Right about now, 46 years ago.... a day of celebration.
I was the reluctant Army draftee, had just been through a sweaty four months of basic infantry training at Fort Bragg, NC, and then at Fort Polk, LA -- and being trained at Fort Polk, which was nicknamed "Little Vietnam" because of it's intense jungle training, meant that you could just assume that your next stop was Vietnam, and the Vietnam War was at its height then. It was kind of a despondent time for me. They already had us on malaria pills.
But my unexpected rescue from that fate of dying in a Vietnamese swamp came from an unexpected place -- the Russians! -- still the USSR back then -- who in August of 1968 did me the personal favor of invading Czechoslovakia to suppress some anti-Communist resistance, which made the U.S. military guys nervous that we needed to beef up the troops in Western Europe. So our whole graduating week there in Fort Polk were sent off to Germany -- still known as West Germany at the time. The thought of newly trained jungle fighters scared the hell out of the Russians, I'm sure, and they backed off the Czechs for a while.
But what a party we had there in Fort Polk when we found out that we weren't going to Vietnam! It was a life-altering moment, and I'll never forget the feeling of relief and joy.
Life-altering moments. I wonder when the next one will be. They come unexpectedly.