Memories Perspective

NebrHogger

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After first tour in Viet Nam, we were fresh in at a west coast base waiting for leave orders. One of our number heard food was good at a nearby Naval base, so six of us loaded up in an old 'battleship Buick' for a decent dinner. No trouble getting in. "Sure! You guys load up!" NCO at the door said. There wasn't much of a line then and I don't recall what was on the menu, but it was truly a lot better than what we ate overseas.

With loaded trays we were making our way to a big table when fleet sailors came in for dinner. Well, truth to tell, we were a little put out they weren't taking notice of our 'salty', faded fatigues which by the way were freshly starched and pressed with creases sharp enough to cut, not to mention starched and hand-ironed soft covers. Why, we were gen-u-ine Viet Nam vets and had 'seen the elephant'!

But the fleet boys were more concerned with cutting up and playing grab-a$$ like high school kids. (I've since been told they were probably fresh from basic going to various "A Schools". So we ate in silence for a bit, enjoying the meal.

"Hell, they're acting like a bunch of kids! That ain't normal for military people!" one of our number snorted in derision after an outburst of chow hall hilarity by the fleet guys. "They even *look* like kids! Nuttin' but a bunch of teen-age freaks!!"

"So how old are you, John Wayne?" a fellow who had just made E-5 Sgt asked dryly. At 23, he was the 'geezer' of out group - the rest of us were 18 and 19.

Then it hit me like a ball bat to the solar plexus...

The sailors were still normal! They were still able to cut up and have a good time and joke around... WE were the ones no longer normal! We had been changed over there, and not for the better! It was like we were 19 going on 50!

Little more was said before we left. Back to base, and our group parted company forever. Well, except one fellow who mentioned to me he'd seen a notice in the company office that signing up for another tour would result in an early out.

"We'd just as well, I said," for reasons I can't recall. So we did, and by golly, we did get an early out.

But it was tough to realize I was no longer the person I had been a little more than a year before.
 
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