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  Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
  Vietnam Scrapbook

Gordon Robertson, Vietnam veteran
Midlothian, VA, USA

"Chance Encounter" is a story I wrote when
returning home from Nam. It is based on a true
incident and reminds me daily of how we are all in
this world together. What follows below is an
abbreviated version.
* The airliner landed with an incredible degree
of smoothness , but as it touched down my rumbling
stomach churned in anticipation. Ever since the
co-pilot had announed that we had just crossed
into the airspace of South Viet Nam, I had craned
my neck searching the blackened terrain below for
my first glimpse of the war. When we landed, I
gravitated toward the aisleway and shuffled
forward with the rest of the Marines. The only
thing that caught my eye as I disembarked was the
eery air of casualness. Once the final man had
deplaned, my flight company headed off to pick up
supplies. I was finally reunited with my duffle
bag and headed wearily toward a counter marked
"Billeting" to wait out the coming dawn. Just as
I neared the duty officer, I heard a familiar
voice. Thunderstruck at this voice, I turned to
see the leathered and wearied face of my high
school friend, Doug Nowell. As little more than a
year earlier, I had been among those who had seen
Doug off from Bird Airport in Richmond. I remember
that he turned as he got on the plane and snapped
off a final salute, as if telling us not to worry.
Hardly a year later, I climbed into that same
plane for the same journey. There in Danang, far
removed from what we had once been, we hugged each
other like lost brothers which is what we were-
reunited in a strange land so very far away from
home. In the burst of our excitement, the
questions flew back and forth, tearing off into a
thousand directions. The hours flew by in th
flurry of our conversation and before we were
ready,the dawn interrupted our brief reunioin. I
walked with him to his waiting flight home and
clasped his hand for a final time. For one last
moment, I searched Doug's eyes for a clue of the
life that awaited me, but the message blurred in
his knowing of the sorrow of what I must face.
"Don't be a hero," he softly urged as removed a
beaded necklace and handed it over to me. "For
luck", he said with a sad smile, "I wore it during
my tour and never got hurt too bad. . ."
I took the talisman and placed in around my neck,
sensing its' good fortune. "Just bring yourself
home in one piece." At that moment, the engines
of Doug's homebound place began to rev up calling
him and I wateched my friend make his way across
the tarmac. In a moment I saw his jet liner clear
the blurring runway and quickly whisper away into
the silent freedom of the cloudless sky. A broad
smile spread across my face at the sight of Doug's
safe departure, yet shortly fell away. Behind me,
I finally heard the rumbling of distant guns.
**Doug and I both made it back to Richmond and
eventually both married and had sons. We have
gone our separate ways and don't see each other
much, but I still have


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