|My Journey Back to the World|
|Part One of Five|
|“Here Today, Home Tomorrow”|
After about two hours of sleep, I woke-up, got dressed and, as I had for almost
twelve months, went to the mess hall and had morning chow. However, this day was
different from all of the others. This was the day that I was leaving Quan Loi
and beginning my journey back to the World.
My suitcase had been packed and repacked numerous times. All my uniforms were, at least to me, clean, and my boots were polished, or at least they were black. My plan, at the time, was to change uniforms every day while I remained in-country. Furthermore, I had enough clean clothing for five days. I was optimistic my entire journey back to the World would take no more then five days.
I finished chow and went back to the FDC Personnel Bunker and fetched my suitcase. All my good-byes had already been said, so, I walked out to the road and put out my thumb for a ride to the Airstrip Terminal. The first vehicle I saw coming; pulled to a stop; I climbed aboard and I was on my journey back to the world. I noted the time and date: 0700 hrs, 9 January 1970.
Although my DEROS (Date Eligible to Return from OverSeas), was not until January 11th; however, I was ordered to report to Service Battery, 6/27th Artillery in Long Binh on 9 January. I was then to finish processing out of the Battalion and move on to the Replacement Depot (90th Replacement Battalion) for final processing and transportation to CONUS – the World. I would, if all went as planned, be then honorably separated from the military and be allowed to return to civilian life.
My goal that morning was to be a passenger on the first flight leaving Quan Loi for Bien Hoa AFB. I did not make the first flight; however, I was put on the manifest for the second flight, and I arrived at Bien Hoa AFB at about 1000 hrs. I hitched a ride (by now I was becoming quite good at this) to II Field Force and then to Service Battery.
I reported to the Orderly Room where I was assigned a bunk for my stay and sent to the Clerk who processed the persons returning to CONUS (DEROS Clerk). This person told me that before I could leave for 90th Replacement I had to clear USARV Personnel and Finance. After processing at those two locations, I was to return to Service Battery to finish the procedure and get my final orders. I then would be off duty for the remainder of the day.
The clerk also told me to relax and not get in a big hurry because I was not scheduled to leave the Country until 11 January, which was one day plus hence. He continued by saying that when I had completed all my processing with the Battalion, I could report to the Replacement Depot early the next morning and perhaps get on the manifest for the first flight on the 11th.
Service Battery gave me a ride to USARV Personnel and Finance. I began to have bad vibes as to what was going to happen at both these locations. Both were in close proximity, so I decided to try the Personnel Section first. I went to the right place on the very first try and the Clerk had my records. They were in good order, so the clerk gave them to me and sent me to Finance. Again, I found the right place on the first try and again the clerk had my records. They were also in good order; and again, the clerk gave them to me and sent me on my way. The amount of time that had elapsed since I started processing at Personnel and Finance was about one hour. OUTSTANDING!
I returned to Service Battery and gave my records folders to the DEROS Clerk and signed a few more forms. I was told that I was off duty for the remainder of the day. I was to report back to the DEROS Clerk no later then 0730 hrs the next morning for final records check and transportation to the 90th Replacement Depot. I asked what I was to do next and was told that I could do anything that I wanted until the next morning. I decided to explore Long Binh, so I walked out to the road and put out my thumb.
My first stop was the Long Binh PX. I walked in the door and tried to do some shopping, but nothing really interested me. I went outside and again started walking. I saw the rear echelon of several units with which I was familiar. Suddenly, as I was walking, I realized that I was seeing something that I had heard about since I had been in VN. It was the LBJ – the infamous Long Binh Jail. I did not like the look of this place, so I hitched a ride back to Service Battery. I took a nap because I was, after all, off duty. This was great!
After evening chow, I had a beer with a couple of the guys from Service Battery, but I hit the sack early in order to get as much sleep as I could to get ready for what I perceived to be a busy next day. However, the night passed slowly. Finally the time for Reveille arrived; I dressed and ate morning chow. I reported as I was told at 0730 hrs and I was given my Personnel and Finance Files. I was also given a stack of my Travel Orders that was about an inch thick. I soon discovered why I needed so many copies of them.
I again fetched my suitcase and was ready to put up my thumb for a ride to 90th Replacement. This time however, hitchhiking was not necessary as Service Battery had a vehicle and driver waiting to take me. I asked myself if they really wanted to get rid of me that bad, or were they just being nice to me? I decided it was better not to try and answer the question.
The 90th Replacement Depot was not far from Service Battery, and as we pulled into the compound, I thought of a sign that I had seen at the Replacement Depot at Cam Ranh Bay when I first arrived In-Country. The sign read, “HERE TODAY, HOME TOMORROW”. I wondered at the time if I would ever get to see a similar sign. Suddenly, there it was; the SIGN. I realized at that moment I WAS actually going to be one of the troops who were: “HERE TODAY, HOME TOMORROW”.
|Gary Graham (Go to Part 2)|