DIFFERENT KIND OF BAGGAGE
Although there were
enough problems in Vietnam,
some of us brought more.
When I returned from
, things were different when I got home. It had been a longer trip than I had
planned. Instead of 2 weeks in June, 1967, I finished
and then had a “special assignment” some other place nearby, making it
about a 6 week TDY.
Yes, things were different
when I got home. When I left
to go back to my hometown with my wife, she acted quite differently towards me.
She had stayed at our apartment while I was gone. She didn’t stay alone, I
About a month later, we left
to spend a little time in our hometown. We had a good time on this last visit
home before I left for
. She wanted to stay with her sister, out West, while I was gone, so we started
the long drive from our hometown to her sister’s home in late August. Along
the way, she was carsick almost constantly. I insisted that we stop at
and have a physician examine her – I was sure she was pregnant and I wanted
to know before I got on that plane for
So we stopped at
. It took some pushing but a doctor examined her. When the doctor came out to
see me, he was beaming when he told me I was going to be a father. It was the
most wonderful news. The stories from or about the other officers from Fort Hood
who had come back wounded…..or dead…..was always on my mind and the news
that we would have a baby was such a relief. I might get killed but, with a
baby, I would live on.
And then I asked the
question that I wish I had left unspoken: “When is the baby due?”
The doctor responded with the due date, I immediately calculated the date
of conception. The resultant date was about in the middle of my 6 weeks TDY to
I had two days before I was
to leave for
– no time to do anything but talk about what had happened while I was out of
the country. So I tried to talk about it on the rest of the drive. She said I
was the father and that the doctor was wrong about the due date. From others, I
was pretty sure doctors don’t make big mistakes about due dates. If that was
the case, the baby wasn’t mine. “What had happened?” I asked. It was 1,100
miles to the end of the trip. I drove it straight through with brief stops. The
attempts to find out what happened were futile. She knew there was nothing I
could do. I knew there was nothing I could do. I might be dead soon, anyway.
I was deeply troubled when I
left on the first leg of the journey that took me to 2/9th FA a few
days later. In the field, it was immediately apparent that the men who got the
“Dear John” letters from home or had other big issues troubling them from
home, often didn’t get home in one piece…..or at all. As much as possible, I
put the pregnancy issue behind me so that I could focus on keeping the men in my
company alive. And keeping me alive, too.
In mid March, 1968, I was in
a hospital on the coast. I’m not sure why I was there but during my stay, the
Red Cross found me and told me I was a father. I remember that, deep in despair,
I left the hospital without a release. I still don’t remember where I went.
But I talked to someone who had been at
at the same time and also had lived in the same apartment. He gave me the name
of another officer from a neighboring unit. This guy had a very distinctive car.
It had been parked right outside my apartment nearly every night while I was
gone. He didn’t live there.
A lot of stuff happened
during that year in
. I extended my tour because I wasn’t ready to deal with the issues that
awaited me at home. I wasn’t able to deal with the things I had seen and done
. So I just stayed a while longer, trying to figure out important things like
whether I wanted to live in a world turned upside down for me.
As individual replacements
, we hadn’t a clue as what we should bring with us; we received no logistical
guidance whatsoever. But…even
if we did…it would not have contained any guidance on emotional baggage.
I was pushing the “load limits” on that one. I've
carried this particular baggage for 40 years now since the Red Cross told me
about the birth. Today - as I write this - I am leaving that baggage behind me
and moving on without it. Maybe this is a start towards leaving the other
baggage I added in