Wednesday, March 3, 2010
This is the story I wrote one Saturday morning when I heard Judy Blue Eyes. Still makes me misty----
I awakened this morning and turned the radio on and the first noise that boomed out at me was the attached song by Crosby Stills and Nash. I lived it and it sent me on an unexplained trip (not Pot) that wanders back many years to things that I can't explain but if you will indulge me I am compelled to recount the life experience path that won't go to rest until I do. The year is 1969 and it is the end of the Monson season in Viet Nam. I'm in the Central Highlands at a base/city known as Pleiku. We are on the top of a mountainous area where we have made runways that serve as a primary air support point for downed airmen rescue endeavors, close air support for the troops in contact with the enemy and a military jumping off point. The primary aircraft based there are the A1E Skyraiders (a WWII fighter that carries tons of ordinance) and the original gun ship fondly known as Puff the Magic Dragon (a converted WWII DC-3).
It was late at night or early morning and we were experiencing a nightly rocket attack--ordinarily one would go to the bunkers for safety purposes but after a few months one becomes rather jaded, fatalistic or calloused to what the dangers might be and you rationalize that the hooch walls are concrete for about the first 3 feet and the rest is wooden slats and if a rocket hits outside the hooch you will be OK because the blast moves up and omni directional--the concrete will protect you and if the rocket lands inside the hooch you don't have anything to worry about because you will probably be dead--soo why not stay in your nice comfortable bed and wait it out. That's what I did and the guy in the room next to mine did too. He had just returned from Japan (had been on R&R there) and in usual fashion, he bought the biggest loudest and best sound system available. He and several others were unwinding from a long day. They were laughing talking and probably drinking and this song and album were playing at about 140db. Needless to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the album and songs on it live with me constantly. Funny-- the things that mark your memory, no way to explain it. I turned the radio up this AM until the walls shook with Judy Blue Eyes.
Since I am walking down memory lane I won't let you get away without more. I opened Don's email and Deja Vu, he was relating Craig's phone call and his return from the Far East when (still listening to Judy Blue Eyes) My mind returned to Saigon on Christmas Eve, 1969. It was 17:30 and I had arranged with my boss to have the one 7 day leave that was allowed during the tour. He had asked where I was going (We could only go to Thailand, Australia or Hawaii we could not go to CONUS) and I said Hawaii while knowing that I intended to try a more than 10,000 mile trip to the east, Salina Kansas. Don was talking about the time zones and it was the time difference that made it conceivably possible to spend the biggest family day of my life with those I loved and certainly missed. As you all may or may not know, the aviation world is small and it seems that whether military or civilian you have connections that enable travel. Well ole Vance had friends. There I was in my flying suit with a hang up bag carrying a dress uniform, shoes, some unders and socks. My friend loaded me on a C-141 Starlifter transport bound for Manila and 5 hours later I was there where I ran into another friend that was running the Airlift operations and he put me on a flight to Japan where I got a hop on a flight to Tacoma Washington (where I would later command the organization I was flying with). Well, as the powers above would have it the weather in Washington was so bad that we could not land so we had to go to Travis AFB (a base near San Francisco)--that was perfect--I could buy a commercial ticket there and proceed. I rushed through Customs and all I know is that I had to make a quick trip to San Francisco to make one of the last red eye flights to Wichita. The smell of America was wonderful and I ran (still in my flying suit--a real no-no) to catch the last bus to the airport in San Francisco. I made the flight to Wichita and then caught a ride to the Continental Trailways bus station for a two hour ride to Salina. It was now early morning--Christmas day and I was within running distance of home and ole Judy Blue Eyes was still ringing in my ears. I called from the Salina bus station which was just a few blocks from home. Have you ever had personal excitement that bubbled inside of you to the extent that you thought you would burst? That was me! There inside the open door were three little boys and my wife who I believe shared the same joy that I was experiencing--an unspeakable moment.
Well, for what it is worth that is my Christmas story and it is brought to the fore with anything but a Christmas song. So if you can open the attached song, please do it and share with me what will be with me till I die. If it won't open look for Crosby Stills and Nash and Judy Blue Eyes, play it loud and think of another time and another place. Christmas is a time for family and we have many young and some not so young that can't do what I was able to do those many years ago. Think of them and thank them for what they do. My love and best wishes for this holiday season to all of you.