Alone, & No Longer Excepted!
ALONE then; now WELL, & NO LONGER EXCEPTED
‘Remembering Christmas Eves 1968 and 2005’
The week between Christmas and beginning of a new year is oft used to pause, remember, and reflect on pivotal and watershed moments in life; how such events and circumstances continue to affect one’s contemporary personal or corporate experience; and ponder the influence they might have during the months ahead.
Christmas Eve has long held special spiritual, personal and familial meaning to me, especially those of 1968 and 2005…
1968. Nine months into my 13 month tour of duty as a young U.S. Marine combat engineer officer, I found myself at Vandegrift Forward Combat Base (nee ‘Landing Zone Stud’), 40 or so ‘clicks’ (kilometers) West of Dong Ha Combat Base in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam. It was Christmas Eve, and my shore party platoon, comprised of helicopter support team members, and I were hunkered down for that night of nights, in a large underground earth and timber bunker.
Earlier that week I received a couple small packages from home, Christmas presents wrapped first with colorful paper, then covered over with brown grocery bag rag. It was quiet that eve, with a clear sky. No ‘incoming’ (rockets) or small arms fire so far. So I decided to sit alone atop the bunker and open the presents, while thinking of my wife Carolyn, and toddler Susan, way back home. Boy, talk about feeling really Alone! Not sure I ever felt more Alone before that night, I know I certainly haven’t since. And while it wasn’t the most traumatic or emotional experience endured in Nam, it sure convinced me how incomplete each of us is, without someone to hold near and dear, in good times and bad.
Then it happened! Seemed, in an instant, all hell broke loose. Small arms fire, some automatic, erupted around the entire defensive perimeter of the base; pop flares whooshed skyward and burst, illuminating everyone with their bright light; even some signal star clusters arched out from Stud, over into Indian country (enemy territory). Fortunately, it wasn’t a wholesale response to an attack, or attempted breaching of our barbed wire barricades, just a bunch of Marines intent on celebrating Christmas Eve the only way they could, by using gunfire and pyrotechnics, half a world away from loved ones back in the states. The ‘mad moment’ was short-lived however, as officers and noncoms started hollering ‘Cease fire, cease fire!’ And with the restored quiet, came that Alone feeling again.
Three months and one major engagement later, I left RVN behind and returned to my family in Philadelphia, PA. For the next 37 years I kept most Vietnam combat memories bottled up inside. While it had been the most exciting, challenging and dangerous 13 months of my life, so far, it had also been the loneliest of times. On one hand, I didn’t want to relive trauma better left behind, so I thought, on the battlefield. On the other hand, I realized not only how Alone I’d felt that Christmas Eve, and most other nights; but now, how potentially permanently Alone, I’d selfishly risked my family, when going off to war. And that’s something I’ve lived with ever since…
2005. I penned the short story ‘Making Amends’, a few years ago, describing how a chance encounter Christmas Eve 2005, enabled me to finally relate adventures, and some of the trauma experienced during 1968 and 1969 in Vietnam, from the Khe Sanh Combat Base breakout to a near death experience, during Operation Dewey Canyon, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail bordering Laos in the Ashau Valley.*1
Two additional results of this pivotal, watershed moment – and I’ve not written publicly about this before, is it completed a multifaceted emotional healing process 40 years in the making; and something else.
When I returned to the states during Spring 1969, I was incapable of crying; inclined to laugh, instead of grieve, when relatives and friends died; and, unable to show much affection to those closest to me. Ten years later, during healing prayer administered by close friends one Friday night, I regained the ability to cry! Today I can easily weep during a movie, even while reading a poignant part in a book, but still find it difficult to shed tears among family members. It took even longer to attend funeral services and respond appropriately. And today, it’s not as easy as I’d like, to sow warm affection to my spouse, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Why? Best I can figure; when my Marines were killed, wounded or injured in RVN, it was often vital, during and soon after combat, to appear and to be, in full control of one’s emotions and actions, not crying, unflinching facing violence and death, leading by example at all times. That extreme conditioning did not disappear when I returned home. And to this day, I suppose – deep down, I fear – once again, to be the stalwart one, if a tragic turn of events affects my loved ones….
