Packing the last few items into his duffle bag Michael closed his locker and readied himself to catch a helicopter to Da Nang where he would board a flight to Hawaii.He was too excited to eat, but had already imbibed three cups of coffee, and was on a caffeine high. This base had consumed his every waking moment for months, and it was a two edged sword in leaving. He yearned to see his family, but felt a twinge of guilt leaving a place where he had been so involved in the lives of wounded Marines. He had been personally involved with those he had medically treated and never was any patient merely defined by his wounds. He cared about them individually, and always found time to listen to their hopes fears and dreams. As he walked to the chopper landing area he turned and gazed wistfully at the medical unit. He wondered about so many that had gone back to the states. It was difficult not to consider what their lives were like, especially those that had multiple injuries. He knew that to some degree he would carry them in his memory and thoughts forever.
For once the whirling sound of the chopper blade did not mean triage. In this case it was the first step back to his life after Vietnam. He ducked the blade, slung his duffle bag on board ,and hopped on. He was amazed to see that the pilot that had left him in the open field on his first night in Vietnam was still flying.”Good morning Fergie.Do you remember me?” “Sure Doc how are you? I never forget a face ,especially one that was terrified. “Michael laughed, and at one point said.” I am surprised that you are still here.””I am a lifer Doc and as long as there are kids to be transported to the base I will stay”
Arriving after two long flights in San Francisco Michael almost immediately realized that being in a military uniform was an issue. In Vietnam everyone was in military dress, but he felt as though here he was the object of scorn. No one actually said anything negative to him, but he was aware by their facial expressions that they disapproved of him. While in a war zone there was little time to read about the war, but he had heard a few stories about atrocities that had occurred in Vietnam. He sensed that somehow his uniform represented something other than the pride and honor of those that wore it.