Mike Leino – Fire Direction Control – Part Three

Going Home From the Nam

I was at LZ Sherry for almost 14 months. I had signed up for the five month early out of the Army if I would extend in Nam for another two months. So I did it cuz I don’t think I could have handled the spit and shine stateside after being in Nam. I don’t think I could have handled five extra months of military. Yep, it was a long two extra months. I kept my butt way low that last two.

Toward the end the way it worked out I was on night shift and got back to my hooch for a good sleep, did what I had to do to get comfortable, and went to sleep. I got woke up by someone, don’t remember who, but they said, “Pack your stuff, cuz you’re going home on the next chopper.”

In a daze I said, “Get the fuck out of here before I shoot you,” while I am reaching for my M-16 that was next to me on the wall. Whoever it was left of hooch quickly. They sent someone else back to tell me it was true: I’m going home. For some reason the Army was giving two-week early-outs from Nam. I was short but never thought I’d get it.

Anyway, the second guy that came to tell me the news (I believe it this time) said that I got only a little bit of time to get packed, cuz that chopper was on its way. I don’t remember anything else but getting on the Huey and looking at the back of the pilot’s helmet. It said TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN. He asked me where I was from. I said, “Detroit Michigan.”

And he said, “Cool, I’ll take you for a good last ride.”

We dropped to ground level chasing water buffaloes and making the mama sans dive into rice patties. I finally said, “Get this thing high because I don’t want to die in a chopper.” WHAT A RIDE!

Did all the processing out in Phan Thiet, Phan Rang and Cam Rahn Bay. Got as drunk and stoned as I could at each place. It was pretty smooth going to finally getting on that Freedom Bird.

Once on the jet I couldn’t believe it. American women!!! WOW!!! They were nice. I just didn’t know how to act. I think I felt like a dirty animal.

There were hoots and hollers once we took off. I think my jet was going to explode once we saw the coastline go away. I think I slept all the way back. I guess after almost fourteen months of Vietnam I was ready for a good nap.

It’s a Whole New World

Got to the state of Washington after refueling in Guam I think, and it was all kinds of processing out again. “Put all your contraband in the big garbage cans before you go through these gates.” Who would be that stupid to try to get something through them gates? Like someone said before, you mailed it home.

Physical and mental checkups were done on us. We were all mentally shot. At that point we would have barked like monkeys if they asked us to. Sign a thousand papers, here’s your plane ticket home and $600.

Washington to San Francisco. San Francisco was not cool. Got called all kinds of names and I hid out at the USO till my flight to Chicago. Same at O’Hare on way to Detroit. Detroit my brother and sister-in-law were waiting for me. My brother had a bottle of Ripple and a joint for me for the ride home. It was morning too. My whole family was at my mom and dads when we arrived home. I cried! My so-called girlfriend was there too. My dad even took the day off for my coming home. It was great at home with my family. Lots of drinking and talking and getting buzzed.

Later that evening my girlfriend and I went back to her apartment and she gave me some tea (with LSD in it) then told me she had a boyfriend. I told her I hope you are happy and adios. Trying to drive back to my folks house was definitely a trip. I don’t know if I even had a drivers license anymore. Got back to the folks house and they were still partying. (It was good). A a lot of my buddies found out I was home and came by and it turned out to be a good night. Really got high. Mom and dad, brother, sister and friends were buzzed and drunk.

After that I noticed things have really changed and I’m thinking I don’t know if I like this too much. Stupid stuff really pissed me off. The buddy I got drafted with because of that trouble in Detroit got out of the army about three weeks after I got home. We did a lot of crazy stuff together. I think I could write a book about a crazy vet and his friend.

Summing up

I am not a crazy druggie or drunk! Some people back in Detroit say I was pretty out there. I guess it was just trying to figure what I was going to do. Just trying to catch up to the world. I tried everything without hesitation, had to find out what worked for me and what didn’t.

Now I am a peace loving guy that has a family. I enjoy a few beers and a couple hits of pot a couple times a week to calm me down when I get in hyper moods – it helps.

I am in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my folks are from. Backwoods! Copper mining country. This is where my ancestors came to from Finland to make a new life for themselves after the Finnish-Russian war. A beautiful part of the country, but way too much snow. Gettin’ too old to move it around. Snow blowers and shovels are too hard anymore. Thinkin’ about Arizona where my son and his family are. Beautiful there.

I am going to veterans hospitals pretty regular now. Prostate cancer and forty-seven radiation treatments. My insides are not the same. Now I’m getting heart and vascular checkups and monitored pretty regular. They say it’s due to Agent Orange. To tell the truth I feel messed up. That’s where the beers and pot come in. Makes me feel good. So tired of doctors and appointments. Being in the boonies of the UP it’s a ride to a VA hospital. There has got to be a change where the civilian hospitals work with the VA.

Anyway, I’m not going to be a cry baby. I’m proud that I served with the 5/27. To me it was, let’s say, a well oiled machine. I loved everyone, well minus a couple. I tried to be a good guy and dependable. I’ve always loved new faces. I just hope I didn’t let anyone down. I did the best I could. Changed my life in a lot of different ways. I guess you could say I’ve got a lot of brothers from being put on LZ Sherry with a lot of good people.

Adios, Bros.