(First part in a series of reminders about having never shaken the FNG letters)
There were just no stories I wanted to tell. All I wanted to do was forget.
The sum total of three letters ... three ... defined my history of military service in Vietnam and my post-military service in Oklahoma: FNG.
That said it all. FNG! Arriving in Nam 28 July 69, departing 23 Aug 69, it was easy to forget.
When I returned home, I returned alone. No one wanted to look me in the eye. No one wanted to say "Welcome Home."
Looking back through the prism of time and maturity, I guess I really did want to be left alone.
Those around me at the time, family, acquaintances, one-time friends, followed my lead. They did leave me alone. No questions asked.
Memories of Ofstedahl, Swindle, Wellman, Ponce, Owens, Alabama, Baxter, were buried in a deep and foreboding portal of my brain. Not to be remembered. Not to be mentioned. Not to be rehashed.
Out of sight, out of mind.
I did a good job of repressing the past.
On the outside looking in, my life would seem to be one of happiness and success. ETS 2 Sep 70. VA rated me 100 percent. Allow me to digress at this point. I attended Oklahoma State University (66-67) after high school, ending up with a GPA of 1.06. I might have lost my deferment but I gained plenty of experience, primarily in the non-valued pursuits of Drinking and Sleeping.
The next year, I discovered a new path. I transferred to a JUCO and did much better. How much better? Well, I got married 6 Sep 69 to the most stable influence that God could give a man. Very blessed to say that I am still married to Connie. We're going on 47 years. If any of you ever meet us, please thank her for dealing with all my ups and downs.
I then enrolled at the University of Tulsa. Went to one class. One class. One day. One oh-so-brief stay on campus.
After that one class, on that one day, I went back to our two-room apartment for lunch, checked the mail, and there it was. The letter: "Greetings, Your Friends and Neighbors Have Selected You ..."
So much for that lunch. I drove back to TU and withdrew. I spent the next 3 months stocking a Safeway store, from 11p.m. to 7 a.m.. Left for Fort Polk on 2 Dec 68.
OK, getting back to the introduction.
Upon leaving Uncle Sam's employment on 2 Sep 70, I started classes at Tulsa Junior College on Uncle's dime, finishing up 2 years later at Northeastern State College with a degree in education. My Master's Degree in Psychology & Counseling followed, plus 60 hours above my masters. I just didn't have the "want to" in pursuing the doctorate.
I spent the next 19 years teaching and coaching, and then another seven as a high school counselor. Very, very rewarding years. My students helped me in more ways than be explained.
Along the way, Connie and I had two wonderful daughters, Heather and Hayley. Life was good. On the outside looking in.
What I did not know, nor believe, is that the burying of my memories of those times in Nam had leakage. I had always had a temper. Red hair can be responsible for that, so I'm told. However, the anger was developing into more than temper flares. There were the mood swings. And, too much drinking. And, too many cigarettes, 2 packs a day.
Making a long story shorter, in April 1984, I had a heart attack at the age of 36. It was the ultimate wake-up call. It changed my life's direction. I jettisoned some of my worst habits, replacing them with a rigid rehab regimen.
Six months after by-pass surgery, I competed in, and completed, the 15K Tulsa Run. Since then, I have had a 6-inch hematoma removed from my brain because of a fall, 4 knee scopes, a knee replacement, two shoulder surgeries, and three fusions between C2 and C6 in my neck.
Four years ago, there was yet another life-altering milestone. Through a friend, I was directed to the VA in Oklahoma. I began to utilize the services that were offered. Meetings, sessions, medication.
It has been quite a transformation. Through four years of help and guidance, that portal of my brain has finally reopened. No longer are the memories of Nam cloaked in darkness behind a closed door.
Not sure if you could use the word "cured." Certainly that is not how I feel. Let's just say that I manage my thinking a helluva lot better than I used to do. Still have a ways to go.
Utilizing the Internet, I began researching my FNG History of Nam. Amazing what I found over the past 2 years. From the Americal to the 11th LIB websites, I found FS Hill 4-11 website and now 1st Platoon.
I was fortunate to find emails from those kind enough to reach out. Thanks to Lt. Baxter, who passed my contact info to Glyn Haynie. Glyn and I began to communicate, and it has proven quite a helpful, and healthy, experience. The type of experienced information I had been searching for, and needing. Thank you, Glyn.
Last September, I went to my first reunion of the Americal Division in Houston. Upon arrival, I was envious of seeing the number of Veterans in groups who knew each other.
Those three little letters, FNG, suddenly resurfaced. I told Connie that coming here was a mistake. I had no real history with anyone there.
She convinced me that it would be a mistake not to stay.
