Welcome Home, Major…but…
by Don Modica, LTC, US Army (Retired) – Shotgun 6, 1965-66
Going home…going home after two months at Fort Bragg, eight months at Soc Trang…is that a mortar or 75 Recoilless?…oh, the Vikings just cranked up, it’ll be over in a few minutes…four months as Delta 3 with countless operational briefings, endless hours over the operation with Delta 6 who never seemed to need to sleep except while in a left turn over the LZ…I’ve got it sir!
I’m going home with a real sense of accomplishment. On our way now to Saigon with one of my LNO’s from the 114th, in a Cobra gunship, courtesy of Cobra 6…are those tracers winging their way up?…no problem, going home. Chose to go direct to the flight line rather than stay at Tent City Alpha over night, because Charlie’s been mortaring the processing center lately. On the plane now with a couple hundred others who’ve completed a tour in Vietnam. I wonder how many will be back soon. After what seems like a hundred hours, the pilot tells us we’re going to land at Anchorage, Alaska, for fuel. Seems the forecasted tailwind didn’t pan out. No problem, going home…back in the air now on our way to Hamilton Air Force Base.
Once on the ground there we do some processing and are being prepared for release to go our separate ways home, but Hamilton AFB Processing Center doesn’t provide transportation into San Francisco and or other civilian airports. As we form into groups to go to an airport, bus or train station, a Senior Airman called me aside and said, “Welcome home Major, but I advise you not to go to San Francisco in uniform.” Not wear my uniform? He told me how groups of anti-war protesters had been harassing troops passing through. The harassment came in the form of name calling, almost anything short of physical contact, and spitting on American Soldiers–fellow Americans. I took his advice and dug in to my B4 bag for a pair of wrinkled slacks, a polo shirt and loafers. Who was that going to fool–me with clothes that fit twenty-pounds ago, short hair cut, and skin brown as a berry? I managed to get to the boarding gate without incident and slinked out of town with my tail between my legs. I was not spit upon, but I felt in my heart that I had been. I still felt a sense of major accomplishment for all that my unit had done over the past fourteen months, but to this day, I feel a segment of the American people had diminished what brave Americans had done for a small country that was being attacked.
Fast forward to 2004. My wife and I are in the boarding area of the Kansas City Airport waiting for our plane to be called. All of a sudden there’s a commotion coming from the concourse, yelling, cheering and clapping! There’s a group American Soldiers, men and women, in uniform, on their way home from Iraq being welcomed by their fellow Americans! Contrast that with 1966.
Nothing can change what happened in 1966 and later, but I would like to personally thank every member of the 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company for his service, from 1965 to 1971, and wish you a belated Welcome Home, Shotgun!