The words and abbreviations on marker 53-327 in Arlington National Cemetery are at once terse and all inclusive, summing up everything the United States Army needed to know or say about:
Peter Jason Angle
CPL CO B 2 BN1 Air Cav Div
Jan 20 1949
July 1 1968
BSM AM PH
Peter Jason Angle, resident of Virginia, corporal in Company B of the Second Battalion of the 1st Air Cavalry, died in Vietnam on the 163d day of his 20th year. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart.
He was also the first born and only son of Luther E. and Louise Angle. And they have suffered his loss these past nine years.
When the chaplain and the sergeant first visited the Angles' neat clapboard Dutch Colonial in Arlington they found the house empty. Luther and Louise Angle were out to dinner.
But at 8 the next morning, July 2, 1968, "I heard them. Louise was still asleep," Peter's father recalled yesterday, just before a holiday visit to the grave.
Angle said the sergeant asked, "Are you Luther Angle?"
"Is your son Peter Angle?"
"I said 'yes' and gave him the serial number," Angle continued. "I knew what it was as soon as I saw them. I remembered from World War II.
Peter Angle lies dead in Arlington Cemetery, but he is still very much alive inside the house in which he grew up.
The sheet music to "The Little Drummer Boy" still sits on the piano in the living room, just as it did that last Christmas before Peter shipped out for Southeast Asia.
The yellow 1st Air Cavalry patch hangs framed on the living room wall. Beneath it, in Latin, the words: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" - How sweet and becoming it is to die for your country.
There are pictures of Peter. Peter in uniform with a girl friend. Peter as a crew-cut child. Peter with his sister.
And in the basement here is the collection of Peter's effects and letters, many items still sitting in the desk drawers where he left them before shipping out.
"I still can't bring muself to touch his things," his mother said yesterday. "It would be like invading his privacy." It was only last year that Louise Angle stopped visiting the white stone marker several times a week, taking fresh flowers to Peter and watering the flowers on nearby graves.
Louise Angle said it "made me feel better to go" to the cemetery. "When your child dies, a part of you dies with him."
To the Army, Peter Jason Angle was a soldier. To his mother, he will always be a child.
"It's lonely without him," she said. "Couples today should have three or more children. Then if one dies it's not so hard."
It took the Angles all these years to accept the finality of Peter's death.
An insurance check arrived an unseemly two days after the notification of his death, and Louise Angle "just stuck it way. I kept thinking they must have made a mistake. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe he wasn't coming home. We didn't have the casket open or anything.
"At first I didn't touch it (the check) because it (his death) wasn't true. But then I didn't because . . ." Her voice thickened, but didn't crack. "It's sort of a nest egg."
Peter Angle was not a victim of the draft. He was a volunteer from a family of volunteers whose roots go back on both sides to the American Revolution.
"He enjoyed the Army, as such," his father recalled. "He was really gung ho."
"He was upset because he hadn't done well in college," she said of her son. "He said, 'This time you're going to be proud of me, Ma.'" It is hard to believe Louise Angle was ever not proud of Peter.
His parents remember the little things, the happy moments that make a collection of biologically connected individuals a family. The week Peter spent in New York with his sister during the 1968 Christmas season. "He had a wonderful, wonderful time."
Or the evening after his graduation from basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., when Peter "was so proud he insisted on paying for the meal. He insisted that the treat had to be on him," his father recalled yesterday.
And the afternoon when his mother found him out taking photographs of the neighborhood. "He wanted to take them with him" to Vietnam, she said.
Then there were the letters home. "He was always so happy, so up. He was a happy boy. It was a terrific shock because I had no idea" of the danger Peter was in every day in Quangtri Province.
The first hint of that danger came one week before the visit of the sergeant and chaplain. "The last letter we got he said his best friend had been killed. He sent us a picture. They have a little service and put the rifle in the ground and put his hat on top of it," said Louise.
"Helmet," corrected Luther, who saw action in the Pacific as a staff sergeant during World War II.
There was one final letter. It arrived a week after's death. "He was going on R&R and he was going to Hawaii. It was his turn because he was the oldest in his platoon. He wanted us to meet him there and he signed the letter, Aloha."
Yesterday, at the graveside, Louise Angle looked at the two roses, picked beside the white clapboard house and brought to Peter, and at plastic flowers on a nearby grave.
"That's not right," she said. "A young person shouldn't have anything artifucial. He was so young. He was just coming into his own."
"You think about him being so young," said Luther Angle, "but there's nothing you can do . . ."