The technology of the military today, is vastly different than in the time of which this story recounts. However the struggles of military dependents left behind, remains much the same. The changing times over the last forty years, have dictated the way we live our day to day lives. But for Military Dependents during times of war, the fears, anxieties, and apprehensions, are never erased in time, they remain part of the journey, an accepted part of life in the Military.
In most of our family memories, there is almost always a center piece. A small rural town, a section or burough of a larger city, Gramma's house, or the family run corner store that Uncle Harry and Aunt Marge ran, while living in the two bedroom flat above.Yet for My Dad, and Mother, along with their three daughters and two sons, are memories are filled with a collection of pinpoints, that are scattered throughout the Pacific Rim. When I think of are families points in time, I remember them each, with equal amazement. From the oriental metropolis of Tokyo, to the Delta Queen of Sacramento, in the central valley
of California. From Grant Heights, a massive military housing area 75 miles west of Tokyo, that upon entering you could just as well have felt you were somewhere in the midwest, to Agana, Guam, where as a boy I scurried about the jungle, while Japanese soldiers from WW II were still in hiding.
My dad Rudy Newtson was a Master Sargeant in the United States Air Force, and for the better part of 13 years, my mother, my siblings and I, traversed the Pacific Rim, never hunkering down more than three years in any of Rudy's stations. In one respect we can claim a center point of sorts. As are family is from Hawai'i, we were fortunant to have been able to intersect are travel back and forth across the pacific with assignments to Hickam AFB, on the island of Oahu. Although we used are time in Hawai'i to interact with Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents, and cousins, the twelve to eighteen month tours in the islands, always seemed hurried, dashing in, barely getting comfortable before exiting to a new assignment. Aside from the moving, which you dreaded more as you grew older, It was a life filled with immediate medical care, all the youth programs a kid could want, and a chance to experience entities, that most kids would never even dream of. The oppurtunity to enjoy playgrounds that varied between the south pacific jungles of Guam, to the dusty schoolyards of San Antonio, Texas. From the graceful slopes of Mt. Fuji, to the bottom lands of the Sacremento delta. Yes indeed ! We forged our way, in DC-6's, with flight schedules of 15 hours or more, in the bucket strap seats of C-130's when nothing else was available. Our traverses of the pacific, always ably led by M/sgt. Rudy Newtson, a career man with the 1956th Communications Squadron AFCS.
Our parents played such an important part in this world wind tour that each of us remember as our childhood. In our second tour of Japan, the Sarge was to make frequent TDY's (temp. duty) into Vietnam to setup comm. Centers, in areas he didn't even know the name of. When you are a part of the military, enlisted or dependent during a time of war, this becomes an excepted part of the journey. Yet sometimes it can be hard to swallow. Hitch, is the military term for a four year increment of duty. Usually when you approach within 15 or 16 months of the end of your current hitch, the powers that be will dangle a carrot, usually a good some of money, to get another four years out of you,. Well, Rudy's carrot was lowered at the start of the summer of 1967. Knowing his discharge would be in October of 1968, giving him 20 years service to his country, this time Rudy turned down that carrot, in favor of a chance in the private sector. Reasonable by any standard one would think, given his service during the Korean Campain, and his frequent jaunts to Vietnam. Well not so in somebody's book, following his rejection of another four years, Sargeant Newtson received, what was to be his final orders from the USAF, he would be spending the final thirteen months of a 20 year career, ten miles north of Pleiku City in So. Vietnam. This was military service, he took it just as any other 20 year vet would, as his duty. Not so much my Mother. When you are married to one that serves his country for any length of time, you feel that you are serving as well. The many turmoiled moves that we made from 1954 to 1967, were organized for the most part, by my mother. There were times when we trekked without my dad, leaving her the responsibility of managing five kids spaced almost one year apart, on a 15 hour flight.
