Greetings Bay City! I had a number of phone calls, emails and cards about my veterans tribute column. Thank you for taking the time to share your own stories, and for your encouraging words. Several of you asked for “The Rest of The Story”, as Paul Harvey used to say, so I asked Kin to share his memories and thoughts about returning to Vietnam after his three day R&R to meet me in Hawaii. I quote: “Parting from Jody and walking to the airplane to go back to Vietnam from R&R was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I, like the rest of the men, was looking for my loved one as I boarded and got seated. I know that I spotted her several times among the waving women. Once the plane was loaded and taxiing to the runway there was a deathly silence on board, as we all tried to contain our emotions. I was worried for her, as a young mother, alone with a toddler to take care of, and living with the fear that I may not be coming home. I know that I was praying that she would be okay. I knew that there was a chance that some of us on that plane would not come back, but I was not concerned for myself after having already survived for seven months.
Getting on the plane to come home when my tour was up was a great relief, as we had a rocket attack the night before I was to fly out. Everyone on the plane was happy to be going home, but I did think of others who weren’t coming home, or never would. Upon arriving back stateside, I was impatient while processing and catching a civilian flight to Portland. Our reunion was so emotional for Jody and I, but especially for me after not seeing our son, Matthew, for 13 months. He, of course, didn’t know me, and I had to get used to being a dad again. He was such a good little boy.
I’m afraid I wasn’t the most centered person or easy to be around when I first got home. I was edgy and bothered by loud noises, especially sirens. I also felt that the world was moving way too fast (and Jody’s mini skirt was too short). I wanted to take over things that Jody had been handling, just like I had never left. Fortunately, Jody was understanding and we got through this time of adjustment. I was just grateful to have my family.
Everyday I think about the service members I knew, and the 58,000+ others who died in Vietnam. Forty-nine of the officers from my OCS class died there, all fine young men. My OCS class communicates by email to remember every year each of our fallen brothers on the day they gave their life. Myself, and other survivors from our class, will never let them be forgotten. I know that all of us try to live in a way that will honor them.”
Kin, and other survivors of war often come home with guilt that they lived when others didn’t. Each person handles it differently, of course, but many come home with a grateful heart to be alive, and turn that gratefulness into service to the community.
Our community is lucky to have such a man. My friend, Bub Simmons’s story begins on graduation night when his girlfriends father, who was on the school board, handed Bub his high school diploma and his draft notice at the same time. Bub joined the service in 1943 where he served in the 96th Infantry Division of the Army, Headquarters Company. He was deployed to the Pacific Theater. His unit made a landing at Leyte, Philippines in October, 1943 where he was shot and received a purple heart. They patched Bub up and sent him back into combat. The following April he was in the first wave to land on Okinawa where he was wounded with shrapnel and received another purple heart. (As you read this, keep in mind how young Bub was when he received these wounds; just out of high school.) In addition to two purple hearts, he received two bronze stars and his unit received the Presidential Citation. He also served in the Oregon National Guard for 24 years, retiring in 1985 as a lieutenant colonel.
After WWII, Bub returned to Bay City, where, in 1950, he married Fay Rolie and they started their family; having four girls. Bub’s service to his community goes beyond what I can share in this column. Bub went to work for Bay City where he achieved many accomplishments (for example: put in the citywide sewer system and water system which included the Tillamook Cheese Factory, obtained grants for small businesses, put in a computer system in the office, oversaw building of the library and city hall). He also was active on city council and served as mayor for 10 years; and if that isn’t enough, he also served as Chief of Police and was a volunteer firefighter.
One way or another, war changes the men and women who serve. They all have sacrificed something out of dedication to their nation and love for their fellow countrymen (and women). The fact that these same men and women come home and serve their communities with the same dedication and love is remarkable.
I close today with the words of Ethel Percy Andrus: “It is only in giving of oneself to others that we truly live”.
Thank you for reading the Fencepost. I’ll see you next week.