The Unforgettable Welcome Home
Soldiers coming home from Vietnam typically did not receive a warm welcome home.
For James Bush, it was a welcome home he would never forget.
James’ service began when he was 17 years old. He remembers hearing about the draft when he was in high school, growing up in the swamps of Alabama.
Bush ultimately joined the Air Force ... The start of 20 years and four months of serving as an airman.
James said he had an enjoyable career, spending it in the weapons maintenance field and retiring as a chief master sergeant.
He went to college over the years, earning a business management degree in June 1986 and earning his master’s degree in business administration using his G.I. Bill.
His career is filled with memorable moments. One time, he even met President Lyndon B. Johnson and shook his hand. Other memories came from his three tours in Vietnam.
“It was very interesting, and I’m sure everyone has different things to say,” James said.
James spent his time supporting a Douglas AC-47 Spooky fixed-wing gunship. He remembers his unit working 12 hours on and 12 hours off, seven days a week.
Technology was different in those days. A month after James left for Vietnam, his first son was born. He remembers the Red Cross bringing him a note with the good news. He also remembers using the Military Auxiliary Radio System to talk to his wife for just one minute. That was the only minute they had to talk for the entire year he was gone.
He remembers a rocket hitting his hooch and having to jump out to take cover. He remembers the death of his bunkmate. He remembers taking a break from loading ammunition one night, seeing enemy forces walking up the hill towards him and his buddy with rockets, and having to take cover. He remembers the Douglas AC-47 Spooky fixed-wing gunship coming back from a mission with so many bullet holes in it that daylight was shining through.
James experienced this bitterness during his journey home, but when he landed back in Alabama, his experience was different.
James had three sons, who each joined the Army. One of his sons, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Bush, joined the Army when he was 26. He said during his own deployments, his dad supported him.
“We didn’t know what day it was,” he said. “It didn’t matter. We just worked one day to another.”
“He gave me a lot of advice on how to be safe and what to look out for,” Matthew said. “He said ‘keep your head down.’ That advice was all encompassing.”
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