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vietnam

Jake remembers…

Excerpt from “A Friend Request” by C L Gillmore, sequel novel to “Uncommon Bond.”
Eight of us huddled together for warmth that morning at the Greyhound bus station- Cash, Sam, Jerry, Ren, Max, Gloria, Rose and me.
We watched through the fogged up bus windows as Ben walked down the center aisle, situated himself near a window and despite the bitter cold, slid the glass window open as far as it would go.We shared a few last comments, jokes and bits of advice with him, trying to keep the conversation light for as long as we possibly could. He and Ren held hands through the window. She sporting Ben’s big, clunky class ring on her left hand. She promised to wait for Ben. And Ben promised to write her every day. They believed one another because they were in love. Hell, that’s just how easily it happens when you’re young.Could you actually be in love at 18 or even at 20? I knew the answer to that then and now. Love can happen at any age. There are no rules when it comes to affairs of the heart. You can fall in love just as hard and as deep when you’re young and inexperienced as you can when you are older and filled with experience. The capacity for the heart to love another shows no age preference. Love is timeless.

That morning our short time together passed in a blur of nervous laughter, forced smiles, fleeting promises and freezing temperatures. And before we knew…it was time to go.

Ben wiped tears from his cheeks with his free hand, clutching Ren’s hand with the other, as we said and then waved our final good-byes. There were no dry eyes that morning, only frozen tears on bright red cheeks.

Tears for the lost innocence of us all.

Ben reluctantly let go of Ren’s hand and then her fingers as the bus slowly edged away from the terminal and away from all of us…tires crunching in the snow, the smoky gray exhaust plume spiraling behind.

The open window framed Ben’s smiling face as we watched his right hand and fingers form the peace sign. In turn, we smiled, raised our gloved hands and flashed the sign back to him. We could still see his hand, raised in the peace sign and extended out the window as the bus made its final turn at the end of the block.

Our friend—my childhood friend—Ben was gone.

We went back to our apartments, our part-time jobs, our college classes and the band.

Ben went to war in the jungles of a country called Vietnam and over the next two years he would see and do things that would forever change him.

It was a reality check for all of us that day. It was winter, 1967.

Peace. Love. War.

 

The Letter

It was July 1967 after graduation. I was sitting in the Maid-Rite chomping on a greasy burger and sipping a strawberry shake with one of my long time high school friends. We were talking about our future after high school. He had his life planned out…college, job and then marriage and kids. I marveled at those plans since I had no idea where my life was about to take me. Little did we know that only a few months later I would be sending letters to this sweet friend in Vietnam. Letters on rose-covered parchment stationary stamped with a sealing wax “C.”  Sometimes the best laid plans must wait.

This song, The Letter by the Boxtops, played all summer long and into the fall.  We in our small town listened and danced to it. Those young men, like my friend, listened and fought to it.  And all of us prayed with each letter that was written and received that the words to the song … Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home, ‘Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter…would happen.

Good morning from the Paperback Writer in Phoenix!  Get up, dance and enjoy!