I celebrated my forty-seventh birthday in September 1969. I had been in Vietnam for more than six months and was on the downhill part of my tour of combat. Every day was supposed to bring me closer to the end of my war and going home. But I didn't look at it that way. I was aware of each day but not as an entry into a ledger of combat accomplished and combat yet to be performed. I knew that the last day of a tour could be just as deadly as the first. I wasn't keeping score. I was busy with duty rosters, crew training, administrative chores, flying missions, and staying alive.
I took advantage of every opportunity to relax. When I wasn't on the schedule to fly, I attended every soiree to which I was invited. Other nights I'd be at the Fleet Air Support Unit officers' club, just as often in the company of my navy associates as with my dustoff friends. I suppose that all of us who experienced combat spent more time at the bar than we should have. But I was always fit for duty at the appointed time.
My glaucoma was kept in check with medication; other than that, I was healthy. I was surprised by the number of our people who suffered from bouts of diarrhea. Their problem could have been caused by eating in the establishments of Can Tho or their penchant for the local seafood, which I never touched. Otherwise, it was a mystery to me how they became ill while I didn't. I patronized the same restaurants and often bought bowls of chicken noodle soup from street vendors. Operating from open pushcarts, they carried a limited number of bowls, which were "cleaned" after each use by sloshing them