My Journey Back To The World
Part Four of Five
 (Read Part 1)    (Read Part 2)    (Read Part 3)
“Look At All Those Bright Lights”
We had made it back to the World. I and all the other comrades with whom I had flown on the Freedom Bird from Viet Nam were a happy group of troops at that moment. However, our journey was not yet complete. We were told that in a short time, we would be boarding charter buses for the trip to the Oakland Army Terminal to finish our out-processing. We were further told the interval would be long enough that we would have time to smoke, walk around and regain the feeling in our legs and our butts.

While we were waiting, I decided to have a cigarette. I pulled out my pack of smokes to discover that only one remained. I decided to enjoy that one, because it was going to be my last cigarette. When it was finished, I put it out, threw the empty box in the trash and gave my lighter to one of the soldiers near me. I have not smoked since that time.

The charter buses began to arrive a short time later. We cheerfully loaded our luggage on to them and we were on our way to San Francisco and the Oakland Army Terminal. This was the place where you were either given a new duty assignment and sent home on leave if you had time remaining on your enlistment or, as in my situation, as well as many others, be Honorably Separated from the Army and just sent home.

As we rode through the night on the buses, we looked through the windows at the lights and buildings of California. One of the guys sitting near me remarked, “Look at all those bright lights.” Another said, “Man, they must have one Hell of a generator here to run all of them all at the same time.” Still another person remarked, “Looks exactly like the World doesn’t it.” In unison we all said, “DAMN, we really are in the World aren’t we!!!”

The bus ride continued and as we got closer to San Francisco, the fact became more and more evident to all of us that we were indeed in the World and that our collective dreams had become reality. As the bus entered the terminal, all my pessimism had disappeared. In just a short time, I would be able to complete my journey home. I noted the time and date; 6:55AM, Sunday, January 11, 1970.

As we exited the bus, we were again separated into two groups. The troops who were being reassigned went one direction and those of us who were being separated from the service went a different direction. We were told that troops who were being reassigned would be on the road home in six hours or less and those of us who were separating from the Army would take a few more hours. However, we should be separated and back on the road again in eighteen (18) hours or less.

We were ushered into a large room which had a great number of tables with chairs all facing toward the front of the room. We began our initial procedure of processing. This time the processing was much different. We had a monitor for about every three troops in the room. Every troop in the room was treated very nicely by these clerks who were assisting us.

After about an hour of paperwork shuffling, we were led as a group to the Quartermaster, where we were fitted for Class A shoes and our jungle boots were taken from us. I later determined the reason for taking away our boots. This was to distinguish between returnees and FNG’s. The returnees wore Class A shoes; the FNG’s wore jungle boots.

We were then fitted with our Class A uniforms. We were told the uniforms were going to be taken and tailored and would be ready about 7:00 PM in the evening. We were also given underwear and told to put it on and wear it. YUCK!

We returned to the room with the chairs and tables where we signed another seemingly endless number of forms for our separation. When this task was completed, the time was around noon and we were ready for chow.

We were led from the building to a mess hall to eat chow. The menu consisted of T-Bone Steaks to order with all the trimmings. The meal was just really excellent. I have never been able to determine if the meal was actually that good because it really was or that I was just really hungry.

On the way to the mess hall for chow, the group, which I was a part, J-walked across a street in front of an MP patrol car. We waved and they waved and everything was cool. A group of FNG’s who were following us tried the same thing. The MP’s called them over to the patrol car and I saw the patrolman on the passenger side reaching for his DR book.

After chow, we reported to the Medics for our REFRAD physical exam. This was a very thorough exam, similar to the one which you were given when you were inducted. I had a little trouble with the Hearing Test, but the Medic said the problem was not bad enough to slow-up my processing.

My group finished the medics about 5:00 PM and we were given free time until 7:00 PM that evening. We were however restricted to the area of the Army Terminal. During this time we were also to shower and shave and to get ready to be REFRAD in our Class A uniform.

I took the opportunity to telephone my parents in Oklahoma. I told them that I was indeed back in the Continental United States. You could both sense and hear the relief in their voices when I made that statement. I also told them that I was at the Oakland Army Terminal processing out of the Army. As I had not talked to them in several months, we had a good conversation; however, I told them several guys were waiting in line behind me (all FNG’s) and that I would telephone them from the airport when I had acquired an airline ticket to Oklahoma City.

At 7:00 PM, I reported to the Quartermaster to get my Class A uniform. I was told there had been a delay and the uniforms would not be ready until 8:00 PM. I considered this to be only minor and would not effect my pending separation in any manner. The hour’s delay passed quickly and at 8:00 PM, I was back at the Quartermaster ready for my uniform. It was indeed ready by that time and as I dressed, I felt good.

After the Quartermaster, we were again taken as a group to a large room with tables and chairs. We signed several forms and then were given our separation documents. AT LAST!!! We were told to report to the pay window where we were paid individually. I could not imagine the amount of pay that I received. This was one thing for which I was totally unprepared. I had carried enough money with me for a ticket home, but now I could buy several if I wanted. I walked away from the pay window with a big smile on my face.

I again fetched my suitcase and I walked out of the Terminal to continue my journey. I had walked in as a soldier and I had walked out as a PFC (Proud F_ _ _ ing Civilian). I noted the time: 11:25 PM, Sunday, January 11, 1970.
Gary Graham
Norman, Oklahoma        Go to Part 5

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