Later, standing in the registration line behind me, was Huey Fautheree, wearing a hat that captured my immediate attention. It had the 11th decal and embroidered inscription, CoA1st3rd under it. Later, Huey introduced us to Larry Frie. Connie and I had a lot of drinks with Huey, Larry and their wives over the next 2 days. I absorbed everything I could from those "sessions".
This July, Connie and will be driving to the 4-11 Reunion in Pittsburgh, Pa.
I always accepted the 3 letters FNG and knew the shit that would be stacked on me. I expected and accepted it in my short time with 1st Platoon.
If I had made it, if I had survived longer than those 27 days, those three letters I could have handed off to another at some point in time. Going to Pittsburgh, if I don't get more shit stacked on me for still being the FNG, I will be pissed. Kind of grown accustomed to being forever an FNG!
(Second part in a series of reminders about having never shaken the FNG letters)
Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto the lunar surface, six hours after landing on the moon's surface, July 21, 1969, at 02:56.
My wife and I were watching. Some 12 hours later, she was driving me to Tulsa International and I was off to Fort Lewis, Washington on the first leg of my trip to Nam. I was taking a giant step, though certainly not quite as huge as the one taken by Armstrong.
From my window seat in the big, commercial jet, I watched as Tulsa steadily and quickly disappeared below me. I had tears running down my face. I knew it would be a long time before I would see Connie again. Then there was the additional layer of fear that I just might not see her again, period.
Sitting to my right was a gentleman in an Air Force uniform, with too many hash marks on his sleeve for me to count.
He asked, "Heading to Vietnam?" Without looking up, I answered "yes."
He introduced himself. I am embarrassed to admit that I cannot remember his name, but I do remember him saying that he had 27 years in the Air Force and he was heading for his second tour in Nam.
He told me he was going to take care of me and get me to Fort Lewis.
I don't recall how many drinks he bought me between Tulsa and Seattle-Tacoma, but I know I was pretty damn drunk when we got there. All I remember is that he put me in a cab, gave the driver money and instructions. The cabbie took me to a motel and walked with me to the desk clerk. I paid for a room and was given an alarm clock. The clerk told me that the bus to Fort Lewis stops across the street. Next morning, I caught the bus and was at Fort Lewis by noon.
Just a few whirlwind days later, decked out in new jungle fatigues, I was on a Continental Airlines flight with many other FNGs heading to Vietnam. We stopped in Honolulu and Manila before reaching Cam Rahn Bay.
(A side note here. I lost all my Nam pictures in a fire years ago when the building in which I had an office was destroyed by fire.)
After deplaning and while walking across the tarmac, I turned and took a picture of all those walking behind me. Years later, in looking at that picture, the looks on the faces were, to say the least, stark. Not remembering too much about my days in Cam Rahn, I do know that I stayed by myself. I had no desire to meet or to hang out with anyone. Upon getting my orders to the Americal Division, I flew out of Cam Rahn on a C 131 (I think). Of that flight, my memory is perfect. It was the worst flight I ever endured.
On July 28, 1969, I arrived to Chu Lai late in the afternoon. I could not believe how close we were to the beach. I was assigned to a barracks and was ordered to report early the next morning to formation behind the barracks. Next morning, another FNG and I were the last two names called. We got the shit-burning detail. We had two that needed attended. We were told to burn shit twice, once in the a.m. and once in the p.m. In between, we were free.
It took us all damn morning to get the guts to pull out the 55-gallon drums welded end to end and dump shit and pour diesel on it and bury it. The second go-round, in the afternoon, things got easier. The next day, we were done in no time. Spent a lot of time swimming at the beach during those 2 days.
After 10 days of orientation, I was assigned to Alpha Company 3rd of the 1st. Don't remember how I got to LZ Bronco. Best of my memory, I spent 1 1/2 days on Bronco.
My first afternoon on Bronco, I was given my M-16. It was an older model (3-pronged flash), like we trained in AIT at Polk. (Speaking of Polk, I could tell a few tales about the training we had at Tiger Land for Nam, but that might be best held for another time).
Someone from the armory room took me by jeep to test fire somewhere on Bronco. I fired one round and it jammed. We went back to the armory and he said he would fix the problem. Next day, we test fired it again. It was A-OK.
Late that afternoon, I caught a Huey to somewhere near 4-11 and my introduction to Alpha Company, 1st Platoon.
To be continued.
Portuguese classic, is that it is replica watches very coordinated and sophisticated dial design, a narrow bezel, the replica watches sale disk more atmosphere. Arabic numerals and tilt the replica watches uk inner bezel to enhance the three-dimensional dial sense, canceled the 12-hour timer function, leaving only the 30-minute timer and small seconds to make the replica rolex disk looks more symmetrical harmony.