I’ll need to set the stage for you today.
During the time Howdy was in Japan and Viet Nam I kept having this re-occurring dream. No it was more like a nightmare. I was in my living room and watched as two Marines along with an officer walked up to my front door. As I opened the door, I was told that my husband was dead. He had given his life for his country. My nightmare took me through a funeral in Arlington Cemetery. Howdy casket was on the horse drawn cart. My sons and I walked behind the cart. It was cold, rainy and bleak. I would wake up crying. I had several of these nightmares. But…I clung to the Lord, I just knew that Howdy would be home soon and safe. He had been gone for a year and now had just about 6 more weeks before he would be home.
It was about 5 am on a Sunday morning in early October, 1966. I was sound asleep when I heard the phone ringing. I ran down the hall and into the kitchen to grab the receiver. I said , “hello” and all I heard was “Georgia, I love you, Georgia, I love you.” The phone went dead. It was Howdy’s voice, he was yelling, oh, what was wrong? Was he dying and he just had time to put a call through to me? Was he injured and got his one call out of Viet Nam. At 5 am I was in a fog and now it was a heavy, wet fog. Oh, what was going on?
I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep. Finally got up and got the boys up and fixed breakfast for us all. The boys got ready for church and I got dressed. I was to teach the 7th and 8th grade Sunday School class. I was a mess. Got to the church and as I was telling the pastor and his wife about the phone call, I started to cry. I cried and cried, eyes red, nose running, cried. I just could not stop. Of course someone else took over my class. The pastor asked the people to pray for me as he told them about my 5 am phone call. Pray for Georgia and pray for Howdy.
Now I must take you back some hours. It was, I think, a Sunday night in Viet Nam. Howdy was now stationed at a place called “Chu Lai” just north of “Quang Tri” and “Hue” located on the beach on the South China Sea at the mouth of the Gulf of Tonking. Howdy was billeted in a 4 man tent called a “hooch.” The tent was raised off the ground on a platform. Each man had a corner of the tent as his own.
That Sunday night Howdy was sitting on the beach in front of a bon- fire with about 8 other Marines. They all had had more than enough to drink. (not iced tea) All of a sudden the communications officer yelled at Howdy, “hey Sligar, let’s call your wife.” Howdy says, “why the he– not, let’s do it.”
Now here they sit, on the sandy beach in South Viet Nam, in front of a roaring fire and the communications officer wants to call me. This officer has the old “krank” style of phone. It is a field phone and he begins to krank the phone. He gets the operator in Danang. He say, “this is an official call, patch me through to Manila, Philippines. When the operator in the Philippines came on the line he said, “this is an official call, patch me through to Camp Hansen, Okinawa.” Then the operator in Okinawa asked if this was an official call, he said, “yes, this is an official call.” Next he asked the operator in Okinawa to “patch me through to Honolulu, Hawaii, Headquarters Marine Corps.” He then asked the Headquarters Marine Corps operator to patch him through to Andrews Air Force Base operator in Virginia.
By now the men sitting around the bon- fire were all leaning towards the communications officer. They could not believe what was happening in front of there eyes and ears. Here they sat on the beach at Chu Lai, South Viet Nam and listening to a phone call being set up to go to the east coast of America.
The operator at Andrews Air Force Base came on the line. She was told that this was an official phone call and she should get the operator at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, North Carolina. The operator at Cherry Point came on the line and the communications officer said, “this is an official phone call, connect me to a local phone number in Havelock” He turns to Howdy and says, “Hey Sligar, what’s your phone number.” The Cherry Point operator dials our phone number. It is 5 am and I’m sound asleep. I ran down the hall, grab the phone and all I hear is, “Georgia, I love you, Georgia, I love you.” At that point, the operator at Andrews Air Force Base came on the line,” Sir, this does not sound like an official call.” The communications officer answers back, “like he– it’s now, the whole world is listening.” THE PLUG IS PULLED!
Needless to say, this was not an official call but this officer knew all the right words and the right wires to pull to get this call through from Chu Lai all the way to Havelock, N.C. Back on the beach these men are laughing and laughing at what had just happened. Howdy was now the most famous man on the beach that night. He milked this tale a lot. He probably could have been court- martialled for this but all the men would have had to be court-martialled.
Until I got the letter from Howdy telling me about the fun they all had, I was a mess. I just knew something really wrong had happened. He still had about 6 more weeks before he would return to the United States. I went between being so happy he was alight and being mad as he– that he had pulled that stunt on me.
Howdy came on home on December 1, 1966 and all was forgiven.