In the fall of ’66 I began a studying marathon taking 25+ credit hours each trimester and getting a 3.0 so I could graduate the following May with an AA degree. I was proud of my academic accomplishment because that time a year earlier the weight of failure seemed too much and Vietnam too close. I transferred to a four year college to keep my “2S” and get a bachelor degree.
In the fall of ’67, I met the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and when I stared at her in the dining hall all my troubles faded away. I was shy but thankfully she strolled to my table after dinner one night and introduced herself as Rachael. In June 1969, we were married, moved to a strange city and I started my new career. Rachael and I were together for the next 22 years blessed with two beautiful children yet cursed with the dysfunction that breeds in a household of drugs, alcohol and a parade of bad influences.
As a senior, I took two computer programming courses in a work-study format that allowed me to learn and program without supervision. I embraced the concepts of computer technology and saw the potential of software by writing computer programs. Careers in the computer field were just blooming, so I took a risk following what I liked and was rewarded with challenging jobs for good pay. After a dozen years, my fast paced career supported a comfortable life living the American Dream which for me was a façade to hide my secret life and addictions.
On Jan. 31 each year, Vietnam paid tribute to their dead ancestors during a Tết New Year celebration. In 1968, unknown to the Americans, the NLF (National Liberation Front) celebrated the Tet New Year festival two days early. On the beginning of Tet 70,000 members of the NLF launched surprise attacks on more than a hundred cities and the US Embassy in Saigon. The event shocked the American people after the recent news from Vietnam claimed the NLF was close to defeat. General Westmorland told LBJ at the end of 1967 that we had killed 90,000 Viet Cong more they could replace, hence the war was close to being over. But the Tet Offensive attack forces numbered 70,000 which proved to be a turning point in the war as it illustrated the enemy had an inexhaustible supply of soldiers.
The war forced me into a personal conflict of self-doubt, as I suspect it did many baby boomers. Some guys went to Vietnam and wish they hadn’t, while others, like me, didn’t go wondering if they should have.
On April 4, 1968, a shot rang out at 6:01 p.m. as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lay sprawled on the balcony’s floor outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. A gaping wound covered a large portion of jaw and neck. Although James Earl Ray was arrested for the murder, future investigations opened questions concerning the shooter’s position for the nearly impossible kill shot.
On June 5, 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was making his way through the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to give a press conference after winning the California primary. Suddenly, a Palestinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, stepped forward and fired a .22 revolver twice killing the senator. Sirhan was convicted of first degree murder but questions remain how the senator received several bullet wounds while Sirhan only fired two rounds.
The assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK were steeped in controversy. None of the killers were proven to have killed these great men. The tumultuous year of 1968 held the nation in a death-grip as our teenage soldiers were dying in Vietnam and our leaders murdered in the plain sight of crowds and a national TV audience.
Next: Hippies were part of a country divided and parents executed our elaborate wedding which was funded with college tuition loans. I wasn’t dressed for success, couldn’t believe I had years of work weeks in my future and hadn’t found a good pot dealer, but it was time to grow-up.
The articles published here by babyboomers.com are small excerpts of a 268 page manuscript titled “The Courage to Surrender” that I would like published. Call 678.361.4709 for information on the manuscript.