This week Eric Hobson shares the ending to his unpublished memoirs Viet Nam Vignettes.
Eric writes about his last days in the Army in a manner that will strig a chord with ll who have served oversees. His is an near universal story.
Back to the world
In January of ’69 my short-timers calendar, as vulgar as most (a naked female form divided into 100 pieces, showing more than you could see in a Playboy Bunny in those days, with the ‘good parts saved for days 3,2 and 1) was cut short. My orders cutting my tour short by just over a week came in. I was golden! Arrangements were made to fly me to the out-processing station at Long Bin. There I turned in all my worldly possessions short of my class A uniform and personal belongings.
Helmet with liner
Three sets of fatigues
Squeezing into my pants, actually put on weight here (in the artillery we mostly got ‘three hots and a cot’, (though I never die see a cot the whole time there). I reported to Ben Hoa field for the flight home. After an overnight stay we were rounded up for a quick policing of the barracks – not a bad thing as an E-5 I was able to ‘supervise’ the cleanup. At 1000 hours we were taken to the departure area of the airfield by bus and eventually boarded our freedom bird, a Boeing 707. With an amazing lack of fuss and bother – we were airborne within ten minutes of boarding. Within minutes the Captain came over the speaker to announce we were out of Vietnamese air space. A lusty cheer erupted.
There was very little conversation on that flight. Just a few questions were exchanged as to where home is and who would be waiting. A meal was served- typical airline forgettable. I napped, looked out the window and read for a while. Eventually the Captain returned to the loud speaker and announced that we would be making a short stop on Hawaii. This called for another cheer until he mentioned that we would not be disembarking, but only stopping for fuel – Groan. This caused a discussion with my seatmates about R&R in Hawaii. One, a corporal had taken R&R there and the other had never been there. So we spent a short time talking about what Honolulu was like.
Did you get to the Polynesian Culture Center?
Dinner was served – again forgettable – and night settled in. Most of us slept, some restfully, some not so much.
Around 0700 hours the Captain again was on the PA system to tell us that we were 15 minutes from the world. Sure enough a short time later he announced “feet dry” and a really lusty cheer went up. A couple of minutes later the Captain was back on to inform us that we were on approach to Travis field and that due to morning fog we would be doing an instrument landing. That pulled me up by the short hairs. I was probably the only Bay Area man on that flight and I knew that Travis AFB is completely surrounded by hills. This was the only time in my life that a landing was ‘white knuckle’ for me.
The landing was uneventful and we were rounded up and bussed to the out-processing station in Oakland. My year was over. We had to under go a physical exam. For whatever reason I don’t know, maybe to make sure we were alive. Finally we were fed our welcome back steak dinner.
After dinner the processing station more or less shut down – damn 9 to 5 REMFs. So I proceeded to curl up on the basketball court bleachers and catch some shuteye. One of the things you learn in the Army is how to sleep anywhere.
I finished up the out processing the next morning after a short delay so the pay-master could confirm that I had enlisted under a 120 day delay program. This was important to me as the made me E5 over 2 – E5 with over 2 years of service – which is a nice bump (about $300) in pay. Having gotten that settled and received my pay and unused leave time; it was time to walk out of the Army life.
My wife was not there to meet me, as I knew she had two finals that day. So my mother was waiting with ‘civvies’ – Levi’s and sport shirt – and a warm greeting. We drove to Sacramento where my Ilene was enrolled in Sac. State as a nursing student. We arrived at the apartment just as she was returning from he finals. I was finally and really home.