In April of ’69 I held her in my arms as we spent our last night together on the living room couch. There wasn’t any sleep to be found – simply the warmth of holding each other, slow kisses, soft caresses and the knowledge that the next day our life together would be put on pause . . . I remember the warmth, that sleepy smell when two people fade in and out of consciousness.
I was to spend a year in Taiwan, scheduled to come home in the spring of ‘70. A request for a tour in Vietnam delayed that another year to April of ‘71 . . . and still I remembered the warmth of the couch and our last night together.
“We were soldiers once . . . and young” is the story of the 7th Cav’s first engagement in the Ia Drang valley. As I landed in Ahn Khe the valley lay 45 miles WSW, the battle a memory 5 years in the past. Ahn Khe hosted Lt.Col Moore’s 7th Cav unit. Honestly, the “worst” was over by then. America had lost interest in Viet Nam, in the fight, in any idea of winning . . . they simply wanted it over.
Simple missions became riskier, “looser” . . . manpower was being drawn down with little concern for security. Though the final evacuation atop the embassy in Saigon was 4 years in the future by the time I left, our will was gone.
They played the movie tonight on “Dish” . . . it’s amazing the strength the images and sounds still hold . . . over 40 years in the past. And while the battle scenes were powerful it was the opening scenes of husbands, wives, children . . . departures and the final scene of returning home that prompted this post . . .
I can still remember each step across the tarmac at the Bishop regional airport in Flint, Michigan. As the terminal grew closer I could see . . . her. She looked the same – and different. Still, as we wrapped ourselves in each other’s arms, two years and a handful of days disappeared. There is simply no way to convey that moment unless you’ve been there, experienced the separation and the reunion with someone who is simply your life . . .
There would be other separations, other deployments – all much shorter than 735 consecutive days.
If you’ve not seen the movie – you deserve to see the story of LZ x-ray and the men of the 7th Cav. Better yet – read the book because LZ x-ray is only half the story. The journey for half of Moore’s men to LZ Albany was brutal in the extreme. These men deserve to have their story told and remembered.
Today I see Afghanistan at the same point Viet Nam was about the time I left for home. The war is over – we’ve lost the anger of 9/11, we’ve absorbed nearly 7,000 casualties between Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands have held loved ones for a last time before they deployed and, gratefully, the vast majority did again as they were welcomed home. You can see the tide turning – Afghan and Pakistani allies are shifting allegiances to our enemies in anticipation of a change in the power structure. Our military will be left hanging much the same as it was in ’75. We need to remember that lesson . . .
It’s time to come home, lick our wounds, refit, rebuild our forces . . . and get ready for the next round . . . cause this ain’t over by a long shot.
We were soldiers once . . . and young. And the young soldiers of today’s military deserve their rest.
They deserve to become old farts, to be able to see a movie 40 years from now and to remember when they held her for a last time . . . and then again . . . when they returned . . .
Time to come home folks, time to come home . . .