Dedicated to Vietnam Era R&R Couples
Submitted by Brenda
In 1968, my husband Tom was in the Army in Vietnam fighting the infamous war. He was 23 and I was 21. After six long months of being apart, we excitedly planned our meeting in Hawaii for R&R (Rest and Relaxation) in September. There were many military wives on my first flight ever. The wives were asking each other where they were from. After listening to my accent, they asked “What part of the south are you from?”
I arrived first and stayed in military barracks with hundreds of other wives. Tom arrived later and we stayed in a small hotel on Waikiki Beach. We had pinched pennies for the trip, and could not afford an ocean-view room. But it was clean, and the scenery wasn’t that important. Our budget was small, so we bought groceries and cooked meals in our efficiency room. We rented a Volkswagen and drove to different areas each day. That week, we ate only one meal out which was at the NCO Club where we had hamburgers. We saved money for our last night there and had made reservations for a luau on the beach.
On our last day, we both woke up sick. We were so ill that we went to the Tripler Army Hospital and waited for hours to be treated. We had a virus, were throwing up, and had horrible headaches. After receiving medication, we returned to our room and went to bed. Of course, we had to cancel our reservations for the luau — our one big night out for our romantic trip to Hawaii. We hadn’t eaten all day, so we ordered food delivered to our room. When the food arrived, we could hardly get out of bed to answer the door, then we were too sick to eat.
We both had flights to leave the next day — Tom to Vietnam and me to East Tennessee. It was a miserable day. I had to say goodbye to my husband, not knowing if I would ever see him again. Then I had a long flight back to East Tennessee, changing planes twice. I spent most of the flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles in the plane’s bathroom, throwing up. When I got off the plane at Tri-Cities Airport the next day, my parents and my 16-month old son Greg met me. My mother expected me to bounce off the plane with excitement. I looked a mess and felt even worse. I gave Greg the koala bear his father had sent him from Hawaii, so at least he was excited.
Thanks be to God, Tom returned from Vietnam in March 1969. He has shrapnel in his shoulder and legs as souvenirs of the war. We are still together and have always promised ourselves that we would someday return to Hawaii for that luau we never got to attend. If we win this contest, that’s exactly what we intend to do.