Dedicated to Richard Sr., and Rosemary Snouffer
Submitted by Richard
As she deplaned, the young woman looked nervously around. She didn’t see her husband and didn’t even know which island she was on. She simply knew that she was in Hawaii and that she hadn’t heard from her husband, in Vietnam, for over a week. A lot can happen during a week in a war zone.
She was oblivious to the warm, rich scent of dark loam and lush vegetation that wafted in and caressed her face. The seductive tropical milieu was lost on her as she anxiously scanned the small crowd for his face; the face she had been missing for most of a year. Tears threatened at the corners of her eyes as the loudspeaker rang out his name yet again.
Someone kindly steered her to the USO lounge. The stale donuts and warm soda failed to diminish her anguish as the USO volunteer assured her that all of the Vietnam flights had arrived. A wail of anguish to which she feared giving voice began to rend her heart.
The tiny airport covered several times, she realized that he was not there. Tears streamed down her face as the agent prepared her ticket back home to the awaiting despair of the remainder of his tour of duty-unless . . . but she dared not give voice to that fear, lest she give it power. Worried, hope crumbling, she was blessedly unaware of the news report in the background describing an offensive just begun somewhere in Vietnam, and the disruptions in services it was causing.
Numb, she dully walked to the gate, her overnight bag bumping her thigh with every step. There she awaited her plane home, her hope and joy replaced by terror and heartache, which greatly overshadowed the disappointment of missing the week with her true love in paradise. Barely looking up as the employee informed her that the arrival was not her plane, she allowed herself to be moved away from the ropes guarding the gate.
Heartbroken, it wasn’t until the second time he called her name that she heard. Through the tears she couldn’t make out a single palm tree, yet she recognized his face – immediately picked him out of the crowd of green uniforms disembarking tiredly from the newly arrived plane.
His explanation – the tale of the attack on another camp which cancelled his flight, the Huey medevac crew who carried their mechanic in a spare stretcher, around the mess to catch a flight he could make – all was lost to her in the relief and indescribable joy at finding the man she loved safely enfolding her in his arms. There would be time for explanations later.
Incredulous from the sudden dizzying emotional height, she was unaware of exactly when the palm trees, the ocean breeze and the spectacular sunset faded back into existence for her as their brief respite from the war began to unfold after all.