We were all granted a well-earned and much-needed week’s leave in between our eight weeks of basic and our eight weeks of advanced training.
Since my parents lived in Savannah, a mere 39 miles as the buzzard flies, I went straight home and invited three or four of my young army buddies to accompany me—for the first couple of days, anyway. I think after that, they probably continued on their separate ways. My mother and father were good sports about it all, although the sleeping accommodations, were, no doubt, less than ideal. I seem to remember seeing at least one set of feet sticking out from under the piano in the living room. But after eight weeks on an army cot, sleeping in a real bed felt like heaven.
There was Thomas Eades, “Tom”, from North Carolina, a tall, thin country boy with a cheerful friendly manner, Richard P. Dacey “Dick”, from Watertown, New York, a few years older than the rest, with a bossy, but endearing way about him. Dick had slimmed down by about 25 pounds during the eight weeks of basic–I’m sure his family and friends were shocked to see the transformation. I found out about 20 years later, Dick had actually stayed in the army rising to the rank of brigadier general in the quartermaster corps.
And then there was PFC Donald J. Russin, Jr.
“Don”, of Youngstown, Ohio. Don, was a well-mannered, confident young man, somewhat dashing, even—who, unlike myself, claimed to have experience with women. With his dark eyes and dark hair, he reminded me a bit of Sean Connery.
I remember that when we all changed into our civilian clothes, Don’s shiny black Wellington boots attracted all of our attention and we all admired them and everyone commented on what a sharp dresser Don was.
It was easy to see why women would have been attracted to a guy like Don. Don stayed at Fort Stewart for advanced training in armor. Then he went on to Fort Knox, in Kentucky, for officer candidate school and eventually became a first lieutenant: MOS (Military Occupational Specialty 1203: Tank Unit Commander at 21.
He served with the 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division in Gia Dinh Province in South Vietnam.
If you’re ever in Washington, D.C., stop by the Vietnam War Memorial.
You’ll find Don’s name on the shiny black wall, Panel 37E, Line 68.