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Going Home (by Frankie Dawson)

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

The C130 seemed Huge.

That’s what they called the big airlift aircraft that I was lucky enough to fly home in. They flew rescue and reconnaissance missions, sprayed chemicals, transported people and cargo from Viet Nam to the states with an occasional stop in the Philippines.

I’ll never forget how low they flew and close they came to our barracks at times spraying chemicals, in the Philippines, that I later found out was agent orange…they said it was needed to kill the vegetation. Years later I found out agent orange was some dangerous stuff. Hazards of war they said, hazards of war.

Back in the 70’s when you served your duty; you had to catch a “hop” home. You had to be in formal uniform, and carry your duffel bag on your shoulder. All airmen had a duffel bag, in the Air Force, it contained all they had from the war, mostly clothes and shoes and a souvenir or two.

Here I am standing on the airfield, panty hose riding up my butt, trying to look “at attention” The air was humid and cool, and smelled of jet fuel. That plane looked so beautiful. It looked like a hugh green eagle.

It felt as if it pulled up just for me. I remember the sound. Loud, low, with a whisper of a high key, the propellars loud and invisible. I remember I could not climb in like a lady because the pumps I had were tight from my feet being swollen and as I stepped up, I got another run in my panty hose. Talk about miserable. I don’t know why I thought someone would help me go up those steps. Just let me sit down, I thought.

The captain and co pilot were at least 12 feet up from me. Remember this plane is hugh with a body big enough to take several tanks.

I don’t know why I was the only airman they picked up. I didn’t even know there was other cargo, it was dark and not well lit.

I looked up, at the co-pilot. I remember he was red headed, stern faced, unsmiling. He looked down at me like I was nothing.

“Hi, I’m Frankie. “

He looked down at me, with disdain.

I remember the two bars, he was a captain. Oh, shit, don’t forget protocol. I was too tired to salute and besides I was getting out. No more saluting for me.

I shrugged my shoulders.

He went back to the controls. I never saw the pilot.

After a few hours in the plane, I was feeling cold.

“Hey, do you have a blanket or something I can use, it’s a little chilly down here.”

“Yoo hoo, captain…”

It was loud in that plane. But some how he heard me. He held on to the top railing, looked down at me and pointed to the steel casket that was several feet across from me.

“The only warm place would be by that stiff, over there.”

‘You mean there’s a body in there?” I said.

He didn’t acknowledge me. He gave a half smile and went back to the controls.

I wanted to ask him if he was black or white. It couldn’t have been a woman; we were not allowed in combat. I wanted to ask where were they sending the body, what state, how did he die?

I unhitched my seat belt, crawled over by the casket, (dang it, got a hole in my panty hose, this time on the knee) dragging my duffel bag. The steel casket was not warm at all. It was cold I hugged my duffel bag. The angle of the casket kept the wind from blowing on me.

I thought, he’s going home just like me. He’s dead, little did I know we had something very much in common. He wouldn’t go back to a marching band, a line of well wishers at the airport, or even his family welcoming him home. We were in the same boat.

I felt a tear run down across my nose. I didn’t even wipe it away; I felt sorry for his family. I wondered how young he was.

Little did I know, he would be treated far better than I would be, when I got home. War is cold.

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