Wednesday, May 15, 1968
It was a difficult night, and we slept in fits. I sat up on the edge of the bed at 4:00 am, and Jenny said, “Are you OK?” I answered, “I need to take a shower; can you help me?” She got up, put on her shower cap and joined me with the Dove soap. * This time the drain didn’t back up, and we were able to finish the soapy scrub down. We dried and scampered back into bed, and I waited for her to find me. We ended R&R as we had begun six days earlier. It seemed that we had grown up and were no longer as naive as we had been back in January . . . saying goodbye at Camp Pendleton. We laid awake cuddling until sunrise and the drapes lit up the room.
After dressing in the brightness, we went down the elevator for the last time. Others were checking out, some in uniform, and we waited to pay the final bill . . . when it was our turn, I said, “323.” The hotel bill came to $113.77. After it was settled, Jenny had $60 left, and I had $40. We had spent $400. It was worth every penny and was full of love and memories.
A shuttle took us to the airport, and we were an hour early. We ate a light breakfast and nervously chatted until my flight was announced. It was emotional for everyone, and some couples were sobbing. I was choked up, could barely speak and my eyes were flooded with tears. Finally we kissed goodbye, and I walked the ramp into the plane. I went straight to the rear and took the same seat that I had on the incoming flight. As we were taxiing to the runway, the stewardess strapped in . . . she was the same woman who had helped me tie my shoes. She inspected my hand and said, “You’re healed.” I thanked her for her advice, but she didn’t remember giving me any.
Everyone was subdued, and there was little conversation. I was trying to think up a plan for survival, but the war seemed so random. Staying put on Hill 65 seemed like a good idea, and I would try to make less trips to Da Nang. The reality was: risk management in Vietnam had mixed results. My plan was — stay off the roads as much as possible.
During the flight I started a letter to Jenny. The R&R experience was a chance for us to reconnect and had been a breath of life. The next nine months would be a challenge but worth it in the end.
It took 8 hours from Hawaii to Guam where we stayed on the plane for about 30 minutes before taking off again. We flew over the Philippines on the 6-hour flight to Da Nang. It was late afternoon, and the cattle car brought us back to the R&R Transient Center. We redeemed our gear and changed into combat fatigues. It somehow felt normal to be wearing a helmet and flak jacket again. I hitched a ride to Headquarters battery, but it was too late for the convoy to Hill 65 so I spent the night in the same hooch where Sergeant Paige and I had experienced the rocket attack.
* See previous “R&R – Hawaii” blog (May 8, 1968)