Eighth Aerial Port Squadron, USAF in Vietnam

Sgt. Christopher K. Hartley's Photos and Story


1970

Return Stateside

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Somehow DEROS came all to soon and not soon enough. Every day leading up to the big day became more nerve racking than the day before. Finally, I found myself sitting on that Pan Am bird. The tension was high, would we get off without taking groundfire? Would we really live long enough to reach the states? We felt the landing gear leave the runway and the bird lift quickly. When the realization hit that we had escaped Charlie's grasp a spontanious cheer echoed through the plane. Suddenly, and in unison, a strange quiet fell over the entire craft. I tasted the salt of the wet which was running down my face. A bit embarrassed I wiped the tears but they wouldn't stop. Looking around I realized many more were feeling the wet on their faces as their tears fell as well. It hurt to be leaving my buddies behind. I wanted to go back but I also wanted to go home. I was torn in half emotionally this was so confusing. The next thing I remember, I was waking up. A number of hours later we were preparing to land. The bump of the landing gear hitting US soil summoned another cheer filling the plane.

The cab ride from the base to the airport was a scary one. It was the 4th of July and fire works were going off in one area we passed through. The first explosion I heard actually caused me to hit the floor of the cab. The driver must have thought I was a nut case. The following explosions caused me to jump inside. I was so glad when that ride from hell was over.

Once back at my Folks home in Ohio I was able to share a little of what we went through with them. Here is a friend's son and my Aunt.
Home after RVN
Home 2

For months I wanted to return. To this day I still feel like I left the guys when I shouldn't have.

 


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