A DIFFERENT KIND OF BAGGAGE

 

Although there were enough problems in Vietnam,
some of us brought more.

When I returned from Jungle School at Fort Amador , Panama , 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 Jungle School 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 Fort Hood 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 later learned.  

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 Nam . 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 Fort Hood and have a physician examine her – I was sure she was pregnant and I wanted to know before I got on that plane for Viet Nam .  

So we stopped at Fort Hood . 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 Amador!  

I had two days before I was to leave for Viet Nam – 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 Fort Hood 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 Nam . 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 in Nam . 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 arriving in Nam , 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 Nam

Anonymous

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