posted on May, 31 2008 @ 09:45 PM
An excerpt from the first draft of a book I did.
The experience, little brothers, but some of his stories about service in the military are just too good to let slide into the mists of time.
Tom’s enlistment finally came to an end. Seemed to us like it had been a long, long time.
For Tom, always impatient, even longer.
He came home on a rainy Sunday night in February, got off the bus and took a taxi straight to our house. No phone call from the bus station, none
from Fort Leonard Wood and in fact, no information at all. Well, not surprising, that was pretty much Tom’s way.
Answering the door and finding Tom standing there was a shock. I was kinda numb when we shook hands, but at least I had the presence of mind to call
DeeDee. When she came into the front room and saw Tom walking through the door she was thrilled to death. She hugged him, started crying and
wouldn’t let him go.
After a bit Tom got that embarrassed look and DeeDee finally stepped back and took a good look at him. Tom had changed. Seemed he was taller, stood
a little straighter, was well tanned and had a lot more muscle than the skinny kid we’d seen get on the bus to Ford Ord last time we saw him.
Even so, it was definitely Tom. And he still had that old twinkle in his eye. Lord knows what he had in mind. I just hoped it would be a while
before he put it into motion.
It was surprising that he stopped at our house first. The obvious thing to do, at least to me, was head for home and the folks. I think the simple
answer was, DeeDee was the one that Tom missed the most.
We visited for a while and DeeDee called her folks and told them the good news. It didn’t take long for them to show up at the house and the
meeting with DeeDee was re-enacted with his mom. Tom’s dad was pleased too. More than a few tears to go around.
We visited for a while, at least until we realized that Tom was just plain worn out. That was enough for his mom and dad, they took him straight
DeeDee was still so excited that she had to call Dinah and Jill. Even though it was ten o’clock at night, neither one of the girls minded the late
call. Tom had been on everybody’s mind while he’d been gone. Especially true when he was in Vietnam. Dinah and Jill were happy for DeeDee.
Next day at work, Doofus and Whiny gave me a bad time about having the “wild” brother-in-law back in the fold. Kidding for sure, they liked Tom
as much as I did.
Around noon, Tom showed up at the shop driving his moms car. We figured it was just to hang around and talk for awhile. Trouble was, it was work
and we had work to get done and as much as we wanted to, we just didn’t have the time to talk. Tom drifted off, but not before Whiny asked him to
come to the house for dinner. The whole gang would be there and dinner was at seven.
Tom surprised us by asking if he could bring a date. A new one on us. We knew Tom dated off and on, but either he had a girl friend that no one
knew about or he was one fast worker.
Knowing Tom, I wouldn’t have been surprised at the latter.
I mentioned Tom’s apparent girl friend to DeeDee when I got home. She said she wasn’t surprised. Tom had been sweet on a girl for about six
months before he went in the Army.
All she knew was that the girls name was Amy and Tom had been writing her pretty steady while he was overseas.
That was one I missed by a mile. Not surprising I guess, I figured Tom had his hot rod Dodge, a few friends he ran around with, a few dates now and
then and that was about it.
Dinner was interesting in more ways than one. The main attraction, at least it was for everyone except DeeDee was seeing Tom’s date, girl friend,
whatever you want to call it. Dinah and Jill knew about her as well, but Doofus and Whiny were just like me. A touch in the dark. Not the first
time we’d been there. Probably not the last either.
It didn’t make any difference, you could tell we were more than curious when we got to Whiny’s house a good half hour before Tom and Amy showed
up. Not surprising either that Doofus and Dinah came in about the same time.
When the knock on the door finally came, the conversation came to a stop and all eyes turned toward the door. Whiny opened it to find Tom standing
there with a beautiful young woman with blonde hair and green eyes. It was a proud moment for Tom when he entered the room. He introduced Amy, sat
her on the couch, got a glass of wine from Jill, gave it to Amy and sat down next to her.
This was a different Tom than the one we’d known from before. Maybe not so much for DeeDee, but for the rest of us, it was quite different. Tom
had manners and was polite, but there was always that wild man lurking under the surface waiting to get out.
Dinner was simple, and great like always. Jill was one heck of a cook and excelled in cooking stuff that guys liked. We’d seen her whip up fancy
dishes that the girls liked, but she excelled at the simple meat and potatoes kind of meals that most guys prefer. Tonight’s dinner, her more than
famous meat loaf.
In fact, when she made meat loaf, she always made sandwiches for Doof and I for lunch and sent Whiny off to work with three lunch bags.
Kind of funny sometimes, to head into the kitchen to pick up lunch and not finding any. Times like that, DeeDee would just say “Jill made
meatloaf”. Good enough for me. A good start to a good day.
Tom ate his share at dinner. More than his share in fact. It was obvious that meatloaf sandwiches would not be on tomorrow’s lunch menu. It was
ok though. Tom was just making up for a couple of years of missing home cooked food.
Amy was a smart and interesting girl. She was finishing up college and would get her teaching credentials soon. Teaching first or second grade was
what she wanted and so far, her plans were on track.
After dinner and with things cleared off and picked up, the dishes soaking in the sink, we all adjourned to the front room with a glass of wine. All
except for Tom. He preferred beer.
We were curious about Vietnam and what Tom had done over there. Like a lot of guys we’d seen come back, there were some aspects of it that he
wouldn’t talk about. And other things he would.
Wars are always fought by young, strong and for the most part smart young men.
Tom wasn’t any different. Between times of intense fear and excitement, things for the most part were dirty and boring.
Dirty, because the fine dust of Vietnam blew everywhere in the dry season and when the monsoons came, mud was everywhere. Boring, well, that seems
to be the Army way. They just park you somewhere until they need you.
For Tom though, there wasn’t much parking going on. Not during the times he ran the big D8 Caterpillar bulldozer.
As Tom put it, the best heavy equipment operators were the ones that ran the D8 Cats.
He said it modestly, but you could tell it was a point of pride with him.
Some of the things he told us they did with the big dozers was flat mind boggling. They’d run the dozers down very steep hills using the big blade
as a brake. Something commonly done in the states, but from what Tom was able to find out, the stateside guys didn’t go down hills as steep as some
of the ones that Tom and his buddies did. As one stateside cat skinner put it “You guys were crazy”.