Mark I. Kirkmeyer
After leaving Saudi Arabia in 1991, we landed in Rome to refuel. The Italian’s had us park at the end of the runway while they refueled the aircraft with the entire hospital staff onboard. We then flew to Dublin where the Irish allowed the aircraft to pull up to the terminal but denied the passengers the ability to leave the aircraft. Outside, gun and anti-armor jeeps circled the aircraft. Everyone on the aircraft began wondering how we would be accepted at home, especially Dr. Markall (he was an infantryman in Vietnam). The flight from Dublin to New York was silent. We landed at La Guardia and I stayed onboard the aircraft because we had the Hospitals 110 defensive weapons stored in the overhead compartments and I was not going to let a bunch of M16s, 9mms, and an M203 onto the streets of New York. After a few minutes Sgt. Terrell returned to the aircraft to take charge of the weapons. He told me the CO wanted me in the terminal. I entered the terminal and began to cry, partially from the pain of traveling with a back injury but mostly from the shock – free pizza for returning soldiers, free phone calls home. Somebody had not forgotten us but I wondered how the soldiers left behind for the clean-up would be treated.
The busses stopped and we formed up into hospital formation. As I was still suffering from my back injury I stayed at the back of the formation. When the 1st Shirt started barking marching orders I just followed as close as I could. Three steps later my hand was grabbed by my four year old niece. I looked down into her loving brown eyes and picked her up ignoring the pain. This was what we served for. As I hobbled to catch up to the formation other children had broken free from the parent who had taken care of them during our absence and ran to their returning Hero. When the CO took control of the formation about three-quarters of the troops were holding children.
Check out my poem, “A Joyous Parade”, about the parade with the Vietnam Vets.
©Copyright May 20, 2005 by Mark I. Kirkmeyer