"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Craig Latham: Men Do Cry

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Men Do Cry

August 28, 1970

Forty years ago today, I left the United States for Vietnam. Hopefully, only a year and I'd be back home. But this trip started a couple of days before.

I was home from AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for two weeks. Most of the days were spent sleeping in and partying all night. But the last day at home was spent with my family. We went to dinner at the "French Village" the night before I left. I had a steak, potato and salad. This was my Dad's favorite restaurant. It was right across the street from where he worked at Shaw-Barton (which is long gone now). My whole family worked there at one time or another. My girlfriend, Mom and Dad, sisters Murph and Bonnie, Aunts and Uncles were there. It was a quiet dinner. Had to get up early the next morning and make the trip to Columbus for my flight to Seattle.

Aunt, Uncle, Mom, Dad, girlfriend and sisters went to the airport. I always liked going to Columbus Airport because you could stand outside on the roof over the passenger gates and watch the planes load, land and take-off. My gate was the very last one. You had to walk outside and up the roll-away stairs to board planes at that time.

We all walked down to the gate. No security checks, as there are now. The entire family could go with you to the gate. About a hour before my plane left, we all were standing at my departure gate chatting. There were a couple of other soldiers there with their families getting ready to leave also.

When it was time to board, Dad asked everyone to go up on top and he would be up in a few minutes. Everyone hugged me good-bye, and wished me good luck. Jeanne, Mom and Murph cried, but I knew they would. I smiled and said not to worry, "I'll be home before you know it."

They left and went upstairs, leaving me and Dad to say our good-byes. My Dad was the strong one in the family. He and I were so much alike, and we didn't get along a lot of the time. I was the teenager who thought he knew everything, and my Dad, he did know everything. We talked for a few minutes and that's when it happened. I looked and saw tears forming in the corners of his eyes. I had never seen my Dad cry. I had seen my Mom, sisters, and fiancee cry before, but never my Dad. I think it embarrassed him a little, but I told him it was ok. I made him a promise. I'd meet him there one year later. We shook hands, he saluted me and then he went to join the rest of the family up top. I made it to my seat on the plane before my tears started.

Every day I was gone, Dad would go to work early or stay late and write me a little about what he did that day and send it to me once a week. He always called me 'Sir' when he started my letters. He is part of the reason I enlisted in the Army. He was in WW2. It was the least I could do for him.

The year went by, and I got back to Columbus exactly 1 year later on Aug. 28, 1971. He picked me up at Columbus Airport and, out of all the passenger gates, I got off the plane at the same gate I got on a plane a year earlier. Dad saluted, as I knew he would, and there was another tear in his eye, but this time it had a different meaning.

'Men Do Cry'

Craig Latham
101st Airborne Division (Ambl)
Combat writer and combat photographer
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

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1 comment:

  1. This is very moving Craig, made me cry as well. I am glad that your dad got another chance to shed a tear for you.


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