A Roller Coaster of Emotions

Posted in Love Letters | 4 comments

Beginning of the Summer of 1970, we had settled into our daily lives in Okinawa.

We were enjoying every moment together, but soon things would disrupt that peace, sending us on a roller coaster of emotions.

Since Frank was on the day shift, I was surprised when he came home at lunchtime one day.  Visibly upset as he entered the house, he asked me to sit down, which I immediately did.

With tears in his eyes, Frank said, “Nancy, I need you to pack a bag because I need you to go home.”

Being so in tune with Frank’s heart and soul, I knew that there was something wrong which he could not tell me. Also, I knew that there was no way that I was going home and leave him alone.

While looking into his eyes and seeing the emotion in them, I replied, “Frank, I am not going home no matter what.”

Tears rolled slowly from Frank’s eyes as he said, “Nancy, I love so much, I need you out of harm’s way, and I can’t tell you any more than that.”

Well, he didn’t need to say more because whatever was upsetting him about my safety meant he was not safe either.  There was no way I was ever going to leave him in Okinawa alone.

I told him, “Frank, I am not going home, no matter what.  Whatever comes our way, we will be here together to face it.  I love you, and we are one.  I can’t leave you.”

Frank held me tightly for a long time as I gently rubbed his head, then we kissed, and he went back to Torii Station, but before leaving, he told me that he would have to stay on the base and work round the clock for a few days. A couple of days later, Frank came in smiling, and I knew the threat was finally over.

Frank’s job with the ASA meant he would have access to sensitive material.  I know that Cambodia, Russia, China, Japan, and Vietnam were part of the concerns during the time we were in Okinawa.

Many riots were happening in Okinawa in 1969-1970.  Frank and I had witnessed one of these riots when we lived a couple of blocks from Kadena Circle.  Riot Police from Japan marched down the street in block formation in front of our home clubbing Okinawans, who did not disperse quickly.

Picture of Riots In Okinawa

Okinawa Riots 1970

Supposedly, these riots by Okinawans were for the Ryukyu Islands return to Japan and the removal of the B52s on Kadena Air Base. Still, if you talked to Okinawans, they did not want anything to do with going back to Japan. There was also a rumor Japan had a submarine circling the Island.

After things calmed down, Frank decided to put in for an extension of his tour in Okinawa.  Staying on the Island for another year would mean that most likely, Frank would make Sp5, which would mean we would get to send all of our possessions and pets home free.  Also, I would get to fly back home free with Frank.  It also meant that Frank would end his enlistment to the ASA in Okinawa.  It seemed our roller coaster of emotions was climbing to new heights of bliss for us.

A few weeks later, when I went to hang out clothes on the clothesline, Ralph was by my side.  Ralph always followed us everywhere we went.  He would sit patiently in the driveway with me by his side as we waited for Frank to walk across the street.

After the clothes were all hung on the clothesline, I went back into the house then, after looking at the clock, noticed it was time for Frank to come in from work.  Thinking Ralph had followed me into the house, I called his name, but he did not come to me.  Suddenly realizing he had not followed me inside, I ran to the front screen door, but as I opened it, there was a screeching of brakes followed by a loud thud.  My heart sank.

Picture of Dog

In Memory of Our Sweet Dog, Ralph. Rest In Peace Baby Boy

After running to the driveway,  I saw Frank in the middle of the road picking up, Ralph.  As Frank walked towards me with Ralph in his arms,  tears were streaming down his face.  I could not get my breath, and tears flooded from my eyes as I ran to Frank.  We did not speak as we sat down on our porch together while Frank held Ralph’s lifeless body in his lap.  Our roller coaster of emotions had just taken a sharp drop heading downhill.

Frank and I buried our sweet Ralph together, shed more tears, then Frank broke the silence with tears running down his face saying, “Nancy, I am so sorry, Ralph saw me on the other side of the road then ran to me.  He didn’t see the car coming.”

