I’m not sure why I wrote this because I sat down at the keyboard with an altogether different subject in mind. What I wrote instead were recollections of how as a child I viewed the Vietnam War. Strange.
I was born the year the Vietnam War began. Like many I grew up with it. Hardly a day went by that I wasn’t watching Walter Cronkite give his daily death tallies for both sides of the fight. It seemed to me it was a simple game of attrition. The U.S. Army was killing way more North Vietnamese than it was losing so obviously it was just a matter of time, right? I was only nine years old at the time but already had a firm belief that my end would come in Vietnam. Why, I don’t know. Two of my older brothers were serving in the Air Force, having joined before their draft numbers came up. Neither was on the front lines, so I’m not sure why I thought I’d end up carrying a rifle.
Like me, my best friend was also attuned to the war, but we came at it from different angles. He was a military brat who had been born on a US military base in Morocco and he was also an avid deer hunter like his dad. I still have never shot a living thing, don’t want to. Any way, he and I had many conversations about the war. He told his dad about my morbid ideations about death in combat and his hardened army sergeant dad said of me,”He must be a tough guy,” whatever that meant.
Anyway my friend knew what his future was going to be from the fifth grade on, a fighter pilot. It was a dream I once had, mostly because my dad had flown B-17s in Europe. However, the many virtual missions I flew with my dad through the vividness of his stories removed that desire from my mind. My friend did eventually achieve his goal and became an A-10 jet pilot and flew many missions in the first Gulf War.
I found myself in high school in 1974 and fortunately didn’t think about the war much at all despite the fact that I was bearing down on Draft age. The teenage life was full of diversions, like sports, upping my reputation and thinking about girls. So it was hardly a surprise that on the occasions that I did find myself thinking about ultimate demise in Southeast Asia there was a whole new spin on it. The specter of death in battle was not my biggest fear, rather the possibility of taking that bullet before having ever been laid.
Then the miraculous year of 1975 came and with it the end of the war and my driver’s license.