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  • Writer's pictureJack Hager


Fifty-four years ago today I boarded a “freedom bird” – the aircraft that would take me from Vietnam to the states and to honorable discharge after four years active duty.

Trading one warzone for another…

Being a soldier…in uniform…in the later sixties was not comfortable. At best it got you stares; at worst it might get you attacked…verbally and physically.

I had heard some of that stuff and thought about it as the jet zoomed ever close to “the world.”

Landing at Travis AFB, we were held on the plane until enough Air Police and others got there to create a corridor through the crowd of protestors that had somehow gotten onto the landing area.

The plane sat there with no air conditioning running for the scores of soldiers on board. Most, like me, had not had a shower I days or weeks. It was a tad ripe.

Finally they started releasing us. Stepping off the aircraft I looked and saw a beautiful, young, blonde ‘round-eye.’ Her attractiveness was diminished as she yelled, “How many babies did you kill in Vietnam?” I ignored her, shocked. An old grizzled Marine after me said, “Only as many as I could eat” but I do not think..alas…she heard him.

A few hours later I had my discharge papers and bussed to San Francisco. The next few days are blurry.

And now 54 years have passed.

I don’t focus on the Nam days any more than I focus on the crime/drug days that came after. My desire is to “fix my eyes” on Jesus Christ and “press forward” and to finish well.

When I turned fifty I began praying for twenty more years of effective ministry. Now, with the cancer diagnosis, at 76 I pray the same thing, knowing that my “times are in His hands” and that He “will fulfill His purpose for me.”

What did Nam do to me? Nothing that I did not let it do. I believe there is PTSD; like ADD etc I believe it is tremendously overdiagnosed. I am sad that men my age still blame Vietnam for their screw ups now.

Yeah, well. Vietnam contributed to my decisions, just as my parents did. But I had to make the choices, and the choices made me.

I do not believe I have lasting effects from my tour of duty (I did two years in Korea and two months in German prior).

To any brothers (or sisters) who served in Vietnam reading this – Welcome Home. To those who wonder what Name was like…I suggest you find a vet, take him to coffee, and ask. I’d welcome a conversation, by the way.

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