Life moved fast for Ron. [He] was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant. In the summer after graduation from Texas A&M, my brother married Jana Hamilton, a Texas Tech journalism graduate from Odessa. By the time he departed for the war in Vietnam, Ron and Jana had given birth to Karoni Lynn (Jana did most of the work).
Ron did some extensive training with the Corp. He participated in naval officer flight training at Quantico, Virginia. On training graduation day, a sergeant snapped off the head of a live turtle with his teeth in celebration of the group's success.
Flight training occupied the next few months of the young family's time. ... [F]light instruction was given concerning the A-6. Part of the teaching dealt with the art of parachuting out of the aircraft. Ron loved the thrill of jumping. It exhilirated. On one occasion, he floated down into the Pacific. The landing was fine until he saw the dorsal fin of a shark. His blood pressure shot up. He was in the raft with great rapidity.
Volunteering for Vietnam
After completion of his training, Lieutenant Forrester volunteered for service in Vietnam. He did so for several reasons. The primary reason he volunteered was that he believed in the cause. Communism was evil, and the Domino Theory had declared that we would lose all of Southeast Asia if the aggression of the North Vietnamese was not abruptly halted.
The Forresters, least of all Ron, did not buy into that left-wing hippie philosophy which issued into chants such as "Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill, today ?" Ron doubted not. The war was just. He bought into the "America, love it or leave it" school of thought. If the wimps wanted to scoot on up to Canada, we were better off without the maggots and their crap. He would do the right thing.
Other reasons contributed to his willingness to go. Ron loved to fly, and he wondered how he would react in a combat situation. He viewed it as a game just like they had played at Texas A&M, only the stakes were higher. It was the major leagues. He wasn't afraid to play, and just like then, he intended to win.
Besides, war was his duty as an officer. His lifelong dream had been to pursue a military career, and let's face it. That career would be enhanced by overseas combat. It would facilitate the climbing of the ladder, and he planned to someday plant his foot on the top rung.
The Road to Vietnam
In August of 1972, Ron was assigned to Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 533. The "Hawks" had been deployed to Nam Phong, Thailand, in June of 1972. Their responsibility was to fly night missions over Vietnam. Flights were of the sortie variety. That is to say, they were combat missions involving only one airplane. Normally, a primary bombing target was identified for each sortie.
The base at Nam Phong was sarcastically referred to as "The Rose Garden." The nickname was derived from Marine recruiting advertisements in the states which appealed to the macho aspect of life in the Corps. The ads always concluded with "The United States Marine Corps: We never promised you a rose garden."
"The Rose Garden" was austere. It made Motel 6 look like the Embassy Suites. Pilots and crewmen didn't sleep in barracks. They took their rest in a tent without the adornment of a bed. The squadron had a single shower. You had the choice between cold water and no water. Hot was was a luxury "The Rose Garden" didn't feature. No menus were available. You ate what they sloshed on your plate, and the meal was meant for nutrition only. Taste was no a consideration.
Several stops were required before Ron could join Squadron 533. On August 24, he was flown to Tokyo. From here, he went to Iwakuni, Japan, where his orders were to be processed. While waiting, he traveled to Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb was dropped on August of 1945.
At Hiroshima, my brother visited Peace Memorial Park which is located at the approximate epicenter of the blast. The park contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed in the explosion. Postwar Hiroshima was dedicated by the Japanese to peace.
Here, at ground zero, Ron was touched. He was touched by the fact that people die in war, and death of such nature is not pretty. On the other hand, Ron perceived that sometimes peace can only come after war. The Japanese weren't from Missouri, but somebody had to show them.
The lieutenant's thinking process was jarred by another reality. Soon he would be raining bombs down on the enemy. The pay loads that he would deliver were not as destructive as an A-bomb, but they were deadly nonetheless. Hopefully, they would held give birth to peace.
Finally, Lt. Forrester arrived in Nam Phong on August 28th. Destiny chose a difficult time for him to do his duty. The war would intensify drastically. The going was starting to get tough which would call for the tough to get going according to the Semper Fidelis philosophy. Nixon meant to end the war, and he wasn't afraid to bomb the enemy into submission.