February 13, Early Morning
Dear Chaplain Miller,

In my mind I could see the white oblong shades that cover the wooden window frames that were painted shut by years and years of white trim paint. Glass panes were ornately shaped in half-hexagon fashion, letting ample light that filtered through with a soft white hue that cast shadows across the bedroom furniture, hiding its true finish. The antiquated dresser that I was able to resurrect from the dusty tenement basement, using a handy home-do-it-yourself, inexpensive, new-type antique kit, stood at proud sentry-like attention at the foot of the bed.

The dresser was guarded by the sewing machine resting on the table that I had made. The machine was intended to make it easy for my Gwen, my wife of ten years to keep busy while I was off fighting the war. The center and predominate area in the small apartment bedroom was taken up by the large, king-sized bed. My chaplain’s assistant, who first saw the bed in our home in Colorado Springs where I was first stationed, called it "an adult playpen." The golden spread on the bed gave the room a stately air of adventure. It was our kingdom, our throne. I had one hour left before I had to go into exile for the next three hundred, sixty-five days.

I had secret thoughts way back in my mind that maybe I would make it home before next Christmas. Even while sitting in this chopper it still was a prayer, a hope and a dream within this dream that I was experiencing at the moment.

"Honey, when is Grandma bringing back the boys?”

"She said to come by her place to say goodbye before you leave. You can say goodbye to her and your dad and the boys. Your brother Tom will be there, too. He doesn't have to report to his Guard unit until the end of the month."

"Well, sweetheart, we've only an hour to ourselves. Come on over here, I'm already missing you"

Tears were in her eyes, "Oh, Don." That was all she was able to say.

"Hey, don't start crying. Remember, I get R and R in six months." I tried to comfort her.

The chopper droned on. So did my dreams and memory. I took my last look around the dim shadows of the bedroom. My heart began to beat as I remembered the last touch. The full long passionate kiss, the feel of her warm body, soft, sensually pressed against me. I had only one hour to be with my love, my lover, and my wife. The question echoed in my dream-like thoughts of the hour. Why in God's name did I ever join the army?

"Good-bye, boys. Come on, Tony, Mike, give daddy a big kiss and promise to be good and take care of mummy for me." I made no attempt to wipe my own tears as I held these two dear gifts from God. They didn’t answer me. What can a two and six-year-old understand about daddy going to war? What does a child feel about that which they have not experienced? My feelings were bewilderment, frustration, anxiety, fear, or, were those only emotions belonging to a daddy when he was doing childish adventures?

"Come on, Gwen, we better get going. Now, Mom, don't you start. I'll be just fine."

Dad took my hand and pulled me into a hug, "Take care of yourself."

Tom shook my hand, "I'll write you from Georgia when I get there. They do let you write in boot camp, don't they?”

"I think so. I never went to boot camp, only a week of training at New Jersey."

He smiled. "Take care of yourself, brother.”

"No sweat,” I said in my dream-like stupor, while my mind said, “I hope."

I felt a tap on my shoulder; the left door gunner handed me a cold coke. He smiled, closed his ice chest and returned to his gunnery post. Never has a coke tasted so good. I felt refreshed but continued to drift back into recording my dream. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll want to write a book. At any rate, my kids might want to know what happened when their daddy went to war.

I sipped my coke and began to write. In a confused turmoil I remembered the evening I left. I was standing in a dream-like vapor, in Oakland Army base, in a long line of other GI’s all waiting in the "space available line,” trying to get on the next flight to Vietnam. It was indeed very dream-like and strange standing in line trying to get a flight to war.

The first two flights that night were filled. Gwen and I went out to eat and talk a little about how to handle our correspondence, expenses and plans for R and R in Hawaii, sometime in July or August. We were planning to make the first part of my tour longer than the last part after R and R. It seemed that we were trying to keep the inevitable from happening.

Finally I said, "Honey, you go on home. It looks like I'll get out on the next flight this morning. The boys will need you. Hurry now; go before I start to cry again. Remember, I love you." I said in a soft quiet voice.

We kissed one last time, a long lingering kiss, both of us with tears in our eyes.

"Bye, write soon," she said while wiping her eyes.

I remember thinking I must be going out of my mind as she drove off. Here I was hurrying off to war. No! I was only hurrying to get this over with, so I could wake up from this nightmare.

I put my journal down and looked over the side of the chopper. They don't always close the doors when flying low. The jungles were filled with trees that formed a lush green canopy. Every once in a while I could see a hut or two. We flew along a small river and then along a road, just over the treetops. All in all, it was a beautiful day for a helicopter ride.

Randy had turned around from his co-pilot seat and tapped me, as he pointed downward. There it was, Firebase Warrior?
Jim, I hope I won't bore you with my rambling thoughts and emotions that I will be facing in the year ahead. I thank you for being willing to be a sounding board for me as I face this adventure with fear and tribulation.




    Very nice post to show the anguish soldiers go through when leaving home.


    Karen -

    Thanks for stopping by. What really gets me is that I can't remember my dad leaving at all. I remember him being gone to the war but I can't remember what I felt like when he left. In a way, it makes me sad that I can't remember.


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