until the end. Like most others with the same experiences, Richard found some peace and reality in drugs.

One thing about Richard was his ability to never give up and find some truth and hope in all of his endeavors. Richard left the east coast and moved to Albuquerque NM to find peace. From the mid-70’s until his death, Richard carved a life of love and created his own reality, caring for all who crossed his path and doing what he thought was right to keep the family together and at peace, all the while attempting to stay out of the middle of a scattered and broken family. With all of that he would send a dozen yellow roses to his mother every year without fail, Richards offering of peace and love.

When Richard was in Vietnam he sent my mother a picture of him in a burnt out and blown away baron trench with nothing living, except one white flower, with a note to his mother, “A Flower of Hope, in  Hopeless place”. I think this flower and Richards words, symbolized Richards Heart for the rest of his life.

Richard would become a man that could talk to all with a voice of reason and experience. He also knew when to walk away, without being offensive. Richard learned to make the most with the least and find peace and hope until the end.

Then Richard found Karleen. Karleen became Richards’s truth. I remember when Richard had met Karleen, he didn’t say much about her to the family as if he did not want to jinx his future and his life with her, instead he would preserve her in his heart and protect her from old family values, that led all of his siblings to war and self-destruction, not realizing the success we could really achieve.

Karleen became Richards “Flower of Hope”. I could hear it in his voice, not by what he said, but by what he didn’t say. Richard never gave anyone anything at all they could use to say nor do anything negative towards Karleen. This I know for a fact. He kept her close to his heart and never let go, all the way to the end. I am sure Richard is watching over her now.

Richard suffered from his personal demons he carried to the end and still found peace and hope. Mainly he found this through hard work, and caring for others. Richard was emotionally tough and enduring, realizing the value of never quitting. Richard was loved by those who he came in contact with and in some ways changed most people’s life for the better, just knowing him. Richard could turn darkness into light, just by following his own inner voice. The same voice, which found that flower of hope, in a hopeless place.

Rest-in Peace my Brother



Thanks, Smokey.