It was 5 o'clock in the morning on the 20th of December of 1969. I awoke and looked over at my wife in slumber and, as I have done hundreds of times during my life, felt such a surge of love for her. We lay in a three-quarter bed in a ten by ten room, located just off of Trung Munh Ky street in Saigon.
I looked around the room, seeing how meager were the things which would qualify it as a "home". One straw chair, a small table, a wardrobe closet and this small bed in which we lay, the sheets kicked away sometime during the warm night. I was careful to mentally record everything for this was the day I would leave this room forever. My "freedom bird" was scheduled to leave Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a few hours, winging me back to America, to a home I had now outgrown.
Not wanting to wake my sweetheart I carefully swung my legs to the floor and sat in the dark, smoking a cigarette and thinking about the few hours we had left together. I reached over and turned on Armed Forces Radio and listened to the morning news reports. Then, the AFN DJ began playing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul & Mary. My heart burst and the tears began to roll down my cheeks. I began to experience such a dire sense of foreboding; the thought that indeed, something may go wrong with our plans to unite again to marry again on American soil in a few short months.
Soon the first of the morning light began to stream through the french window and my wife awakened. We got up and dressed, made instant coffee on the small hotplate and exchanged words of love and hope for a quick and easy reunion. Noting the time I reluctantly dressed in my Class A's, grabbed my duffel bag and we hugged and kissed and I left, asking her not to accompany me to the street where I would catch a taxi out to the base.
It would be two years and two more tours in Vietnam before I finally succeeded in bringing my wife home to America. We persevered through military and state department wrangling before we finally managed to "Leave On A Jet Plane" on the 2nd of November of 1971.
That was 42 years ago now but I will never forget the morning when a young 21 year old airman heard in the words of a song all that was in his heart.