I returned home to Southern California after 34 months in the Army. I encountered changes. Lots of changes.
At least, unlike a lot of the guys and gals coming home today from Afghanistan, I had jobs waiting for me. Not exactly what I wanted, however. I went around to a lot of construction companies to try to get a job repairing construction equipment - what I'd learned at the Army's Engineer School in Virginia. But, because I didn't have a lot of hands-on time, they weren't interested. In the end, I got a job working in a service station.
Back in the 60's, Service Stations were just that. You drove in and asked for gasoline. While that was going into your vehicle, the attendant lifted the hood and checked your oil, water, belts, and hoses. Some of us even checked your tire pressure. Sometimes - not very often - we even got a tip.
I don't remember much about the owner but he put me on the late shift where I think I closed up about 9 p.m. The day shift mechanic went home about 5 p.m. so that left it up to me in the event someone drove in with a problem. I wasn't the greatest mechanic in the world but always managed to get the vehicle back on the road - while attending to the pumps at the same time.
I had moved in with Nana Duple as there was nowhere else for me to go. I had the same room I'd grown up in. I either rode the infrequent city bus - Olympic Boulevard to Western and north to Sunset Boulevard - or a bicycle I bought - I was in very good shape back then.
After six months, I'd saved up and Nana Duple co-signed for me as I bought my very first car - a beauty.
[Mine had gold trim and a big 500 cubic inch V8]
That gave me the mobility to visit some of my old haunts - and old friends. That's when the changes really hit me. My guy friends were either all married or about to be so. The "other" friends were the same - except for one who ended up finding me. Things between us were never meant to be.
So, when I read of our veterans returning home in these days, I can sympathize with what they face. Not only be removed from a "family" closer than one's blood kin, but facing those who've gone their own ways. And, I don't know how they deal with being unemployed and facing the despair of not knowing how to live or support one's family.
So, may God bless all of them and I pray things will turn around before too long so they have a chance to enjoy the dreams and plenty this wonderful country once had - dreams they laid their lives on the line for.