The year was 1968 ...

Last week, before the horrible news of losing Gyrth came and took the wind out of my sails, I had been doing some personal research on my parents' lives from approximately 35 years ago. It was Veterans Day and I was taking the opportunity to quiz Mom and Dad about his time in Vietnam. Pardon the disjointed history as I'm merely noting the "highlights."

My father was born in May of 1941 and Mom was born in January of 1938. So in 1967, my father was approximately 26 years old and my mother was 29.

Daddy was drafted in January of '67 and inducted on Feburary 15 of that same year. This was all before the lottery, and each state had a quota of men to call up. Daddy was called up not long after moving back to North Carolina from Colorado. He was rejected because of his orthodontics, but after notifying them that he'd had those removed, he was called back up.

Daddy was inducted in Raleigh and put on an Army bus to Ft. Bragg, NC. As Dad says "if you're ever out around Smithfield Meat Compay and see truck loads of hogs going to their 'destiny' -- that's how I felt." He spent eight weeks at Ft. Bragg (which to him felt like eight months).

Later he went to Ft. Cobb, OK for advanced training in the summer of '67 and called Mom on Halloween of that year to tell her that he'd been given order for Vietnam. My parents planned a wedding for the Friday after Thanksgiving of that year (11/24/67, although in my world my parents' anniversary is always the Friday after Thanksgiving). Daddy flew in on Thursday morning and ran home from the airport because the taxi was too expensive. He was home that weekend and for a few days around Christmas before he was sent to Vietnam.

Daddy spent 364 and a half days in Vietnam (basically the calendar year of 1968). He got a week of R&R in Hawaii that August where Mom met him for their honeymoon. He also got three days of R&R in Hong Kong later that year. Otherwise he was in the field in Vietnam.

Dad says "My unit was in Central Highlands - B Company, 1st of the 22nd Infantry of IV Division. HQ was Camp Enarie near Plekue village (can't remember the spelling). We "humped" up in the steep mountains around CakTo near Cambodia border (toward Laos) and down in foot-hills/small mts. near Kontum City. We were just a couple of clicks outside Kontum the night of the 68 Tet offensive (I'll never fully enjoy fireworks again). Then for a while, we were in the streets of Kontum - what was left of it - but some snipers were still there."

According to my parents, mail service was very good. Mom could mail him letters and they would get to him in two to three days. She wrote every day, even if only a few lines. And every Thursday, she sent a postcard to Daddy's parents so that they would get news that Saturday. Daddy always worried that if she got busy, Grandmama would worry that Mom was "running around," but thankfully she never got too busy. Mom would mail wool socks and Smithfield ham to Dad and apparently he made several other soldiers jealous at the amount of mail he got.

Daddy's MOS was not radioman, but he ended up carrying one in the field and that became his duty despite what his papers said. Despite all of that, Dad says how lucky he was that he wasn't born of the Korea era where men came back with frozen, amputated feet.

Mom and Dad never spoke on the phone or over a HAM radio while he was stationed there. So they went a year with only letters sent back and forth and a week in Hawaii.

I recap all of this, not to paint my father as some sort of war hero or to make his year seem so extraordinary. But it just boggles my mind that my parents went through all of this at basically the same age that I am now. My greatest drama in life these days is that my boyfriend is 85 miles away from me and we're making plans to live together. For my mother to marry Daddy and stay home with her 8 year old son and write letters every day ... it's a piece of my parents I don't necessarily see these days. So I'm grateful my Daddy made it home safe and that my parents' relationship weathered such a trying time. Momma and Daddy rock.