Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Way We Were

I was reminded by a newspaper article in the USA Today that 40 years ago today was the shooting at Kent State University.  I remember that day.  Bruce and I had been married almost 11 months and even though we were busy with our jobs, the disaster that was the Vietnam War was in the forefront of our thoughts.  How could it not be?

We were living in Southern California at that time and the war was very, very big news there.  It was everywhere, of course, but in California we had a lot of the troops that were being deployed from that area.  We had Camp Pendleton just south of our home.  The Long Beach Naval base was just miles from us.  San Diego also had a large Navy base.   Fort Ord up near Monterey was the main area for the Army sending troops to Nam.  Each evening on the local Los Angeles news programs the first 15 minutes would be devoted to war coverage and the current "count" of  daily casualties.  The news film would show the bodies being sent home, families distraught with profound grief, and the faces of the fresh, young men getting ready to be shipped off to that insanity across the Pacific. 

Bruce was almost one of those faces back in 1966 when he received his letter that began with the salutation, "Greetings."  It was in November and he had picked me up after high school that day, just like every other day.  We drove over to Bellflower Blvd. and the A & W Drive-In for a snack.  We sat there in his old VW Beetle and after talking and drinking our root beers, he pulled out his letter of "Greetings" to show me.   I made it through the first sentence before the tears poured out.

Bruce was enrolled in college, but had let his grades fall to a C level and Uncle Sam grabbed their opportunity.  No more student deferment for him.  Of course, in my mind he was going to be in Vietnam before too long and he would surely die there in the jungle like so many of our young men.  Pretty much back in those days, you were inducted and sent to Fort Ord for your basic training.  After that you were lucky to get a week long furlough, and then you would be shipped right off to combat.  The new soldiers were cranked right through the system and out the door to combat before you could blink an eye.....ready or not.

Bruce wasn't wanting to go through the draft situation, so he enlisted in the Army instead.  He went to Los Angeles one morning for his Army physical.  That was an all-day process.  After going through all the various stations laid out for this physical, he came to the hearing tests.  He was tested and then re-tested by another doctor.  After a lengthy exam, they determined that the hearing in his right ear was almost totally gone.  REJECTED...and labeled 4-F.    He was now finished with the Vietnam War and he never even really got started with it.  Not that we ever complained about that!!! 

A childhood ear infection that was not treated properly had destroyed almost all of his hearing.  A bad situation as a child, turned out to be a good thing for us many years later.  I have a lot of respect and admiration for our military personnel.  My Dad was a Navy seaman in WWII and so was my father-in-law.  My cousin, John, pulled his tour of duty in Vietnam during the 60's.  We have friends at church that are currently deployed to the Middle East and are serving their country proudly.

Still, I'm so thankful Bruce did not have to serve in that war.  If he had, things could have been very different for us and our future.  This was just one of the many blessings that we have been given in our relationship of almost 45 years.  Many, many of our soldiers were not given the opportunity for a long life and a happy marriage. 


Cindy said...

Very moving Story!! Thank you for sharing it. Bruce and Walker have something in common ..hearing loss..you and me ..weight control..I know there are some jokes in there about us all hanging out together..lol.. You have to smile with our lives..

Hugs..Cindy and Walker

Carol K said...

Thank you for this post, Margie. Very moving!

squawmama said...

Wow I remember it so well... I had so many friends who went over and never came home... and those who did come home were scared mentally. A terrible time in history indeed. I am happy for you that Bruce didn't have to go... In those days 4-F was a good thing. Have a great day my friend!
Travel Safe

Happytrails said...

Beautiful story and very moving. That was such a volitile time in our history. I grew up in Columbus, Georgia which is next door to Fort Benning. I remember so well neighbors leaving for Viet Nam and some never returning.

I am so glad your story is blessed one!! I love happy endings.

Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

Rick and Paulette said...

Very interesting blog, Margie. Sorry about Bruce's hearing problem, but I'm glad it kept him out of that disaster of a war! It brought back some memories for me too as I used to go to LA in the 60's to visit a Canadian friend who was in college. I used to listen to all of his friends and the big topic was what injury, or illness, they could manufacture to get a 4F rating. The guys that did get 4F were treated as heroes!! It was a strange time!

Sam&Donna Weibel said...

Thank goodness for yours and Bruce's good fortune,I remember Kent State too, I was still flying in the Navy and was deployed on an aircraft carrier, when the news hit the ship, most of the young fliers like me could not understand why anyone who had the good fortune and finances to be in college, would be demonstating against anything, I share Bruce's fight with bad hearing, I am losing mine mine due to the proximatety to jet engine noise during my service years,They knew they had a problem and about a year before I got out we were all issued new helmets with ear protection built in, nobody asked about the previous 3 years we had been flying with glorified football helmets, Now when I filed for VA benefits,they said one ear was service related, but the other isn't , so my benefits were denied. Go Figure.I guess illegal immigrants are using up to much money so there is none left for vetrans benefits. Be safe out there. Sam & Donna.

Ali said...

Thanks for sharing. I don't have many memories of Kent as I was only 10, but I remember my mom talking about it.

Our son, Brandon, was unable to go into the Navy due to a 92% hearing loss in his left ear. He had numerous ear infections as a little guy. Our son, Jamie, did serve in the Army and did a tour in Iraq. It was definitely a hard time for all of us and a life changing event for Jamie.

Be safe as you travel.

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