North Vietnam’s Tet offensive, began January 31, 1968. It wrenched me away from my family and tossed me into a mangle of gore and brilliance – and love. It also bumped then-president Lyndon Banes Johnson out of politics.
Jennie was my USNR lieutenant surgical nurse assistant and I, a USNR-drafted lieutenant commander surgeon. It was suddenly so different now. I had always sought fulfillment through my own effective decisions, not grappling with change-charged orders.
Jennie and I had both been shaken adrift, this to the Guam Naval Air-Evacuation Hospital, the first real triage station off the Viet Nam battlefields. Yesterday, for both of us, it was all craziness. Eleven straight hours of repairing too many severely injured Marines.
I stepped out of my Quonset Hut quarters, where I had yet to unpack since an emergency yank-away from my life in Boston. The hall floors were monumentally squeaky, always alerting the guard to the Hut’s comings and goings.
The tropical sun was bright and warm as I looked toward the sound of my name being called. It was Jennie, from the top of the stained concrete stairs that adjoined the above parking lot. She was freshly scrubbed and wearing crisp shorts and blouse, waving mightily while lightly tripping down the stairs with the grace of the athlete I would come to know. It was the first time I had seen Jennie’s face in daylight. My heart raced.
She was coming to teach me that she was ready for a wartime moment of her own. Her moment needed to possess me, to hold and caress me, to absorb my skill and comfort. No thought of wives or past lovers.
Jennie reached the bottom of the stairs and smiled out a nifty salute.
“What is your command, commander?”
The full account from which this moment is taken will be in my upcoming book, Reckless But Lucky (2018)