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MATT WUERKER AFTERWORD Coming Home BY ROXANNE BOGUCKA T LOOKS LIKE the gulf war is over. Our military successfully tested its new weapons on the Iraqis. The only good news about this war: A lot of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers will be coming home. There’s been a lot in the news about support groups for the loved ones of soldiers in the gulf, and about the efforts the schools and churches have been making to help the children of soldiers cope with the absence of parents. This is a good thing, an improvement over the past. I don’t have anyone in the Persian Gulf, but when I was 11 years old, my father came home from Vietnam. We were stationed at Fort Hood, and Daddy left when I was nine, to go to Fort Lee, Virginia, for some sort of schooling. He came home for a couple of weeks, and I turned 10 then he went to Vietnam. We put him on the train in Temple, looking handsome and very big in his khakis. I still have the picture somewhere, of me and Mother and Grandmother waving to him. The sun must have been in all our eyes. Grandmother was wearing a pastel tent dress. They were popular just then. I was really young when Daddy left for Vietnam. I was a young 10. Of course I had seen stuff on TV about the war, and some in the paper, and my father told me some too, but when he was preparing to leave he told me that he would be back next summer and I didn’t worry about a thing. I didn’t even question it. It really never occurred to me that he might not. I was lucky. My friend Cindy tells me that she used to see the nightly news about Vietnam and cry about her pilot father until her mother stopped turning on the TV when she.was around. She was 10 too. INCE DADDY was going to the Nam, we had to move off base. We left a reasonably nice duplex on Fort Hood and moved to a duplex in Killeen. For the next year, I went to school, played with my new friends, and wrote letters to Daddy. My grandmother was working at a service club at James Connally AFB in Waco, and Mother and I used to go there every Sunday. After church, Mother and I would eat dinner, she’d pack up the left Roxanne Bogucka is theObserver’s copy editor. overs, and we’d hop in the car and drive to the service club. Mother drove 70 and 75, and we used to make it in 45 minutes. Our new neighborhood was different from anyplace I could ever remember living a kind of military wives’ ghetto, and kind of seedy I know now. Everybody I played with just about, their daddies were in Vietnam. I saw people who were really up against it, folks who didn’t have much in the icebox, families that weren’t receiving much of that paycheck from overseas. I saw folks who had “domestic disturbances,” kids who shoplifted, kids who had meal-assistance lunch cards at school, a real stigma back then. I saw the film at school where they send all the boys out and all the fifthand sixth-grade girls meet in the cafeteria. I got taken to an R-rated movie at the drive-in by a babysitter. Once, my mother tells me, a group of us kids saw a young GI and his Oriental wife having sex through their open window. I saw a lot that year, but somehow the graphic obscenity of the nightly news from Vietnam was something I watched but didn’t see. When my Daddy came home it was because his older brother Millard had died. The Red Cross contacted his CO, and arranged S