"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, June 18, 2011

Coming Home: Craig Latham

"And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me." 
~Lee Greenwood

Coming Home
by Craig Latham
Craig Latham

I've never told many people about this, but when it came my time to ETS back to "The World", I sorta felt like I shouldn't leave Phu Bai ... there were new guys left in our old jobs that we mentored. One was a guy who was considerably older than any of us had been. I don't even know how he got there. He had no clue. But I did what I was suppose to do and I came home.

I went to Cam Rhan Bay. Our "Freedom Bird" came in and, just as it was landing, mortars started hitting the field. The plane touched down and kept right on going. They tried this four times and each time we were hit. This went on all day. I guessed there were elections going on and the "Little People" wanted to disrupt it. Finally the plane went somewhere else because it had to refuel. What started out at 0800 that day didn't end until 1700 that night.

When the mortars finally stopped, the plane landed. What usually took a couple of hours to unload and reload the plane, took approximately 45 minutes. As we were going in the front door, the "Cherries" were exiting the rear of the plane.  I got on the plane and got a window seat. I always liked looking out from the air. I guess that's why I used to like to fly over there whenever I could get a lift. Anyway, when we took off, we were over water. The plane was quieter than I thought it should have been for a bunch of guys who just spent the worst year of their life. I figured maybe they were like me and we just couldn't believe we survived.

Well, the guy in the middle, in the seat next to me (Mike, I forget his last name), started talking about getting home and going fishing. Now this Mike had worked in an HHC orderly room all year and probably never got outside the wire at Camp Hochmuth, let alone in Phu Bai. He started talking about fishing and how he used to love to fish in the ocean and how he caught big fish. Then he told me about catching sharks. Right then and there I figured the plane was gonna crash, and I would survive the crash only to be eaten by a big fish ... lol. I immediately got up, and traded my seat for an isle seat for the rest of the trip home.

The next time I looked out of the plane would be as we were crossing a beach in Washington State. I've only been on a plane three times since that time. One time, I was flying from Seattle to Columbus. Another time, I was flying from Columbus to my next duty station until I got out of the Army (I hitch hiked home from Ft. Riley). And the third time, to and from Albuquerque NM when I went out there for PTSD study.

Craig Latham
Combat Writer/Photographer
34th Public Information Detachment (34th PID)
2nd Brigade/101st Airborne Division (Ambl)
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

**Thank you, Craig.  As always, it's an honor to post something you've written.
With a hug and a lot of respect,

“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

1 comment:

  1. Great Article! Thanks for sharing. I remember looking down on Seattle as we landed at Ft. Lewis. I remember thinking if the people down there knew how lucky they were. I wonder if the guys/gals coming home from Afghanistan/Iraq feel the same way?
    Richard Schwartz


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