I flew to Okinawa in late December 2005 and spent the New Year inside a Quonset hut during heavy rain and a typhoon warning. A few weeks later, we boarded a troop transport and my battalion shipped out to Chu Lei, Vietnam.
Fast forward to December 2006, and I was deep underground in a communications bunker. It was 2:00 am and I was alone when I heard the clatter of feet running down the stairs, slowing at the grenade trap and then moving fast again.
At the time, I was sitting in front of the radio set leaning back in a chair. Then another radio operator burst through the door. When I heard “We’re going home,” I fell over backwards and landed with a crash.
With little warning—before noon—three of us were on a flight to Da Nang where we boarded a civilian airliner and flew home to land at LAX fourteen hours later. After being processed, I rented a Mustang using my military driver’s license and headed home to the San Gabriel Valley south of Los Angeles.
It was three in the morning when I pulled into the driveway of my parent’s house. I was twenty-one. I didn’t have a wife, girlfriend or child. I had an older brother and sister who were married and had their own homes.
There was a light on in my father’s half bath. I knew that he was in there shaving and getting ready to go to work.
I rang the doorbell and heard him say, “Who the hell could that be at this hour?”
When the door opened, half of my dad’s face was covered in shaving cream. He was wearing his work pants and a T-shirt. Without saying a word, he stared in stunned shock, then spun around and ran through the house shouting for my mother, who was still in bed sleeping. Then I heard her surprised voice and feet rushing down the hall to the kitchen.
That was my homecoming from war.
Today, returning from war can be a very different experience, but the emotions are the same. Now homecomings are often filmed and posted on You Tube—something impossible in 1966. And when I watch them, which I do, my eyes fill with tears and I remember that early morning in December 1966 when my dad opened the kitchen door.
Discover The Sniper and the Dear-John letter
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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