A long 21 hour total flight time to San Francisco was no problem, Rowdy was going home. The first tip things would be different was when the plane was taxied into a hanger at Travis Air Force Base. The Vietnam veterans were deplaned in the hangar out of sight of all others at the base. Rowdy learned this was due to protests at the base against the Vietnam war. Welcome Home Rowdy.
This Vietnam vet ran to his flight, boarded and settled into a seat for the flight home. At this point it dawned on Rowdy that he had to sneak into his country, dress in a restroom and run to catch his flight home. Welcome Home Rowdy.
I have attended the welcome home ceremony for my step son returning from Iraq. I have witnessed strangers thanking veterans in the Nashville Airport. Police escort of buses loaded with returning warriors. Those new events where the young son or daughter are surprised by their returning Mom or Dad. These are wonderful events. I can only hope a returning veteran never has to "sneak" into his country like my friend Rowdy.
Rowdy was not welcomed home. However, I learned recently there is a more lonely experience. Most of my readers, all 10, know of my experience on the Nina, the Columbus replica during five weeks in October and November. My crew was diverse in all walks of life and age. A total crew of eleven, including the Pinta, at least three of the crew had no place to be. Not quite homeless but much alone. These sailors ranged from age 21 to 45 years and from different areas of the U.S. No one called them from home, visited them on the ships or seemed to care where they traveled. While this sounds like an adventurous nomad life, it appeared to be the pit of loneliness. No one told them goodbye. Coming home alone without a welcome is difficult enough, but never told goodbye is alone. I hope no one reading this piece ever experiences either.