LEAVING VIETNAM

I spent an extra day in-country, just so I could fly out on a commercial airliner, rather than the Flying Tiger I flew in on.

I remember when we were rolling on our take-off roll, it seemed to take forever. Then the stewardess came on the intercom and said, "We're a little heavy today, so if you will all pick up your feet it will help get us airborne."

Everyone in the plane lifted their feet, and a few seconds later we rotated and headed for the sky. When the pilot said we had left VN airspace, three things happened. Applause, a sense of relief and about a hundred bottles of Jack Daniels came flying out of cargo pockets, ditty bags or somewhere. The stewardess started bringing the cokes, and everyone on the plane got mildly, pleasantly drunk. Then it got quiet - and stayed pretty quiet the rest of the flight home. Everyone reflecting into their own thoughts, I guess.

Walking out the doors at the Travis AFB terminal - I saw the girl I had left behind. After writing me faithfully once a week, she was there to pick me up. As we were driving away from the terminal, she pulled the car over and stopped. She turned in the seat, and I thought she wanted to make out. How wrong I was!

She told me she had gotten engaged while I was gone. I asked her why she didn't tell me and she said, "I didn't want you to do something stupid. I have heard stories about men in combat who get Dear John letters, then go out and get themselves killed. I thought it would be better this way."

I had to admire her for that, and it was pretty hard to be upset. I hadn't seen her for over a year, so this break-up really wasn't all that hard. I just asked her to drive me to the bus station where I kissed her goodbye and never saw her again.

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