Coming Home

 

Our members provide their coming home experiences for everyone to enjoy.  They are written here in their own words.

Dennis Donati
HQ Battery
1970-71

"It was my dubious honor to take 2 LSTs full of our equipment down to Da Nang right before I left country on or about 21 May '71. I assumed it was headed for property disposal as a lot of the stuff was Korean war vintage. Some of it may have made it to Germany but I doubt it. I got back just in time to grab my papers and jump a cattle truck to Phu Bai airport. Only the basics were left behind for the guys who were packing up. Lt Estes was my replacement.

I took the two LSTs to Da Nang to turn in all the equipment we didn't give to the ARVNs. I was down there a couple days and just got back up to the 1/83 in time to find the place in controlled chaos. There were a lot of people I didn't get to say goodbye to because they had already left, been reassigned, or were busy doing what needed to be done. I got my paperwork and jumped on a cattle truck to Phu Bai to get a C130 to CRB.

I was there about four days waiting my turn to get on the Freedom Bird. While there I met a Lt Bernard whom I had met when we were at ROTC summer camp(OBC). I took advantage of real hot water for showers and the warm waters of CRB. While horsing around in the water with some of the other guys, I lost my wedding ring in the water. I lost a lot of weight and it just slipped off. Some of the guys helped me search with our feet but it was hopeless.

Finally, it was our turn to get on the freedom bird. I grabbed a window seat which was a mistake because I got squeezed in by two of the biggest guys I ever saw. I guess the malaria pills didn't have the same effect on them. We all let out a big yell when the wheels left the ground but we didn't breathe easy until we figured we were safe from ground attack. There was no way I could sleep on the flight. 20 some hours later we finally landed at SEATAC. We had been told that we were a special flight and that Ft Lewis would be ready for us. When we got there, the reaction was, "Where did you guys come from?" They weren't ready for us. It was 3 in the morning and they were scrambling to find quarters for us. An hour after my head finally hit the pillow, they were waking us up to start out processing. That took a few hours but we would not get our travel vouchers, and walking papers, final pay, etc until 4. We bummed around until then.

Finally we got everything and headed for the airport. A bunch of us had to wait for our flights so we headed for the bar. A waitress came to take our orders. She was like 5'10" with heels, a short skirt, and the longest legs I had seen in a long while. We all kind of gaped. Hadn't seen a round eyed girl in awhile. There were 8 of us so I just said, "Bring us a variety of stuff and we'll be happy." So she brought 8 different drinks and everybody seemed to get what they wanted. We gave her a nice tip. When it was time to board the plane we all said our goodbyes and headed our own ways. My plane was a 747, the first time I had flown on one.

I dozed off while we were on the runway. When I woke up it seemed like we weren't moving. I asked the stewardess when we would be taking off. She said, "We're landing in Chicago in 20 minutes." I had slept the whole way! I changed planes and it was a short hop to Pittsburgh. My Mom, Dad, Sister, Wife and her Mom and Dad were there to meet me. There was a lot of hugging and crying then we headed for home so everybody could fatten me up. When I got home I weighed 150 lbs. By October I weighed 220! That was 28 May 1971.

The day after Labor Day I was sitting in my first teacher in service. The next day I met my junior high classes for the first time. I really think the kids were great therapy for me. My home town was still a place where Vets were respected."

 
 

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