Fifty-one years ago, in Oklahoma City, I spent the evening at a movie. It was "Can-Can". It was hot. Even for a boy, I was 17 years old, from Albuquerque, NM. I arrived in Oklahoma City the day before. I came in on a DC-3. Remember those planes? They called them "Taildraggers" because the rear end rolled along the runway on arrival and departure. The flight was really terrible. Thunderstorms and lightning on the way in made for a very bumpy ride. I couldn't help it. I threw up. Several times. I guess I might have been the one that caused everyone around me to throw up because they all did. I think that it was only my second flight.
The next day, July 5, 1960, I went to the US Army recruiting office as per the directions on my orders and took the oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. And I did. I look back on that time and realize that I didn't know anything even though I thought I did. Seventeen years old. Fresh out of high school. Never been away from home without my mother. Now I was about to embark on a truly amazing adventure called life as an adult.
I was in Washington D.C. a couple of years ago and visited the Vietnam Memorial and took this photograph. Checked to see if any of the names looked familiar. When I was in Vietnam there was fighting but no one that I knew was involved. The war got so much worse in the next few years. When I came home and found all of the anger and resistance I was very conflicted about how to respond. When people found out that I had served they asked if I would speak at rallies. I declined. I didn't really form an opinion that I could articulate. By that time I had already gotten married and was just trying to make a living.
I don't have any contact with any of the men that I served with. When I was in Japan for a while I served with men that I became good friends with and a photo and story occur earlier in this blog. About 6 months ago I found my dog tags! I hadn't had them on in almost 50 years. I put them on to feel their weight and remember my life as a soldier. I have them on as I type this. I wear them everyday now.I had an electric candle that flickered in the window of the place I used to live in. It was my way of saying to the men and women far far away that I, for one, have a candle in the window waiting for them to come home.
It's hard to imagine what's next. I've raised my son and am a grandfather now. What's next? Well, I am going to be paying more attention. I have the time to do that now and I'm going to ask a lot more questions. Happy Fourth of July everyone.
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