On the flight to Vietnam, Bill Freeze was going over in his mind the last few days at home. Even more than the farewell at the airport he remembered his last night out with his closest friends from high school a few days ago.

Three boys and two girls were jammed into a yellow VW Bug. Everyone except Bill was dressed in hippie garb: tie-dyed t-shirts, bell-bottomed jeans, long hair, beards, beads and barefoot. He looked out of place with his friends with his close-cropped hair and clean-shaven appearance, but that night he avoided thinking about leaving for Vietnam in two days. It was great being with his closest friends.

Around midnight, after a movie and pizza, they were taking Bill home first. They wanted to say goodbye to him together. Everyone was having a great time. As they were turning a corner in the Bug, out of nowhere a lighted wooden construction fence jumped out in front of them.

On the fence was written…



Bill’s friends continued on, not knowing what to say. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band blared from the 8-track stereo.

Then the irony of it hit Bill all at once and he laughed loudly. It was now impossible for them to escape from what his departure meant to them.

“I can’t even allow myself to think that you might not return like Chris McLaughlin. I honestly couldn’t handle you not coming back too!” one of the girls blurted. She hugged Bill and began to cry convulsively.

Nothing else was said until they dropped Bill off. Everyone jumped out of the Bug to say goodbye. No one wanted to leave so they moved spontaneously to the front porch and talked nonstop until sunrise. They knew it was time to leave when they heard Bill’s parents stirring in the kitchen around 7:00 a.m.

That final night with his childhood friends would always haunt him.

The roar of jet engines brought Bill back to the plane, and he suddenly found himself on the flight to Vietnam. Though Bill was smiling the entire time, tears were quietly streaming down his face. Several hours passed. He looked at his watch and realized that in only two hours they would be landing in Vietnam. A stewardess inconspicuously placed some Kleenex in his hand.

“Thank you,” Bill said as she walked away.

A seasoned soldier was sitting next to Bill. He was returning for his second tour of duty. The soldier told him that everything would be okay but he did not look to be much older than Bill.

Bill asked, “Were you scared the first time going over?”

“I can’t even tell you how frightened I was the first time. I’m with the Special Forces.” He paused and looked away. “If I knew what I know now I think I would have escaped to Canada.”

He caught himself looking Bill straight in the eyes and said, “It’s not so bad; you’ll be just fine.” Then he turned away and didn’t say another word.