War and Loss

Stephen W. Pickett was 20 years old when he was killed in Vietnam in 1967. Vickie Miano, Stephen’s sister, recalls the day her family learned the news. Stephen is honored on Panel 31E, Row 94 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. This story is told on pages 107-110 of Bringing It All Back Home.

Vicki Miano recalls learning of her brother’s death:

VM:                 It was probably like maybe early morning–mid-morning; I don’t know if it was around lunchtime or not–there was a soldier that came to the door and my mother was sleeping and my brother, Chris, and I were home. And he asked if our parents were home and we both said, “No,” because when my mother was sleeping and with her asthma, you know like you just didn’t wake her up quickly because then she would get into this asthma attack or whatever. And so he said, “When are they going to be back?” And I said, “Sometime in the afternoon,” and he said, “Okay, I’ll return.” And there was a package at the door and I don’t remember who it was from, you know someone had sent a Christmas present and Chris and I were arguing about who was going to open it. And you know we were getting into this battle a little bit and my mother said, “Who was at the door?” And we said, “Oh, it was some soldier.”

And I remember looking at her face; she knew right away. She called my grandmother; my grandparents lived in Flushing, and we lived in Jackson Heights and she called them and my father used to work in the neighborhood and sometimes he would go do–he would have lunch in a shopping center, which was about five or six blocks away in this luncheonette, and she said, “Go see if your father is in the luncheonette.” And we went to go get–and sure enough we found him in the luncheonette reading his paperbacks, which is what he used to do a lot of. As soon as we told him…

PN:                  You knew at this point?

VM:                 We didn’t know anything; he didn’t tell us anything.

PN:                  Your mom didn’t tell you anything at this point either?

VM:                 No.

PN:                  She said, “Just go get your dad?”

VM:                 Right; she was calling my grandparents and said, “Go get your dad.” And so I guess maybe it was another couple hours after that or so–I don’t remember exactly the time period–but by the time that the soldier came back, both my grandparents were there, my father was home, my mother was there and he came to the door. They let him in and–said, “I’m sorry; I regret to inform you or whatever but your son was killed on December 14th.” My grandmother starts screaming; that was her birthday–that is her birthday–was her birthday. My father went–we have–it was a pretty long hallway and then there’s a door to the basement and he opened up the door and he stepped down into the basement and the next thing I knew he put his fist through the wall. My mother was hysterical–just hysterical and my grandfather was just sitting there, you know–he was also crying and stuff. I mean it was just–whew, like I said–37 years ago, but you can remember it as if it was yesterday.

Stephen’s name, as it appears on the New York Vietnam Memorial Wall:

Stepehn Pickett IMG_0217