My brothers and I all served during the Viet Nam war. It wasn’t a matter of choice, really. It all comes down to, your country calls and you go. My oldest brother Glenn spent his tour of duty on the DMZ in Korea. Bob wound up in South East Asia, on the Mekong Delta – and Clinton served on a nuclear submarine and a sub tender. I went in the Air Force and, among other places, spent 3 years in Alaska, some of it on the DEW line at remote radar sites, watching for the Russians. I also got to climb all over various airships, including the SR71 and U2 spy planes at Beale AFB and C5s, C141s, and B52s at Tinker and Kelly.
Our minds have wonderful filters when we look at the past. I remember the flights over wilderness and the excitement of Alaska boom towns, and the raw beauty of the land. I remember the cool factor of these monstrous craft I got to be around and in – riding in the John Wayne jumpseats lining the side of a C-130 cargo plane, or in the back of a C-141 taking me to Seattle. I forget the hard work and discipline of basic training, the bloody training films they showed us at medic school, the bivouacs we did at Shepard to teach us combat medicine. I forget the raw fear clutching my heart when I got my orders for Viet Nam – some little podunk base in the north near the DMZ – and the taste of bile in my mouth when I heard it had been overrun during the Tet offensive. I do still remember the relief … which I could not share with anyone … when my orders were changed, and I went to Alaska instead.
I never thought of what we did as service. It was duty. It was what we owed. We knew – because of the job our fathers and uncles, mothers and aunts did, the WW2 vets who had it much worse than us – we saw what they had done, and if we were called we would serve as well. We owed it to them.
Happy veterans day.