One thing about being in the military, you do get to change scenery quite often, and I was accustomed to moving around from the years my dad followed electrical construction work with TVA.
By the Christmas season in 1965, rumors began about a large number of orders coming down in early ’66. The orders were all to be for that strange and distant place we had began hearing about on TV –
Just two weeks earlier, I had phoned home late one night from outside the “back gate,” sobbing like a little boy (in part, because I ran out of beer money), telling my dad how broke and lonely I was. He felt sorry for me and wired me twenty bucks, which, in those days, was a whole paycheck! However, now I was nearly broke again and did not have the money for a bus ticket home. I had to find another means.
Strangely enough, David Hillberry and I were talking about the up coming holiday on the next shift. He began telling me about how he was going to load up his VW and head to
“Heck, we’ll go right through Harriman on the way up man, why not?”
I was so homesick, and worried about the upcoming orders that I did not even give it any thought. Had I thought it over much I would have realized how long and cramped the trip would be in a VW. I just wanted to get home and see my momma!
The day we left was the first real thought I had given the circumstances. Hillberry stopped by the barracks where I stood with bag in hand. There, taking up over half the backseat was a bassinette! I considered backing out right then, but Hillberry had already grabbed my bag and somehow found room for it under the hood (If you aren’t familiar with VWs of the day, the trunk was under the hood and the engine was in the trunk!). His wife got out, I got in and squeezed into what was left of the backseat, and we were off!
I do not remember what the speed limits were in those days, but I do know that we did whatever speed the particular semi we were following did! David was proud of the fact that he could save gas and go faster longer if he “drafted” a tractor-trailer! Why he was worried about saving gas in a VW, I do not know, but he must have practiced the procedure many times.
At seventy or eight miles per hour, tucked up within twelve to eighteen inches of the back of a truck, the pucker factor is off the scale! I kept thinking if the trucker hits his brakes we are goners!
Therefore, there we were all the way to Harriman and back, or so it seemed, literally being sucked along the highway, saving gas, with the VW pushed into neutral!
And me? I had to learn to change diapers occasionally so Hillberry did not lose the draft! “We’re on a schedule,” he kept reminding us.
Having survived the holiday trip, I returned to Keesler to receive my new orders. I was to become part of
I returned to Harriman sometime near the middle of February to begin a 30-day leave before reporting to my new duty station called
What I did know was that there was a growing knot and emptiness deep within me, and a strange tightness in my chest and throat, but I knew I had to hide those feelings from my parents, and especially my little brother.
Anyway, I end this by posting a photo of Wayne Spainhour and Frank Boyce, and one of me, on the day we waited in the barracks for our ride to the commercial airport in
Frank and I would see each other again at DaNang, but this was the last time I ever saw