Memorial day thoughts, 2023
I experienced two events that I will never forget on every memorial day. First, I joined the military in 1968. Our fathers dropped me and my buddy off at the train station in Philadelphia, and we thought we would have a three-year vacation in the military. It was a fun ride on the train to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We were walking around the train, fooling around as young guys do. Finally, the train approached Washington, DC. It slowed to a crawl, finally stopping at the DC station. For a long time, the train was still as restless young men as we were; we started walking to the back of the train, to our surprise.
What is on the platform?
We saw red and white stripes on the platform. As we got closer, we saw the honor guard unloading flag-draped caskets for young men who lost their lives in Vietnam. It was a feeling of shock and awe for us young men who could see their potential might be in the military during the Vietnam War. Some of the guys were sad, some were scared, and a few wanted to return home at the next stop. Seeing the honor guard standing at attention, saluting the fallen, was seared in my memory forever.
Another sad event
In the second event, I was going home from South Korea on R&R leave for the first time. I was very excited to see my parents and friends, who I had not seen for 13 months. I would get on a MAC flight at Kimpo, airbase Seoul Korea, Fly over to Japan for an overnight layover, and then over the Pacific to Travis air force base, California.
Going on Leave
So excited to go home. Back then, I would jump on any aircraft headed back to the world, which we called stateside. Once in the air, we couldn’t converse because we were in the front of the plane with so much noise. The eight of us were in uncomfortable jump seats, and the rest of the plane was filled with what looked like stainless steel containers. The Aircraft navigator came back to us with puke bags because the plane autopilot wasn’t working well, and we were going into bad weather over the Pacific. While the navigator was back there, I asked him what was in the containers in the back. He said, do you want to know? Those are some of your battle buddies who didn’t return from Vietnam. Between the bumpy ride plane ride and the news about the cargo, I couldn’t decide what the worst information was.
Never forgetting, I am truly blessed to have had the experience in the military; I honor those who sacrificed their lives, those who served, and those who are serving now. God bless this great country…