12 March 2010

R and R (Part 2)

The remainder of our flight to Hawaii was uneventful. We were escorted to the R and R Center where we were briefed on the program, received a discount card that the Chamber of Commerce had arranged with merchants, informed of the time we were to report for our return flight (no, they did not extend our stay!!), and sent on our way.

I had told Maryann to go straight to the hotel, so I caught a cab and was off.

Honolulu out did itself. Every store had the “Aloha, R&R” sticker in the window. Cabbies knew that R&R rates applied to us. The hotel staffs bent over backward to be, if you will pardon the pun, accommodating. Maryann was already in our room. We celebrated and then went shopping.

The “uniform of the day’” was Hawaiian vacation garb all the way—aloha shirts, slacks and shorts, swim wear. We all needed new clothes. I was all the way back up to 140 pounds, but my uniform had hung on me. The merchants were gracious and everyone seemed to be genuinely glad to see us. I spent 1500 (1969) dollars in four and a half days. Multiplied by hundreds of new arrivals every day, that probably helped their attitude, too.

We swam and sunned at Waikiki, went to the Arizona Memorial and Punch Bowl Crater, shopped, dined and did all the things young people in love have done over the ages when the warriors come home. We were close enough to the wedding to plan the honeymoon trip in detail (New Orleans) and to just relax.

Relaxing did not come easy. I woke often to find myself prowling our room “checking lines.” A couple of chance encounters with fire crackers did not go well. I was not alone; as we met other couples, the wives and girlfriends shared amazingly similar experiences with one another. It was the first time (of many) Maryann referred to me as “old.”

On our last day in Hawaii, I suggested to Maryann that we get married right away—“just in case.” Bad move on my part. She freaked out, and the rest of that evening was spent calming her down. [There was more to her hesitation than that, but that came out 20 years later.]

I learned that that, too, was normal. One Captain I knew had been shot in the neck. He had asked that his wife not be officially notified, deciding he would break it to her himself. He “forgot” and she learned when he threw his arm around her shoulders and she turned to see a pretty ugly scar. She spent the first day of their visit on meds. I know of two cases where wives arrived at the Center only to be informed that their husbands had been killed in action just before leaving Vietnam.

I took her to the airport for her return flight to Chicago and then reported for our return flight. As we were about to walk out to the plane (no jet ways in those days), one helicopter pilot walked over to a couple of MP’s and demanded that they handcuff him and escort him to the plane.


“Look, you’ve got to be crazy to go back to Vietnam. I gotta go back, but I’m not crazy. So, take me away.” They did, all of us, including the pilot, laughing as we walked.

What a goofy war. . .

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

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