At dawn, Friday, August 30, 1968, I woke inside my cockroach-infested hooch at LZ Betty, sixteen miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, to go on my twenty-second and last patrol. I was the sergeant and team leader of a five-man long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP, or “Lurp”) assigned to the First Cavalry Division’s First Brigade, whose area of operation was from Quang Tri City, near the coast of South Vietnam, to the heavily forested mountains out west, halfway to Laos.
Within sixty hours after saying good-bye to my teammates and friends in Vietnam, I was discharged from the Army and back home in southwest Detroit. It was Wednesday evening, October 2, 1968. It was a drastic change, but I felt great just being able to embrace my mom and dad, brother, and two sisters again after not hearing their voices for nearly a year. At the time, it took a month for a letter to get home from Vietnam, and another month for a reply to get back. But now, suddenly, I could sit in the kitchen and eat my mother’s glorious Arabic food, hold our dog Chico and our cat Fluffy, and be part of my family again.