November 27, 2009

That Far Away Look in His Eyes

Thanksgiving 2009 – Baltimore County, MD

“I think about her often and always wonder what happened to her…”

That was the phrase that brought the far away look to the eyes of my “father-in-law”. He’s not really my father-in-law but my wife’s father died long before I ever met her, and even though he married my mother-in-law after I married her daughter he is the only man I’ve ever known in that house, it wouldn’t seem right not calling him my father-in-law.

Anyway, back to that far away look.

I couldn’t remember where he had been stationed in Vietnam and when talking to my Scoutmaster - who was a loach pilot at the same time - about him, all I could offer was “up north in a hook unit.” So on Thanksgiving, yesterday, I ventured to ask more.

“I know you were in a hook unit up north but where was that? “

“Pleiku; Camp Holloway. Had the Montagnards there with us, couldn’t believe that they would run around with crossbows. I did 11 months straight and then out. I was afraid that if I took leave, I wouldn’t want to go back. My CO wanted to give me another stripe and make me a Staff Sergeant to stay there another 3 months, nothing doing, I had been pretty lucky and I didn’t want to risk it.”

“Do you ever think about going back now?”

“I’ve thought about it, I hear that it has been helpful to those that have gone back.”

And then it happened. He turnned and looked out the window and got that look in his eyes that you just knew meant that he wasn’t sitting in that chair anymore but was somewhere else.

“I think about her often and always wonder what happened to her. We had hooch mates (I think that was the term he used – we was speaking softly now so it as hard to tell.) She would do your laundry and clean up for you. I remember how happy she would get if you bought her something from the PX. But what a shy girl she was, only 16 years old and if you teased or complimented her she would turn bright red and hide her face.

Her name was Ling…”

He continued to look out the window for a bit and you knew that there was nothing else coming.

There is a story there...maybe one day he will be ready to tell it all.

[Ed Note: I found a web page dedicated to Camp Holloway]

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