This week, 45 years ago, this young teenager was ordered to report to his CO (Commanding Officer) at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.
“Congratulations, private, on completing combat engineer training,” he said as he rifled through my personnel file. “Looks like you’re headed for Nam.”
I objected and said I had taken an extra year of duty (from two to three) to be able to serve my country elsewhere. He pulled the form from my file and told me to forget I ever saw, or signed it and refiled it in a can below his desk. He said I could have a 3-day pass and would be leaving for Vietnam by the end of the month. I walked back to the barracks, head down, shuffling along the sidewalk. I had married my high school sweetheart just four months earlier and hadn’t seen her since our brief honeymoon.
The next day I returned to the CO’s office and told him I was going to California on that 3-day pass. He insisted that was against regulations and I had to stay within a 50-mile radius of Ft. Leonard Wood. I simply said, “Fine, but I’m going home to see my girl.” Maybe it was my doggedness but his expression changed to a sly smile. He reached in his pocket for his wallet. “Here’s $50 bucks, don’t worry about paying me back, just make sure you come back. Now, get out of here.”...