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Sunday, December 26, 2010


Rowdy Yates was a free spirited country boy from Nashville, TN. He was being drafted in 1968 and had the opportunity to join the Navy Construction Battalion, CB's, for a short time. The only requirement was boot camp and one year in Vietnam.

Rowdy staggered into Vietnam, Danang air base, in the early morning hours in the midst of a rocket attack. Welcome to your home for the next twelve months. Rowdy settled into the Bulk Fuel Division at the Danang air base to supply fuel to all military branches and I Corp. A drop kick for Rowdy. All he had to do was work, sleep, drink and be safe until that great flight home.

Rowdy could trade a water buffalo for a jeep. He was an expert in Navy "comchaw". That is a code work for steeling military material. The southern boy was a good carpenter and made many deals building for the Marines and finding his way off the compound to the "skivie" houses. Rowdy lost two pay grades during his foray into the Dogpatch area of Danang. Alas, Rowdy had no worries, he was being discharged to return to Nashville and a career in construction.

Now there are many stories about Rowdy, but this story is not about his tour of Vietnam. Only about his return home. June of 1970 Rowdy survived Vietnam including a silent trip to Cambodia. After dodging rocket for 12 months, Rowdy was finally boarding that great bird home.

Rowdy did not know better when told to pack all his gear except a couple changes of clothes and his dress uniform. Packing all his belongings into a large box to be shipped to his home address in Nashville. Then told to find a small suitcase to pack for the flight home. Still, who cared, Rowdy was going home. Picture Rowdy and 200 other soldiers and sailors waiting outside the airbase for the best flight of their life. Rowdy enjoyed his Kentucky whiskey but was ordered to pour his two bottles into the gutter. Prior to his flight he watched a river of booze disappear into the drains. Not a problem he would be home soon.

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.

Rowdy and 3 other vets caught a cab to the International Airport for their flights home. Remember, Rowdy was wearing civilian clothes, carrying a small suitcase, not his sea bag. Who cares, Rowdy was going home. During this period the military were required to travel in dress uniforms in order to receive a discount on airfare. Rowdy ran through the large and foreign airport to catch his long awaited flight home. Sneaking into the men's restroom, Rowdy found a stall and changed into his dress uniform. Not a problem, Rowdy was going home.

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.

Seated next to Rowdy on his flight to Chicago was a well dressed man. Rowdy ordered a long awaited bourbon after 21 house of flight time, going home. The passenger asked Rowdy where was he going and Rowdy told the truth, he was going home from Vietnam. Fortunately, his fellow passenger appreciated his service and bought drinks to Chicago.

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.

While our Vietnam veterans were not welcomed home, in most cases someone cared. Rowdy was given a warm goodbye in Nashville. My three crew members were never told goodbye. As is often stated in the south, " nobody ever told me goodbye before".


Each Christmas brings many changes in our lives.  This year is not an exception.  We have enjoyed our Becky visiting from Boulder, CO, (the republic).  She is a real kick to have around.  The season brought limited time with family due to travel, new locations (girls) and U. S. Army requirements (Ethan).  As "ageing" parents, we feel the empty nest this time of year.  However, the empty nest remains busy.

During 2010 we traveled at minimum of 12,000 miles in the Admiral.  We visited the northwest, south and all of Kentucky and Tennessee.  The travel experiences continue to be a major part of our lifestyle now.  I thought I had experience travel until we purchased the Admiral and the entire US was opened to our eyes.  The past 2 months our Admiral has lounged in "dry dock" awaiting the next adventure.  I anticipate a trip in January even for just a few days.  I hope the Admiral is missing us.  We are discussing a long journey to Nova Scotia and Maine in summer.  I wonder what the up Easter's will think of this southern bunch invading their neck of the woods. 

My experiences aboard the Nina remains a good memory.  The readers of the blog were very kind in comments, even the pieces on were well received.  I have continue to track the Nina and my former crew members as they remain a reminder of the adventure.  At present, the Nina is docked in Biloxi, MS and then on to dry dock for 2 months.  Some of the crew will remain to make repair in dock and then next March the tour begins in Florida.  It is a temptation to return for a sail of the gulf, but that may make my experience more work than adventure.  The sailing experience I missed while in the Tennessee River, but that may present a new adventure in future years.  We are working on a long term plan for another travel experience.

I feel I am easing into some sort of retirement in future years.  My professional has permitted us to travel about the US while supporting the travel habit.  The ability to provide service to clients while viewing this country is attributable to technology and my learning curve.  We hope to continue this trend during 2011 and beyond.  Now, we must calculate a way to extract Denise from her "real job" and move that to the Admiral. Mobile banking must have opportunities for a banker with her experience.  

Denise and I want to remember all the serving and veterans who have given to this country.  Both our families have several members wo served in WW II, Korean, Vietnam, and Iraq.  The service effects each one in different forms but service it remains. 

Lastly, we hope all enjoy a prosperous new year and that Christmas 2010 was enjoyable and a renewal of family spirits.  We do not know what 2011 will bring, but we plan to enjoy the year to the limit.  Who knows, we may create a new limit.

Happy days,

Denise and Barry