Tonight I attended a going away party at the American Legion Post for a soldier who will be deployed to Iraq shortly after the first of the year. There are probably countless such parties taking place on any given day in the United States. What made this party a bit different is that the soldier who is on his way to Iraq is a friend who was, as they say, “in the shit” 34 years ago in Vietnam.
My friend Lou was a grunt (Airborne) in Vietnam in 1969 and managed to come home in one piece. Lou remained in the Army Reserve (and maintained his jump status) thereafter. He is now a Sergeant First Class (E-7), fifty-five years old, in much better shape than the rest of us, and is off to fight another war and earn a star for his Combat Infantryman’s badge.
The party was attended by almost exclusively by Vietnam-Era vets, many of whom were “in country” and more than a few of whom also spent a year “in the shit.” The music of choice tonight consisted of songs from the sixties and evoked memories of similar parties many years ago when we were young and the war in Vietnam was white hot and seemingly without end.
Lou, who is a soft-spoken, no nonsense guy, characteristically said of his deployment, “It’s my job, and I intend to do it.” The young men who will be deployed with Lou lucked out, as he is a good man, a dedicated soldier, a patient teacher, and a guy who has already “done that.”
I wish him Godspeed.