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.