Monday, April 10, 2006

Don't Let a Dear John Letter Screw You

When I was in the US Army in 1965-1966 I was stationed in Germany. I considered myself and my buddies to be lucky. We weren't posted to Vietnam or Korea for that matter. I was 24 -26 years old, older than the other guys in my signal corps company. Most of the guys were 18 to 20 years old and hadn't been out of the USA before. Over and over I heard guys say they were going to volunteer to go to Vietnam. I would pull them aside, kick the door closed, and ask, "WHY?" We had it made. Why would anyone do that?

Over and over I heard the same answer: "I just got a Dear John letter from my girl. She's dumping me and going with another guy stateside. If I volunteer for Vietnam, I get to go home for a 30-day leave and can kick that guy's ass!

And I'd yell back: "BUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THOSE 30 DAYS? THAT'S RIGHT. YOU GO TO VIETNAM!" I can honestly say that I didn't convince any of those guys to change their minds. They went home, kicked someone senseless and then wound up in Saigon or Hue in time for Tet. I was the only college graduate in my company of 150 men and have often thought that more older guys like me were needed to "protect" these young troops from themselves.

Last year I met a kid who was about to graduate from high school and I asked what his plans were. "I'm joining the Navy," he said. I told him that was great, but stay away from Iraq. He replied: "That's all over, isn't it?"

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