VIETNAM:     EPILOG

 

 

I  was released from the Oakland Army Center about 2:00 pm on August 31, 1969 - my  birthday.  I  was  twenty-eight years old and a veteran.

I  had survived six months in the war zone and returned home none too much the worse  for wear.  I spent  the entire  time,  with  the exception of the first few days, as the barber for the Commanding General of the  25th  Infantry Division  and his  staff, which included scores of colonels and majors.  The General's  name was  Lt.  Gen.  Ellis  B. Williamson  and he had a couple of one star Generals working for him but I can't remember their names.

I worked an 8-5 schedule with  Sunday  afternoons  off, which  I  usually  spent  at  church  or  off on some combat mission for fun.

I  had many  friends,  most  of  whose   names   I've forgotten,  but there was Ronnie Watson, the Chicago cop, in the  9th  Chem.  Det.,  and Foster  Zebuth,   my  pinochle partner.  Bruce  Pixley was  a  long  time  friend from the Guard, Dave Anderson was also from the Guard.  He had  left a pregnant wife  at home with his first child.  He lied to her the whole time he was in Vietnam that  he was  a  clerk and  away  from the  fighting, when in reality he had three armored personnel carriers shot out from under him and was in  the  thick  of  the  fighting  almost  every day.  I ran across him one day in Northridge several years after we  got back and he seemed all right.

Pix came home  in December and went back to work for the General Telephone Company and promoted to  supervisor, remarried  and  settled  down in Camarillo with his wife and kids.

I acquired an AK-47 Chinese assault rifle while  I  was in Vietnam,  from a weapon's cache.  It was still full of the preservative used to store it.  I tried to think  of  a way   to  smuggle  it home without  getting caught  since Leavenworth isn't a  favorable  vacation  spot  to an  older married man.  I  finally hit  on  shipping it home with my tape  recorder.  I  disassembled the  rifle  and wired  it underneath  my  recorder  so that  it  didn't  show  on the sides.  Dave had found an Army 45 out in the  field and  I slipped  that  inside  the  tape  recorder  to boot.  When I presented my hold baggage to the inspectors it was close  to closing  time  and they were  in a hurry.  They pulled the recorder of the Lt. right in front of me out of the box  and scared me half to death.  But they were in a hurry with me and just looked down the sides and closed it  back  up.  The AK-47  arrived home in good shape and I didn't have to go to jail after all.  I've since sold it to someone  and miss  it terribly.  It was a true war souvenir, even though I didn't find it originally.

I still have the tape recorder that I bought in Vietnam, even though it is now outmoded by the newer cassette machines.

To say that I enjoyed my  time  in Vietnam would be stretching  the  truth to the absolute max.  I will say that, given the alternatives of fleeing to Canada,  deserting and facing  criminal  charges,  or  going to Vietnam, I made the wisest choice.  I had a young wife and two babies  at home and  a  jail term would have been unacceptable.  I think the fear of the unknown was the worst part  of  having  to  go. Once  I  arrived  in Vietnam,  the war was less of a hassle than the horrible training we received  at  Fort  Lewis.  It was  almost  a  relief  to  go  to Vietnam to escape  the harassment of the  officers  at  Fort  Lewis  who obviously hated the National Guard, and especially our unit because of  its  lawsuit  against  the Government  for  illegally changing our contracts.

 

I  must honestly  say  that the good Lord continued to watch over me as I went to Vietnam and put me in the  right place  at  the right time in many instances.  I still firmly believe that I have a great mission to accomplish  in this life  and have  been guided towards that goal in many small but sure ways.  Maybe someday I'll find out just what it  is that  I'm  to  do here,  but  until  then  I'll  just keep following the guiding light that shines in front of  me  and protects me.