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Coming home8442 Reads  Printer-friendly page

Vietnam As soon as the Freedom Bird began to lose altitude the noise level on the craft began to rise. Idle conversation tended to either stop completely or to take on a more intense quality. From one end of the plane to the other the word spread with the speed of magic. We're coming into McChord.

Today is the something-something anniversary of my return from Viet Nam. I came into McChord on 7/12/69. In honor of this I wanted to see if I could get some of the memories down in writing. If this sounds boring to you the option is the "D" key.

When I left VN all I wanted to do on the trip home was to sleep, it had been a rough couple of months and I was just plain tired. The casualties had been coming steady for the last months and I had lost the ability to count. All I knew was the sound that the helicopters made on the pad, it became a sound that was felt instead of heard. The sounds, smells, colors, and textures of a small hospital had taken their toll. And it had been a race to see if the tour would end before I had lost all of me or not.

My buddy the pharmacist, who now has neither a name or a face, gave me two little red capsules to insure that I would sleep undisturbed on the ride home. When the bird left VN I took them both and there does seem to be a partial memory of walking around an airport in Kyoto, Japan. I've always wondered if I should have only taken one. But, the pills effectively removed from my memory all of the details of the ride home. My first memory is of someone saying "I can feel that we're starting to descend." That and the movement of the plane brought me fully awake.

Coming into the state of Washington any time of year usually means clouds. When I looked out the window that is all that I could see. All of the cards had been put away and the books were unattended, all eyes were glued to the windows. Above the clouds the sun was shining big and bright. Soon we were in the clouds and then again immediately out. The cheer that rose brought tears to most of the eyes. "We had made it", our home country was below us.

The rest of the day was full of lines, forms, words, and other things that only served to slow our departure. Some of those things still remain clear; others are nothing. I remember the smart-ass Louie who thought he could get in line before us, I still have all of the brass from his shirt. Westmoreland was there to shake my hand and ask where home was. They made a big deal out of feeding us some bad Army food. I don't remember getting to the Sea-Tac airport or the plane ride to San Diego.

My next memory is of my family waiting for me at the gate. I was home, I had made it. From this day forward all would be perfect, there would never be anymore pain or suffering. All that I had ever dreamt of and prayed for had come true. There would now be peace on earth and an end to strife. I was home.

But, as they say, that is a whole nuther story.

Note: By Jim Calbreath


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1972: Defense Department sources say there will not be a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam until a final truce agreement is signed, and that such an agreement would not affect the 54,000 U.S. servicemen in Thailand or the 60,000 aboard 7th Fleet ships off the Vietnamese coast.