Well, give a take a day or two, my life drastically changed. 50 years ago, I stepped onto the tropical soil of the Republic of Vietnam, having been inducted into the U.S. Army on August 20, 1969. The summer of ’69 was the best time of my young life (Brian Adams even wrote a song about it). It was the best until it wasn’t, until August reared its’ ugly head and president Nixon drafted me into the Army.
Talk about culture shock without even leaving the country, going from civilian life to military life. Having someone yelling at me and the other recruits for the next 8 weeks of basic training was a wake up call for sure. I think that’s when the apron strings that were firmly attached to my Irish-born mother started to unravel.
If you think that was bad, upon graduation from basic, we were given our next duty assignments. I, and most others, were ordered to report to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Advanced Infantry training. Yeah, learning how to kill another man several different ways. Mostly with an M-16 assault rifle. Now how the Army assumed that an Irish-American ex-altar boy who never shot a weapon before in his life, would make an excellent infantryman is beyond the scope of this essay. Let’s just say it happened and, yes, my next duty station, along with most others in my Fort Polk class , was the RVN.
January 1970, I was sent to Cu Chi, Vietnam to join the 25th Infantry Division, 27th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed The Wolfhounds (Because legend has it they always got their target, like Wolfhounds). Consequently, 1970 was the worst year of my life, but also the year that the boy became a man. I learned some crucial things about me. Under fire, whether small arms fire or rocket or mortar incoming, I didn’t cry for my mother, didn’t wet myself and, in fact, sort of ran to engage the communist enemy. Rather surprising don’t you think ! Oh, the apron strings were long gone and forgotten.
I was given some minor achievement awards, but they pale in comparison to knowing what I did under fire, and the confidence I felt that still remains with me today. For instance, pre-draft I was a college drop-out who after coming home from my 2 year Army service decided to return to school. This time, I was determined to finish with a degree. It took 12 years of night and weekend classes, but I did graduate with a B.A. in Business and Economics from Benedictine University. A very proud accomplishment, indeed. Along my educational journey, I also completed an AA in Marketing and another AA in Management. Then went on to complete a C.P.M. (Certified Purchasing Manager) designation that required much study and educational requirements. I achieved that to add credibility to my professional career as a procurement manager.
So, that was my journey from boyhood to manhood that really started 50 years ago when I stepped off that military plane in Vietnam and went to meet my fate. Who knew at the time what fate had planned for me would change me forever.
All the best to you, my fellow readers and writers.