(Blue Ghost 23)

I sold my home in New Jersey this summer (1995) and bought another near the mountains in Washington State (Seattle-Tacoma region). Actually, my wife Lynn picked it out when I sent her house hunting (talk about having faith in one's mate). I owned it before I saw it, after driving a Ryder truck 3,200 miles with two cats and a Siberian Husky in the front seat. Like the pioneer days with air conditioning!

But I already did that once in my life, when I moved there first from Kansas in '76. Swore I'd never leave then, but in '92 our company got bought; so, it was move to Jersey or lose out on a long career. Funny what a man will do for money. Even leave the land of his dreams.

So why am I still in Jersey? I had to come back and rent a place until we get the newly resold (again) business off the ground. Then, we will open up a West Coast sub-office in March; and I get to go home AND keep my job. Imagine that! There really is light at the end of the tunnel (Kissinger notwithstanding).

BTW, I work for a German company that makes machinery used in plastics processing. Nothing glamorous, but the industry is still growing; and it pays the bills. (That advice in the movie "The Graduate" was dead on.)

But, being married over half my life, "bach'ing it" is not my cup of tea. I live on frozen stuff, and the women at the laundromat think I'm a riot every Sunday the way I do wash. (I'm getting a little following, I fear.)

Anyway, I would be bored out of my skull nights if I didn't do something creative in my free time, so I write. I learned to enjoy it over the years of business travel in the States, South America, and Europe, always carrying a laptop. (I'm on one now.)

In fact, much of my memoir was written in hotel rooms around the world. Besides, unlike my other diversions, like boating, photography, etc., it doesn't cost me anything. And I get the most out of it.

So, I feel fortunate to have the spare time now to go back through my older stuff (and reread it myself for the first time in a 'coon's age) to put together something like these stories, or "Closure," to share with others on the VVHP.

I started my "adult" life very young, marrying my first wife when I was 17 (shotgun); and was a father at 18, when my daughter Suzanne was born. I was flying choppers in Nam at 19, turning 20 in mid-tour. At 38, Suzanne (then 20) gave birth to my precious grandson Ricky. Alex followed two years later.

My son, Shawn, was a Navy SEAL, electing to get out of the service and ply his trade commercially (the diving part, that is). He's up working in Alaska.

I met my present wife, Lynn, in a bar in Colorado Springs (1975) and started a hot, fast, two-week romance. Then I moved to Washington State and never talked with her again for four years. One day I called her in Peoria, Illinois, during my lunch hour away from IBM, and things picked up where they left off.

After a month, I proposed over the phone. Then we decided it would be a good idea if she flew out so we could see one another again before making our minds up for sure. My truck got stolen the day I was to pick her up at the airport, but I rented a Firebird and tried to pretend it was mine. (Think she knew better.)

Her mom said she was crazy for marrying any man under such circumstances (and I had to agree). She told her she would always keep her room ready for the day she would surely come crying back home. True to her word, Lynn's room is still made up the way she left it 16 years ago. But I think her mom just might be getting closer to accepting that it's going to work out after all. Mothers-in-law can sure be a stubborn lot!

The rest, as they say, is history.

UPDATE--November 1996

Now that I'm comfortably settled back in the Land Of Rain (western Washington State, where people don't tan, they rust), I thought it time to update this scandalous Biography of myself.

I'm presently living the secluded life on a few wooded acres, happily raising a herd of pygmy goats when I'm not traveling on international business. Wife Lynn and I are once again enjoying the company of our children and grandchildren, no longer living a continent away from them. Life is good right now, and I couldn't be happier.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to Bill McBride and the Platoon, who have made the "Vietnam Veterans Home Page" possible. For the many still trying to resolve our feelings about the Vietnam War, the VVHP provides an important link to the past, as well as the present.

In the last year or so, I have been contacted by numerous people regarding the "Blue Ghost 23" Gallery, especially about "Closure: A Vietnam Story." Among the respondents have been family members, former crewmembers who I served with, and personal friends of the men in Blue Ghost 39's crew. This in turn has led to even more closure for yours truly, as well as for them I trust.

The "Vietnam Veterans Home Page" started as a simple memorial to a great man, Lewis Puller Jr., but has evolved into an all encompassing tribute to the American experience in Vietnam.

May the effort continue to grow and outlive all of us as one of the great collective works about the war so future generations can learn first hand from our own words.

Mike Austin (Blue Ghost 23) can be reached via email at: austinrm@ranierconnect.com