When I went to the Menemsha School as a kid, the post office was in the Chilmark Tavern building just a stone’s throw away from the school house. Bette Carroll was the postmistress and her husband Curly helped out with the mail as well. At recess, our teachers would grant permission to those who asked to go to the post office and buy tasty goodies that Bette and Curly sold there. I remember a rack holding coffee cakes, Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, potato chips, Hostess CupCakes and Table Talk pies. My favorites were lemon pies and Devil Dogs.

Whenever I ran into Bette, our conversations were usually about the birds we’d seen recently, the fish we caught or perhaps we’d show each other our latest arrowhead finds. We shared these same talks until recently.

Bette’s funeral was Tuesday and as we all stood in the gentle rain at her graveside, I looked around at the large crowd of mostly Chilmarkers and noted many people were dressed in rubber boots and rain jackets and some held umbrellas high over their heads.

Toward the end of the service, John Taylor the minister invited anyone to speak about Bette if they wanted to. As the wind whispered through the pine trees and a crow called out nearby, I thought about arrowheads, fishing, Table Talk pies, birds — thoughts of many years knowing Bette. Bette was a kind and generous person. If I were to ask if I could borrow her car, she would most likely say “sure,” without hesitation and she would walk home.

I stood in the rain wanting to share something with the crowd of friends, something that Bette did for me that was most meaningful.

I knew what I wanted to say but it was hard for me to speak. I almost didn’t, but I owed it to my 92-year-old friend, so I just blurted it out.

I served in Viet Nam and it’s a difficult subject to talk about, just saying the word Viet Nam makes my body shake, and my heart beats faster now as I type this.

In 1969, my platoon of about 30-plus men had just walked out of the mountains of Laos, a mission of secrecy, a country we were not supposed to be in but neither were the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, so we went in after them. The weather was awful, lots of rain, high muggy temperatures, mosquitoes, jungles, foot rot, misery, battles and a shortage of food. The choppers couldn’t resupply us because they couldn’t fly into another country and by the time we came back into the mountains of Viet Nam, the weather was bad and most of us hadn’t eaten in two to three days.

I only told this story in order for you who are reading to appreciate my circumstances. What I said at the funeral happened shortly after we walked out of the mountains and into a nearby valley. The following is what I said:

In 1969, I was in the jungles of Viet Nam and one day choppers came in and dropped off resupplies and I got a package. I opened the package and inside were three-week-old homemade cookies, candy and chewing gum. There was also a note that read, “Be careful, come home soon. Love, Bette.”

Gazette contributor Albert O. Fischer lives in West Tisbury.