Editor’s note: Frequent guest poster Lin Lofley is marking an anniversary, and I hope you’ll join me and all the gnomes at Roamin’ Gnomials in thanking him for his service.
By LIN LOFLEY
Forty-eight years ago today I joined the Marine Corps. I had signed the papers the previous October, alongside my parents, who also signed because I wouldn’t turn 18 until November.
When they dropped me off at the bus station in downtown Austin, it was the first step of the first great adventure of my life. I’m glad to this day that I did it, but I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have wanted that for either of my kids.
I had graduated from high school earlier in the year, but had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was a poor student, had a sister a year younger who WAS a good student, and the family’s resources rightfully needed to go to her.
I knew I would become draft-eligible on my 18th birthday, but knew I would never be drafted because I would join the Marine Corps. (There is a Lofley family legend that I joined the Marines because I was tired of people telling me what to do. I don’t know. It could be true.)
There was little anti-Vietnam War dissent in Texas in 1968, and it would be a couple of years before I would become “radicalized.” I was serving at Twentynine Palms, California, the day the National Guardsmen gunned down students at Kent State, and I remember being thoroughly ticked off that we were fighting a war, ostensibly to protect our rights, but those rights were trampled in our own country.
I never went to Vietnam. I had friends who died over there, but I came home unscathed, and I occasionally regretted having never seen battle. But I didn’t regret it too much. I had a friend who flew off in a helicopter from Da Nang to a remote base. The chopper went down, and he didn’t come back.
I was never spat upon, but I knew a couple of guys who said they had been. They also said they didn’t let it go, and I believe them.
I’ll never write about my time in the Marine Corps, mainly the story has been told better by many others, and most of them have more to tell than I do. But my experiences set me on a course to a career in journalism, so I’m grateful for that.
And to this day, I remind my wife of how difficult our lives would be had I not stopped the Vietnamese from conquering America. “You were in Public Affairs,” she says with a grin, and we laugh. The old jokes are the best jokes, and I’m getting old.
Ah, but I stepped up when called.