Today is National Viet Nam Honor Day. I honor my spouse who served in Viet Nam who died nearly 36 years ago, leaving me a widow and our two children. We met on my 16th birthday when he was on a 30 day leave from Korea. From there he went to Hunter Army Airforce Base in Savanna, GA, to Germany, to Viet Nam. When he was discharged, we got married. I just passed my 19th birthday by 2 months.
Hunter AFB was assigned to the Strategic Air Command's (SAC) Second Air Force. That is where he sent me my first letter and I began writing him faithfully. My parents were strict and I didn't date but was allowed to write him letters. When he was sent to Germany is when I began writing aerograms. I can still remember the thin one page blue sheet that folded and felt like soft cloth. APO, his SS Number and Name is what I remember. Oh, and I sprayed them with Avon Lavender Cologne.
What I remember most about my high school years while he was serving our country was watching the body bag count on the news daily. I prayed continuously. Each time an aerogram was sent to me, I pressed it to my chest and felt his presence in my heart.
He wrote about his watch duty and what it was like in the jungle. He used words I didn't understand, and I wrote back about the positive things going on in my life, such as:
- I baked a cake. I will send you some!
- School is fun. I am off for school break.
- I learned how to type 120 WPM - Teacher was so proud of me!
- My dad bought a boat! I can't wait to get on the lake!
He wrote back telling me what it was like to be in a jungle and how he ached for a hug. Most of his letters told me to stay in school and how important is to never stop learning. Joining the Army at 17 was his biggest regret.
Two months before our first child was born he received his DD Form 214. Two and a half years later we had a son. Life was not easy. It was very difficult for him to get meaningful work or any job. Our sacrifices continued throughout his life. But he was proud he served, and he made me proud too. He wrote my name on the side of his Bell Helicopter. One day he told me, I only survived because of you. Vicariously, I lived through all his battles including cancer of the skin, lungs, and finally the brain. We were told he only had 24 hours or less to live.
But I have my memories. He lives inside my heart. My children are a reminder of the love we had. He actually lived for three and a half months after we got our affairs in order and had time for closure. 10 days before he died we renewed our marriage vows in the hospital. The nurses were there. They were angels.
He finally got the honors he deserved at his funeral with the 9-gun shot salute. The entire Community where we lived in a small town gathered to pay their respects. He died without a life insurance policy. Because of pre-existing conditions, he wasn't entitled. Agent Orange was unknown. We had a small savings account. What money I saved had to pay for medical bills. The home we bought was through a VA Loan. I did not qualify because I was a stay-at-home mom. I worked after he died and paid the mortgage faithfully until I sold the property and moved to Texas. My children did well in school. She received a few scholarships but no free lunch when it came to paying tuition. We all furthered our education. But when it came to paying for tuition, we were denied because I had a house. But I had a mortgage and didn't qualify at the time he bought it. It didn't matter. I had a house. We were denied.
When life throws you curveballs, don't duck. Lead and learn respectfully and don't ask for handouts That is how I got through it all. I had no choice but to get re-wired, re-energized, and get results. I do still Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, and I am grateful for all who served in Viet Nam.
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