That changed in 1968. The United States of America became mired in an unpopular and unwinnable war. Young men and women, and many of their parents, revolted when they discovered their leaders were liars. Military service became something all but true-believers and the poor avoided.
When I returned to the University of Illinois in 1967 students wanted me to tell them what was really happening in Vietnam. They knew more than me. Nightly news showed the action and wise men analyzed and explained cause and effect. In a war zone one is busy trying to survive and all we knew was propaganda printed in the Stars & Stripes newspaper.
We didn't have the facts and probably wouldn't have benefited if we had. Being an intellectual would not have enhanced one's ability to survive incoming ordinance.
Dissent came later. There was exemplary morale among the first regular units in-country. We of the 9th Marines knew we were on the side of right and might. Moving into the tropics in the heat of summer made it necessary to cut off sleeves, remove underwear and cut holes for ventilation. For a while we had a weather station but it was removed when it disobeyed orders by registering 140 degrees Fahrenheit. But no one cared. We lived unbathed in dust and mud and only got to town twice.
I can't say I never looked back because things happened in Vietnam that still caused nightmares 40 years later. My generation, this nation and I will never be the same.
"A man has to experience death to know life." I don't know who said it but I believe it. 1966 was spent at Kaneohe Marine Corp Air Station on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. My first four months were a wonder of meeting young women on the beach and fun beyond belief. This was life I had never known before and would never know again. Most of all I was a good soldier who followed orders and did what I was told.
Hawaii was great but I knew my life held promise of more. Six months before being scheduled for discharge I was accepted for readmission to the University of Illinois. Captain Cohn processed a four week "early-out" so I could be in Urbana, Illinois in time for Spring Semester.
"Come into my office, I have important news." Captain Cohn said I had been recommended for promotion and that it was his duty to convince me to rescind my early-out and sign-up for a 12 month extension. I respectfully reaffirmed that I had been readmitted to college, that everyone who was promoted was immediately being sent back to Vietnam and that having been there and done that I respectfully declined the honor.
"Good choice, but don't tell
anyone I didn't do my best to get you to re-enlist" was
Captain Cohn's response.