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Parades of Love

by Slater Davis, B 4/21 & D 4/3 (1970-71)

It was November 5, 1971. I had spent 6 months with B-4/21 in Duc Pho and 6 months with D-4/3. I was one of the last 4/3 guys to leave country because in September I had been pulled from the bush and given a job in supply ... what relief.

I was moved from Chu Lai to Da Nang in preparation to fly out. I had to pee in the cup to be sure there were no drugs in my system before being scheduled for the Freedom Bird. What a beautiful sight that Bird was. I remember well riding in the duce-and-a-half to the tarmac. As we rounded the corner approaching the tarmac there she was! A bright, silver, bird shining in the sun. Everything else was OD or just dull, but not this bird. What a beauty! I remember the rise of emotion from deep within as we approached. That emotion stayed capped until that beautiful bird was high above the sea and leveled off. Leaving Da Nang she blasted out like a rocket, gaining altitude as fast as possible, all while turning toward the sea. The pilot's voice came across the PA and announced we were out of Vietnam air space and the entire plane erupted in cheers and cries. I didn't know another soul on that flight, but knew what each felt at that moment. Though each of our emotional releases were unique because of the individual paths we had walked, they were all the same. We WERE going home! We really had made it!

We landed and were processed thru Fort Lewis, Washington sometime in the wee hours of the morning. All I remember was it was dark, damp, and cold. I was given the full compliment of winter garb and told to turn in my jungle fatigues and boots. I stuffed them into my newly acquired duffle bag and caught a cab to the airport. I had 30 days before having to report to Ft. Hood, Texas and I was heading to Florida (where my wife and son were with her Mom) by way of Atlanta (which was home for us before the 'Nam). During a layover in St. Louis, with the sun coming up there, I called my wife and told her I was on the way. What a moment! She called my folks in Atlanta and they met me during a layover there. Again, Home! I wipe a tear away even now as I remember the moment. The visit was short but good. My mind was already in Florida. Arrival there was sweet. There she was. What joy! And she was holding that boy who was just 3 weeks old when I left. My wife had held back his first birthday party until my arrival.

We spent a couple of weeks there with her family before traveling back to Atlanta to spend time with my family. Then it was off to Texas and Fort Hood. I don't remember what triggered this, but several years later, in a moment of vulnerability and openness with my wife, I was remembering and talking. I made the passing comment that I had never gotten a parade like the WWII guys got. The following day when I returned home from work every tree in our front yard had a yellow ribbon tied around it. There was a huge 'Welcome Home' sign hanging from the front of the house. Two of my siblings, my parents, my wife and two sons greeted me with hugs and welcome homes, thanking me and loving me. I was really home!

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