In going thru her jewelry box, I found “my” id bracelet. Boy did that bring back memories.
Remember I was in college when we met, the “meat grinder” in Viet Nam was in full operation. All college students were automatically granted a student deferment. So I was given that deferment when I entered Manhattan College.
As a result of arm twisting by both our mothers, she “decided” that she wanted to wait to marry until I graduated. I wasn’t overjoyed at that, but it was 3 against 1. And these were all “pig headed” Irish women. You might convince one; three, never!
I graduated in 1968.
But, since MC offered, I took advanced electronics courses which extended my deferment until June, 1969. Minutes after my fifth year (automatic) deferment extension expired, I was drafted. Based on the “meat grinder”, I wanted to wait to marry until we understood what my military obligation would be. It wouldn’t be fair to her to make her a young widow. She had girl friends, who had that happen to them, and they were destroyed. If something happened to me, it would be bad. (Especially bad from my point of view.) If we were married, it would be far harder. Maybe even with children? I had options in the military — get drafted into the Army (And off to the Republic of.), Naval Aviator (Yeah, with my eyesight, they’d give me a plane? Over Viet Nam!), and USAF with no promises at all (But a lot less percentage involvement in the “meat grinder”?).
We talked about it. I volunteered for the USAF and took my chances. They gave me a report date of 2/1/70. Hey, six months of partying! And, I could continue to work at AT&T to pay for it.
Long story short, she wasn’t happy about waiting. I egotistically thought that she thought I was being a reluctant groom having second thoughts. Even after I reassured her that she had me “hooked”, she was still on edge. She really understood why I wanted to wait but never shared her fears. Maybe I was stupid, but I really hadn’t thought about it at all. I thought it would be a good six months; what did I know. She was zoned on the news reports from “Republic of”. I didn’t know it then, but I did later that she was imagining the worst. And the long six months took a terrible toll on her.
We’d already been saving for the wedding and starting a new life. So, during this six month extension, “we decided” to accelerate that savings. She “would help me” manage “our” money. (And I had no prenup.) Each payday, all my overtime and a good chunk of my pay went into the “wedding” passbook savings account at Pramapo Bank. Every Friday, she’d take her paycheck and also make a deposit. (I was never privy to that bit of “high finance”. And, would tease her mercilessly about it. But, she never let me see the bank book. For fear I’d want to spend some?) The six months just flew. Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, we just lived. The uncertainty was never discussed.
Finally it was January 31st, I was bunking over on her Mom’s couch. We spent that night just holding on. Neither of us slept much. As the dawn broke, I got ready to leave. I was taking the PATH to the Subway to the Brooklyn Induction Center on Jay Street. Had to report at 10AM. We had adopted “Leaving on a Jet Plane” as our song and had agreed that my first leave after finding that I wasn’t going to “Republic of” we’d wed. As I was ready to go, she gave me a present.
I opened it and it was the afore mentioned ID bracelet.
She made me promise to wear it so that she would know for sure. She didn’t have say sure of what, but that was obvious as the MIA counts went up daily. I knew that I couldn’t wear it on duty, but I humored her. She spent very little money on it. It was obviously very cheap. She told me she did that deliberately so that it wouldn’t be stolen by a body robber. That was grim. We were grim. She left me at the landing. She wasn’t crying. My allergies were acting up when I hit the street for my cab up to Journal Square.
After basic training, I got the word that I was going to be assigned to Maryland for Language School for a year, then some schools, and then assigned to USAFSS in Laurel MD. I called her collect; she was ecstatic. (Would not be so happy when she got the phone bill!)
I hit language school 01 October and they gave us the schedule. It stated we were on mandatory leave at Christmas time. Another collect call and she went crazy. Not about the future phone bill, but the time interval. I told her we could wait until I got another leave in June. She wasn’t hearing that and pulled together a great wedding in record time.
The rest was history. Since it’s purpose was past, I returned the ID Bracelet to her when I outprocessed from USAF in December 1973. (Maryland was never invaded while I was on duty.) She was happy to take it back. I hadn’t seen that bracelet until the other day when I was cleaning out the jewelry box.
I’ll carry that from now on.
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