Blog 1662 – 04.10.2020
Why I Take Special Note Of Tens
I suppose I first began paying special attention to tens on my tenth birthday. It was an especially remarkable birthday for two reasons. First, that my family and I had moved to Second Avenue in the Chattanooga community of East Lake where we lived the longest of the several places we lived together before I left home for the Army in November of nineteen sixty eight. Secondly, it was the one birthday that my mother was so distracted that she did not make me a birthday cake or see that I had at least one present for my birthday that year, quite remarkable for a lad of ten.
As I already said I left home for the Army in nineteen sixty eight. I signed up on my eighteen birthday which fell on a Friday that year, I received several gifts including a bus ticket to Knoxville from the Army recruiter for the following Monday for a physical, testing, and induction into the U.S. Army. I had graduated High School in June that year but had to wait till my birthday to join because my dad refused to sign for me saying I would have no one else to blame but myself for that decision, if indeed I rued it later. Was he ever wise and so right. I would have blamed him for he knew better, having himself been too young to sign up shortly after Pearl Harbor and talking some bum on the street, as many young men purportedly did, into pretending that he was his dad to sign for him to join the Navy. The Marines and Army had already rejected the young man who later became my dad for a burst ear drum. He found the Navy recruitment doctors less thorough.
On January tenth, nineteen seventy I arrived in hot and sunny South Vietnam, after Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training (mine was teletype-repair) and being held over several months in my training company while the Army Security Agency had the FBI run a several months long investigation of my background for a Top Secret clearance, not just on me but on my everyone in my teletype repair graduating class, for they needed us all in the ASA in Vietnam, all who qualified for security clearances any way.
I wrote all that to point out that my having arrived in Nam on January tenth meant that the next January tenth became one of the most special dates in all of my life, my “DEROS date” the day I got to go home if it made it. DEROS stood for Date Estimated Return from Overseas. The government especially the military loved acronyms, still does. Me, not so much but DEROS above and ETS which stands for “expiration – term of service” (by which is usually meant the last expected date of active duty) were and indeed still are special days to all service personnel. Like most G.I.s ( I assume everyone knows that famous acronym) I began several calendars to check off the days till I got to go home, each tenth of the month meaning that I had one month less to go.
As it turned out, my DEROS date was moved up because the war had begun to wind down, because Congress had finally and wisely began cutting funding for that ill-begotten adventure. The lie that the Vietnam War was justified still persists though we all know now that the second Gulf of Tonkin incident, at least half of the justification for the U.S. deploying ground troops in South Vietnam never took place.
How sadly similar is the U.S. involvement I both Iraq Wars, the first due supposedly because of Saddam Hussein attempted to annex Kuwait, a tiny Middle East gulf kingdom that the Western powers agreed to carve away from Iraq some years previous so they could install a friendly royal family and thereby insure an oil port for Western interests. And then the second, longer, and even more disastrous invasion of Iraq was based on the false and never substantiated claims of Saddam having still WOMD’s (Weapons Of Mass Destruction) weapons we in the U.S. claim a supposed moral right to though we the are the only ones to have ever used them, atomic bombs anyway, against people. The Second Iraq war was the first time in our over two hundred year history that we engaged in a preemptive attack, not allowing the opponent as the “good guys” usually do to strike the first blow. Some suspect the sinking of the U.S Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor might have been a manipulated “news event” not an enemy attack as assumed at the time.
I have, as usual, wandered far afoot from my title and starting point about the significance of certain numbers and days. The tenth always brings to mind for me, like most old soldiers, sailors, marines, and Air Force personnel who found themselves caught up in war, that the thought of dear ones and going home was foremost in our mind, and counting the days till we got to go home was comforting as was the hope that we would be among the lucky ones who got to, alive and many even whole.
I was such a lucky one and I am forever glad and grateful. It is my heart-felt hope that one of the Bible writer’s prophecies that will one day be found to be false and untrue is the line, “There will always be wars and rumors of wars.” All it would take is for more and more of us to imagine, intend, and do better at making peace our default instead of going to war over our real or imaginary differences.
Do enjoy this special day, the tenth, there are far worse things than sheltering in place, especially if that place is home with those we love and away from war.
Your friend and fellow traveler.
Advocate for the complete cessation of all wars,
Note: I was also born on an even ten year, 1950 as was my wife. We were married on an August 10th. And daughter Emily and son Jonathan were born in 1980 and 1990 respectively. I and my family have a thing for tens.