After a few months I received orders to Okinawa, Japan. It was October 1972, and my family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. I had two weeks leave before I needed to leave for Japan, so I decided to fly to Ft. Wayne to see my grandfather for a day or two, and then onto Texas to see my family. After I landed in Ft. Wayne I rented a car to get around. “Would like like insurance for $1.00 more per day?” asked the lady working at the rental counter. I bought it and I was happy I did so, because the next morning I was crossing an intersection when suddenly I was broadsided by a pickup truck.
The accident seemed to happen in slow motion. I watched the glass from the passenger window break into small bits and hit me in the face. The seat came loose and broke the shifter off the floor. My head smashed into the driver’s window. Instant headache! I was frozen in time; the next thing I know was a police officer helping me from the car. I had blood dripping down the side of my face. I ached all over. The officer said that I didn’t look too bad but he wanted to take me to the hospital to get the glass out of my ear. He took my report and told me to call the car rental place after I was dropped at the hospital. The officer was so nice that he gave me a ride to my hotel after I was finished at the hospital, then he told me he was a friend of my father.
When I arrived in Corpus the family was waiting for me. It seemed nice to see them again. My father had taken a job on the long shore docks loading ships. The money was real good, more than they were used to. However, the work wasn’t every day and layoffs occurred frequently. They had moved to Texas because it was my mother’s home and my father had a retirement fund of $20,000. That’s what they used to move with. At that time in the 1970’s it was a lot of money, but it didn’t take long for it to dry up. My family moving to Texas didn’t make any difference. They were all the same. After only a couple days my father and I were back at it. I couldn’t wait for my leave to be over. It was kind of like one of those vacations from hell.
It rained almost the whole time I was on leave and now it was time to go. I had been really watching the news reports from Vietnam and I was getting a little concerned. My family came to see me off; I was dressed in full winter uniform looking good. I was happy to be going on another adventure. No one in my family had been overseas. I would be the first. No one also in my family had ever been to war. I might be the first. The flight was going to Los Angeles then to Hawaii, then Guam, to Tokyo. Then from there a military flight to Okinawa.
The flight from LA was filled with a lot of service men. It took five hours to get to Hawaii; it was just a layover of about an hour. It was about long enough to get a beer. One beer, it cost $5.00. I couldn’t believe it. It took a long time to get to Guam about seven hours. We had a couple hours layover there. A couple of us bought a bottle of rum. It was very cheap there in Guam. We boarded and flew for another three or four hours. Most of the flight everyone slept.
When we arrived in Tokyo the airport was huge. I had never seen one that big. Another new experience was going through customs. Seemed scary and it took a long time. Finally we were off on a short military flight the rest of the way.
After reporting for duty to the commanding officer I was showed to the barracks. I couldn’t believe my eyes, Quonset huts! In side were 6 racks with a set of wall lockers. In the middle of the hut was a pot belly stove. It was running as it was November, and in Japan it gets kind of cold.
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