MCRD San Diego Back in the DayEverything must begin somewhere. And in the United States Marine Corps, my enlisted tour commenced with yellow footprints. Drawn on the asphalt of the recruit depot with heels close together and toes angled out to 45 degrees, they are where I, along with seven other guys from our suburban Chicago neighborhood, stood to begin military service. Then we marched somewhere, boxed up our clothes and mailed them home, coming to the realization that our new life would be different from drinking beer behind a bowling alley.
The Vietnam War was winding down, at least for the United States, though the North Vietnamese would launch a huge attack against South Vietnam toward the end of March as we conducted infantry training at Camp Pendlelton. (In September, now a Private First Class, I would find myself in an Army hospital called Camp Kue on Okinawa, sharing a ward with American advisors who'd been wounded helping the South Vietnamese forces stop the communists.)
In 1991, I visited the footprints on a vacation to San Diego with my girlfriend. (Now My Fine Wife or MFW.)
In 2002, I stood on a hill in Vietnam called Con Thien with a Vietnamese guide who told me about the obliteration of his village by B52s, bombing the NVA advance.
In 2008, I was back at MCRD finishing up a marathon with Team in Training.
But on a Friday night, January 14, 1972, I stood on yellow footprints. Oh, right before we boxed up our clothes, this happened:
(The following scene is rather accurate, except there's no C&W music. Just buzzzzzzz.)