Trying to hold back my tears, I told him, “No, Frank, it is not your fault.  It’s mine.  I thought he was inside with me, but he didn’t follow me into the house from the clothesline.  I am so sorry.”

We held each other tightly that evening and night, then the next morning, we made Ralph a cross for his grave.  As the weeks passed, the pain and heartache would become more bearable, but neither one of us would ever forget our Ralph.  The roller coaster of emotions had nowhere to go but up.

After a couple of months passed, we decided that since Frank had not yet heard from his extension to stay on Okinawa, that it was going to go through.  I bought some nice drapery material, borrowed a sewing machine from a girlfriend then made draperies for our living room.  Also, Frank and I purchased a two-tier table to go into the living room.   The roller coaster of emotions was climbing the hill to blissfulness again.

One afternoon when Frank in from work,  he had our friends from next door with him.  I laughed, asking him if we were going to have a party, but he was not smiling when he asked me to sit down.  I sat down on the couch, and my girlfriend sat down close to me.

Frank looked at his buddy standing by his side, then he squatted down in front of me, took my hands into his, then looked into my eyes as he told me, “Nancy, I did not get an extension.  I will be going to Vietnam.  They called three of us into an office at work then told us one of us would have to go to Vietnam because they only had two extensions, then they told us to decide. I volunteered to go.  The other two men and their wives have children. They are close friends of ours, each family has three children, and one man’s wife is pregnant. Nancy, I love you, I know your heart, and I know you will understand and will agree with my decision.”

Looking into Frank’s eyes, I tried to process what he had just told me.  My heart was so proud of him, but in the pit of my stomach, it felt like a knife had pierced me.  Waves of fear began to overtake me, and my body began to shake, but I continued to look steadily into his eyes.

My mind went to our friends and their families that Frank had spoken of then I replied, “Frank, I am so proud of you, and I love you so much. I understand your heart and soul.  I agree with your decision.”

Our friends left our home so we could be alone.  Frank and I talked for hours about everything.  Frank told me that they promised to up his rank to Sp5, which meant we could ship our possessions home free, and we would not have to pay for my ticket home.  Also, we decide on how and when to tell our parents. After we went to bed, we held each other tightly all night long.

The roller coaster made of emotions had just gone over the top of the hill, heading towards a very close fork in the rails, which would try to separate our joined emotions by putting them on two different tracks. Still, we knew in our hearts that we had one heart and soul, which was inseparably and headed to a future of being an even stronger one body of emotions traveling together for eternity.

Frank would not get his promotion to Sp5.  It seems they had misplaced the paperwork or had forgotten to put him in for the promotion; either way, he was furious.  Frank would get that Sp5 promotion in Vietnam, but you will read about that in the next book, “Love Letters from the Heart: The Vietnam Letters.”  His letter home to me about making Sp5 is priceless.

Since we were allowed to ship only 200lbs home free, we sold all of our furniture, but we did pay to ship our stereo equipment home.  We decided to save $50 on my ticket home by getting a more “economical” flight, which would not include me flying on a new plane called a 747. We specifically asked because I did not want to travel on one of those vast planes.

Frank surprised me by telling me he had decided to ship our cats, Candy and Homer, home. I was thrilled. We sold our car, “Ole” Bondo, for what we paid for it.  Frank and I were so busy that we didn’t have time to think about what the future held for us, which was a good thing.

My flight had a set date that I would leave Okinawa. Frank had to take a Forty-five day leave just to go home to see his folks and get me settled in because Vietnam was a direct transfer from Okinawa and the Army would not pay for him to go back to the states, but he could catch a hop on a military plane to get home.

Frank catching a hop meant we would have to go to the base in the evening to wait until he got a flight out.  If he did not get put on a plane that first evening then the procedure would be repeated every evening until he did.

We decided to start the evening trip to Kadena Air Base two days before my flight was to leave.  We thought it could take days for Frank to get on a plane out.  Much to our surprise, the first evening, he got on a flight to the states which left me in Okinawa alone.

