Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (conclusion)
"I've Got To Get Out of This Place"
Within one or two days after the LZ Margo action, Major Lynch took me aside and told me he had R&R dates for me. “Did I want them?” He knew the answer since he had asked me to volunteer to postpone dates before.
Typically R&R was given about halfway through a Marine’s 13-month tour. I was at the 10-month point. When I received the R&R date, the departure was about 10 days out. I have no recollection of how I communicated the Hawaii destination or date, maybe on a C-ration postcard, but Judy barely got the word in time. The dates for R&R had been postponed once or twice before, so she was justifiably skeptical. After receiving the new schedule, booking the tickets, and arranging time off work, she called my parents for reassurance. My Dad encouraged her to keep her plans though we later found out he had had no inside information.
Even though my R&R date was coming up soon, we had more Vietnam drama to endure before it became a reality. Five or six days before my scheduled R&R departure, Major Lynch told me to take the first helo out of there that next day. It seemed like a good time to get clean. Bodies were dirty and unshaven, and clothes were worse. Soon I asked if anyone wanted to head off the ridge down to a white water stream to bathe and shave. Several followed me.
In a letter to Judy on 25 September 1968: "If you could see me now you wouldn’t want to meet. I’ve been in the field 30 days, have a 2 week beard and I smell so bad the bugs will not come close to me."
Jungle spa. After 10 months "in the bush", Lt Wonders gets R&R to meet Judy in Hawaii. But first, clean-up in a creek. Courtesy of Kent Wonders.
I had absolutely no feeling of remorse about leaving, unlike the time when I left the platoon earlier that summer. There had been so many changes that I no longer had a deep bond with the men around me. I was just left with the feeling expressed in the lyrics from a very popular song, especially for those in Vietnam, “I got to get out of this place….if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
1stLt William Kent Wonders
Assistant Operations Officer, BLT 2/26
excerpted from his book "My Marine Corps Odyssey -- A Journey From Classroom to Vietnam Rice Paddy"