Home Veterans Life After Bootcamp in the Vietnam Era: Part Three

Life After Bootcamp in the Vietnam Era: Part Three

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This is a continuation of Vietnam ‘Throwback Thursday’ series.  Click to read from the beginning…

Life After Boot Camp vietnam marine corps engineer combat marijuana marinesIt took a little over seven hours to get home as I had a layover in Atlanta before I could make it home to Fort Wayne. Atlanta was a huge airport, it almost freaked me out. Leaving home just as I had done in the past was turning into a real experience. I had already done more and had been through more than any of my friends or my family ever had. When I got off the plane at home I was so proud, and there I was all decked out in uniform, spit shined and wearing my Sharp Shooters medal. I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I owned the world.

I walked down the stairs from the plane and saw my family. My mother was full of hugs and kisses, my father shook my hand, and I hugged my brother and sisters. I went around to all of the places I liked to hang out at and even back to the school to see a teacher that I liked. I was in uniform and trying to look tough. In the next couple of days I visited a couple of bully’s in the neighborhood. I showed them what a Marine could do. I look back and I find it hard to forgive them. I felt and still do feel that they had it coming. They chased me to school and beat me up several times. Now I was a man, not just any man, but a Marine. I took care of business.

I had two weeks leave and then I would have to return to California, to attend training aboard Camp Pendleton. This training was what every Marine had to do. This was the training that taught you to fight in a war setting. I was glad to leave home; it hadn’t really been all that long that I was gone while in boot camp. The two weeks went by quickly. Training was to be only a couple weeks long then we would all get our orders. Mine was to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was to become a combat engineer. I was going to learn how to build bridges and how to blow them up. It seems that blowing things up was what I excelled at. I was good at construction too.

School went on for four weeks and at the end of the four weeks I was promoted meritoriously to Lance Corporal. Only the top two or three in the class got promoted. I was motivated, I was adapting to a new way of life, and I was overcoming my past. That’s what Marines do, they adapt, they overcome and they improvise. This lesson is what I grabbed on to throughout my life. I would of course have to adapt and overcome many obstacles if I was to succeed. My first obstacle was to get a G.E.D. After all I had not finished high school.

I studied, took the test and passed. I couldn’t believe it. I passed! I overcame! I was assigned to a new company and platoon. Head Quarters Battalion. I was with a platoon of engineers. Some of us were new and there was a few more that had been there for a year and then there were the ones returning from Vietnam. A lot of these fellows had attitudes and a few brought back from Nam something that I saw for the first time. Marijuana had a sweet smell and was smoked in a cigarette form or put in pipes. I discovered this stuff when I was along for a ride to town with another man that was in my engineer school and a vet who had just returned from Vietnam.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This was a very good recount of what life was like as a young Marine , Ed’s experiences pretty much mirrored my own except for the demolition part . Went to ITR at Camp Geiger next to Camp Lejuene , school was at Montford Point just outside Jacksonville N.C. I was a chaser and ended up in Okinawa , lot’s of good memories about all the great people I met along the way .

  2. Semper Fi Ed. I was by Mos’s, a Teletype Radio Operator, Msg. Centerman and was attached to Seventh Engr. Bn, First Marine Division, Rein. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California in 1965 the First Marine Division mounted out for Viet Nam. North of Danang. After 10.5 Months I went home to Idaho and attended College. Married, 2 terrific Kids (Boy and Girl). I could identify with the treatment we received coming home. “Baby Killer” was common comment, along with did I do drugs? How many did I kill and the rest of the Bull Shit that stupid civilians asked. I made some lifelong friends with whom I still visit on the internet and have traveled to see. We have lost many friends that I was stationed with over the years. Each and everyone of us to this day are proud of being Marines. I have never had any finer friends. The few I grew up with are not close. I call them acquantices, my close friends are Veterans from similar backgrounds. Army, Navy, Marines and a few Air Force. Those closest I served with. I still get a lump in my throat when Pledging Allegiance and saying goodbye to those who are waiting to see me in the hereafter. When I meet a young Soldier, Sailor, Marine I shake their hand and thank them for their service and sacrifice. Cpl. Robert G. Welch

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