Of course nothing could have been tougher, than boarding that Braniff International 707, without him, as we set out for San Francisco, in early October 1967. He of course would be heading in the opposite direction, bound for Saigon. No, it is safe to say, that Geraldine Newtson felt that her husband had been dealt an ungrateful hand. That was to be a very long thirteen months.One that would not only change our young lives, but my fathers as well.
My dad served his country well, never questioned its judgement, never debated its politics, as is the custom of military men in general. You would never confuse him for "The Great Santini", as the Air Force, obviously has a different ajenda than the Marine Corps. And as a kid growing up on Air Force Bases, I was especially thankful for that. A carreer Marine once told me that the Air Forces builds its housing areas first, and with what ever funds are left, they build there runway. The Marine Corp builds there runway first, then builds there housing with what ever scraps are left. And I can tell you, having played many baseball and football games in both venues, that they are worlds apart.
Spent the better part of 1968 watching the six o'clock news, hoping to never see my dads name roll up the screen at the end of the broadcast. I don't know what would be worse, not knowing for long stretches of time as it was for us, receiving a cassette tape from my dad on an infrequent basis, phone calls were out of the question in those days. Or as it is in todays world of high tech communications, were families might receive news, in some instances, within minutes. Those instances, those dreaded thoughts that weave in and out of a families minds, while a loved one is serving in a war zone, has not changed in these last forty or so years. My empathy goes out whole heartedly, to the families with soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan, my family felt what they are feeling now. They will never forget the anxieties of war, as I have never forgotten them.
Well much to our consternation, Rudy did return in September of '68. He returned with a better understanding of his country, the nave qualities that are embetted in most career servicemen, were severed for the most part. He was almost forty when he served in 1968, hardened by time, grizzled by experience. Moreover sometime during the 68' Tet offensive, he came to realize that young kids, not much older than I was, were being thrust into an arena, where somehow, something was not right. His views, he would come to tell me years later, were shared by others of the top eschelon of NCO's, of which he was apart of on that firebase noth of Pleiku. I have no doubt those young kids loved Rudy, as that was his nature. There is no question, they loved the Teriyaki steaks he cooked, as I have never tasted better. I think my dad returned with a renewed compassion for the younger generation, a big step, considering the times, and the career that he had just left.
Rudy went on toserve as a postal carrier, as many retired military men did after the Vietnam era. Today it is of the upmost importance that we support our military on there return, and we have, the medical issues not withstanding. It was utterly shameful at times how returning Vietnam
vets were treated. Yes we were caught up in a fight against the war, and if you throw the civil rights issues, it became a time that is hard to explain to younger generations that did not experience it. Yet we surely could have treated those men much better than we did. The Government must bear its responsibility also, especially when it came to the issue of taxes. I will never forget arriving home from school in the fall of '68, to the utter anger and shock in his voice as he argued over the phone with the IRS. You remember those carrots I mentioned, well my dad taken four of those orange nuggetts over the course of his military career, the problem was however that the government led him to believe they were tax free. Not so, as he was being told he would have to come up with eight hundred plus in a form of a ballon payment. $800 was a goodly sum in 1968, what ever nave qualities left in Rudy, were sheared to the bone that afternoon. Rudy Newtson looked at the US government differently from that day forth.
It would be thirty-three years before the Vietnam war would affect my dads life again. Moreover, the affect would be final, Rudy Newtson USAF (Ret.) died on the 28th day of December in the year 2001. The cause of death was Diabetes II, which he had contracted while serving in Vietnam. He served with honor, and duty, and although his treatment by the government, after his discharge, seemed less than honorable, he never whined, and he never complained. However he was to make a statement postmortum, and it was in message given to my mother before he passed, in affect it said he wanted no military presence at his funeral, a ceremony he was duly entitled. So in January of 2002 Rudy's ashes were spread at the bell buoy a mile west of the entrance of Newport Harbor, in Orange
County, Ca. where he now rests with my grandfather and Grandmother, and of course all the Sea Lions.