Michael had picked up a word that seemed to be a constant with all of the combat marines. He often heard them in the mess hall refer to DEROS.This was a word that stood for” Date Eligible for return from overseas”Even the most hard nosed vets in the group who lived daily with possibility of being maimed or killed had this as their daily mantra. Michael at least at the subliminal level had subscribed to watching the calendar, .and he was only months away from returning to the states.
Father Aumack’s tour of duty was also ending approximately at the same time as Michael’s and one evening he invited Michael to the mess hall for an early dinner.The two men who were somewhat on opposite sides regarding the purpose of the Vietnam conflict had created a bond of friendship that went beyond their separate views.Father Aumack began the conversation.”it s hard to believe that I have been here for over eighteen months, and soon will be finished with my Vietnam tour of duty.”Michael drained the rest of his coffee and said”If they run out of fuel for the choppers they can add this coffee. I like it strong but this is beyond jet fuel.” Father Aumack smiled .”Soon you will have others bringing you coffee and danish in the surgeon’s quarters.” Michael said’from your lips to God’s ears.What’s next for you Father”?”I will be teaching Theology at Fordham University”.This news was a positive for Michael” I am glad to hear that because I will be somewhere in New York City.”” What are your options.?” Michael despite his prior comments about the coffee refilled his cup.”My first choice would be the Hospital for Special Surgery ,and hopefully an academic appointment as well.I have always enjoyed teaching.”
Father Aumack lit a cigarette ,and searched for an ashtray. “It’s odd Michael but in many ways I will miss being here.”Michael concurred.”If you were not part of this base people would think you had lost your mind with that statement. I feel pretty much the same.This morning while making rounds in the infirmary I thought my life will soon change for the better while many of my patients willl face a lifetime of complications and hospitalizations. I hope they can retain the belief that their sacrifices were worth it.”
Father Aumack hesitated before responding to that statement.”I am not sure that any of this is worth it, and when I get back to New York I will get involved in trying to bring this war to an end.” Don’t you think that will be viewed by some who know you on this base as a betrayal.”?”I am willing to take that risk because this war will go on and on, and thousands of kids will die.” Michael tried to make light of the serious content and quipped “Please don’t get arrested because currently I have no money for bail.””I will be respectful Michael, and protest within what the law allows.” With that comment both men started to eat their meals in relative silence.