The moment of truth and new realities became clear once I got my orders to go to Nam. I remember that long bus ride after AIT back to Washington, DC.. Where I would have to face family, friends and America for what might be the last time. In all my newlly acquired fears, not being able to tell exactly how I felt about going to war stood out the most.
People protested. There were marches. Demostrations. Draft dodging. All kinds of feelings being expressed and acted out against the war in Viet Nam. My family never really let me know all their real feelings either. I know today somewhat why that was. I know today the fears they experienced associated with my going to Nam. I know today, that it was truly hard for them to talk to me about it. I know today the role love played in not persisting that I talk about it. It was probably the thing that made it harder for me to say goodbye. None of us knew exactly what to say...so my family did what I did in reality...they shut down and hid their feelings too! But, I saw past some of those walls just as they saw past the wall I built around me.
As for the rest of those in my surroundings. There were cries of celebration for the soldier. There were the cries of ecncouragement and inspiration at the bottom of every glass at the bar. It too, was a sad goodbye. Still, they celebrated my going to war. Why?
I hooked up with a friend, Lonnie Upchurch those last days in D. C. We had orders to report to Oakland in 30 days. It was the beginning of the longest goodbye ever in my life. Yet it became easier, since I didn't have to do the D. C. thing alone. The D. C. thing being a period of drinking like I had never drank before. A period of finding myself at times alone with just me and a bottle and some mucic. Feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I thought of fleeing to Canada. then I thought with my luck, I'd be the first one they caught. Once committing a crime came into play. but, most of the time I was too drunk or lost in the feelings of going to war that all I could deal with was living or dying.
Our 30 days got extended. Well, we overextended financially. We were late. But, knowing that we were late became somewhat of a joke. I recall once riding around the streets of D. C. and we were pulled over by the cops. Before we could pull out license and registration we informed them that we were going to Nam. We further informed them that we didn't know if we were coming back. And somehow they understood and let us go. There were other times when this new line we found "we're going to Nam and we don't know if we're coming back" worked. Hell, it worked everytime we were stopped. It also became an excuse to get lost in myself and the bottle.
However, we knew eventually that we would have to go. Only problem was that we were out of money. As I recall, my brother worked at Fort Myer, Virginia (he was in the reserves then). He went to his warrant officer and got us some new orders cut and some new money. No longer could we elude the fact that we were going to Oakland. See, going to Nam hadn't fully set in yet. Well, for me, I still had not fully accepted the truth, but, I was on my way.
I remember arriving in Oakland and my first shock was the weather. I arrived dressed in short sleeves and it was cold in California that day. Once we finished our little stay in Oakland we were on a TWA flight to hell. I had left behind all that felt good in life......even being alive!
I was not flattered by being given a M-16 with real bullets. I was not amused by the fumes in the air from all the shit burning; rockets and bombs; and a feeling in the air of death surrounding us on all sides. And the horror of war was there all around us.
The time had come. The introduction to Nam was over. They prepared us for war. I was in the war. And I became what I had to become to survive. No attitude adjustment was necessary.
This was real!
I still don't know "Why?"
I do know I was in Viet Nam!