We knew that this was a possibility, so we had made plans for me to stay with our next-door neighbors and friends.  My folks were not pleased when Frank got home,  went to see them, then told them I was still in Okinawa.  Oh, to have been a fly on that wall!

My “economical” flight home proved to be quite the learning experience.  Once the plane took off from Naha Airport, we flew to Saipan then landed on a dirt runway sitting next to what looked like a hut where we picked up two new passengers then retook flight.

The next stop was Guam, where I had a two-hour layover and where I met some other women in the waiting room traveling to the states. We all loaded onto a different plane, which took off very fast down a short runway ending at the edge of a cliff.  The flight dipped down as it left the runway then flew upward.  I think they called that flight “sink or fly” but not sure.

The next stop was Honolulu, which was a beautiful airport.  We all had to go through customs there. For some reason, the officials chose me to get to have my suitcases rummaged through while I stood there and watched, but by then, I cared less.

After the rummage party, I met up with my new friends who were talking to a young soldier who was headed home to the states.  He asked us if he could buy us all a drink in the lobby bar.  Since we had a layover of about four hours, we decided that we would let him buy us that drink.  Of course, we were totting all of our luggage which had to be checked in at the next gate.

As you all know, my experience with alcohol is not good, so I ordered what was called a Mai Tai.  This drink was full of big chunks of pineapple, had an orange slice then a cherry on top.  It even had a little umbrella sticking out of one of the pieces of pineapple.  I drank it all down then ate all of the fruit. When we got up to leave, it was all I could do to drag my biggest suitcase.

Our next flight boarded on the second floor, so after we climbed the stairs then all staggered to the second-floor gate, and checked in our luggage, we just waited in the lobby until time to load onto the plane.  The lobby had big windows.  I noticed they were working on a vast plane sitting next to the window, but I knew it was not my plane because I was not flying on a 747.  I was so wrong.

After loading onto the 747 the next stop was Los Angeles.  You could barely see the lights because a brown smog covered the town that night but we landed safely. I had to catch a taxi to a different terminal where I would find my next gate to load on another plane to fly to Texas.

After getting to the terminal, finding my gate, and knowing there was a six-hour layover, I decided to find the closest phone booth to make a call home.  After flying up and down for nearly a full day, I was exhausted. Frank answered his parent’s phone, and it was so good to hear his voice.  We couldn’t talk very long because it was a long-distance call, but we spoke long enough to renew my strength.

Finally, the layover ended then I loaded on to the last plane, which would be flying me to Texas.  The aircraft was fairly full of people, but as we landed in different towns, Las Vegas, El Paso, and  San Antonio, letting off passengers before retaking flight, it ended up that just the pilot, co-pilot, stewardess, a guy and I were the only passengers left to get off in Houston.  Glad I didn’t know we were going to do that.

Early in the morning, Frank and Jimmy picked me up at the new airport in Houston.  Once stepping off the plane at Houston Intercontinental Airport, I discovered it had been 36 hours since I had left Okinawa. My “economical” flight was so much fun.

Frank and I only had Forty-five days together before he would leave to go back to Okinawa for two weeks then transferred to Vietnam.


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  1. Wow! That really was a roller coaster ride. How sad about Ralph. Pets are just like members of the family and when they are gone, they leave a big hole. I’m glad you had the kittens to fill some of that hole. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to have to find your way by yourself all the time knowing that your time with Frank when you finally got home would be so short. A very emotional time, I am sure. God bless.

    • Yes, it was a very tough time for us but nothing could prepare us for what was to come. Ralph was so special to us, I will never forget him.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
      God Bless You, Diane

  2. So sorry to have to read about Ralph….the memories of how the airlines used to work….lol

    • Ralph was a real sweetheart. It was so hard to lose him.
      Yes the airlines were crazy back then but saving that $50 was a must.
      Thank you for reading and commenting Kim. I really appreciate it so much.
      God Bless You,

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