When Jim Clancy talked about his sons, he beamed.
I met him in the high school where he taught history. He started to boast about his boy, who was serving in the United States Army and stationed in Hawaii. He was a lutenient in an an artillary outfit, but had not yet made up his mind whether or not to make the military a life-long career.
Oddly enough, father and son trained in the same place, both serving in artilerary units. Only the elder Clancy had gone to his training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 31 years earlier, in the fall of 1966. Coincindentally, my uncle also trained there about that time, before his unit was sent to Vietnam.
Clancy's unit was reserve, so he remained states side for his whole six years.
"When it was time for my son to go, I decided to drive him out there," Clancy said with that particular, nostagic note in his voice I had heard from other men who had sought out the details of the past by revisiting the places where something significant happened to them.
"When we got there, I drove him to his barracks," Clancy said. "The old hospital had been turned into administrative offices and the new hospital was so big it seemed to go on forever. Most of the wooden barracks had been knocked down to make room for the new hospital. Oddly enough, the one I stayed in was one of the few still standing."
Then, Clancy talked about his time training there, how when after a couple of weeks, the captain of his unit approached him and asked if he wanted to go to officers candidates school.
"He told me he and others had been watching me and liked what they saw," Clancy said. "I told them I really didn't think I wanted to do it. The captain told me that I'd be there for some weeks yet and I should think it over."
Clancy forgot the invitation, although was reminded about it a few weeks later, when he sergeant came up and asked if he had thought over the offer.
"I told him I wasn't interested," Clancy said. "But it didn't end there. Just before I was ready to leave, the Captain asked me again. I told him I didn't want to do it."
Recently, Clancy visited his son in Hawaii and was priviledged to stay in one of the military hotels just outside the base. He was sitting in his son's car as it pulled up towards the hotel and noticed all the enlisted men saluting.
"It gave me chills," Clancy said. "To think all those men were saluting my son. I turned to him and asked if it was possible to go back and do it all again. My son shook his head, and said, `It's too late, Dad. You had your chance and you blew it.' I guess I did."