As a related aside; the third result, portrayed in the words that comprise ‘Making Amends’, is how alienation morphed into acceptance between two individuals whose lives couldn’t have been more disparate in 1968, now reconciled on Christmas Eve 2005, with neither one any longer excepted….
So, during the days between Christmas and New Years day, since 2005, I’ve made it a point to pause, remember, and reflect on pivotal and watershed moments in my life, and how these events and circumstances might affect personal and corporate experience during the 12 months ahead. My 2010 epiphany? ‘I’m no longer Alone; I can truly empathize; and, I appreciate the efforts of others, as some have finally appreciated me.’ So, how ‘bout you? Might this be a timely and worthwhile exercise for you, this week, as well? Think about it!
1. Copies of the short stories: ‘Making Amends’, ‘PUC Beer’, ‘Got Rep?’, and ‘The Chester Flashback’ are free and available on request, by simply responding to this Blog, via email: email@example.com, or telephoning (317) 346-7156.
If you’re a loyal reader of this weekly blog, you’re likely wondering if and when there’ll be follow – on episodes to chapters # 1, 2 and 3 of the Manufactured Housing and Landlease (nee manufactured home) Community Manifesto, Opportunity to Make History Together, and Gantlet. Answer? You bet! Chapter # 4, very tentatively titled, ‘Where Are Our Elected Leaders?’ is nearing completion; and, Chapter # 5 should be the most exciting episode ever. Why? A Plan! That’s right, since no cogent plan is apparently forthcoming from Washington, DC., from anyone – anytime soon, some business owners (i.e. ‘People with ‘skin in the game’, as is oft said!) are crafting a new Business Model for the MHIndustry, its’ advocacy organizations, and to a lesser extent, the LLCommunity asset class. Hopefully, both chapters will debut sometime during January and February 2010. Want to participate? Here’s how! Pen your ideas, regarding what you think and believe it will take to ‘Save Our Industry’ and email or mail (GFA c/o Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247) them ASAP! Remember; the premise towards which we’re focusing our attention these days is how to counter:
‘Imagine No New HUD Code manufactured homes by year 2010!’
Frankly, the most frequent rejoinder I’m hearing and seeing (in letters and emails) these days is, “George, you’re being too generous with the premise time frame. Frankly, I don’t see new HUD Code homes being manufactured and shipped beyond year 2015!” Yikes! Do YOU see our lot as being that bad? If so, run – don’t walk – to the nearest computer and get your ideas and suggestions off to me right away! If not, I’d still like to hear why. GFA
And if you’re really caught up in this national conversation about the present and future of the HUD Code manufactured housing industry, you’ll want to be present at the Manufactured Housing Institute’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., on 2 February 2010. Why? Because ‘If you’re not at least attempting to be, or become, part of the solution to our industry’s ills, you’re likely part of the problem!’ Be there, in part, to challenge William Matchneer, HUD’s Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regulatory Affairs and Manufactured Housing, as to why that federal agency appears to work so hard to stymie manufactured housing’s acceptance as housing (vs. trailers) by dint of not fully implementing the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (‘MHIA@2000’), refusing to name a noncareer administrator (instead of him) to oversee the work of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (‘MHCC’)! To register, phone Thayer Long @ (703) 558-0678…he’s on vacation this week, so you’ll likely have to leave a message. And, while you’re at it, phone Danny Ghorbani, executive head of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHAR’) and request to be put on his email mailing list for his group’s ‘Watchdog’ warnings about HUD’s latest machinations and maneuverings. (202) 783-4087. See you in Savannah? Hope so!
Savvy MHIndustry & LLCommunity businessmen and women already subscribe to the Allen Letter Professional Journal; in part, because they know at this time of year they’ll receive the 21st annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators Throughout North America!’) as a lagniappe (‘freebie’) with the January issue of the newsletter! Otherwise, the ALLEN REPORT, alone, costs $250.00., so, a savings of $115.05 for those who’ve invested $134.95 in an annual subscription to ALPJ. It’s not too late! The January issue of the newly reformatted newsletter will be distributed late this week or next week. Call the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 to subscribe today! Credit card orders encouraged.
George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247