My return from Vietnam was, at best, a mixed bag of tricks. I arrived home at 6:AM on a beautiful day in May. My Dad’s sole comment to me was “ Thank God that you are home, son.” Now, I won’t have to stay up with your Mother to watch the Eleven O’clock news. Whatever happened to you over there, leave it there. And, I do not want you to trouble your Mother about any of it. You need to get on with your life now.
By the way, our roof needs to be re-shingled; so, let’s have at it, son. My Father worked for the local Gas and Electric company. So, he had pre-arranged to take some vacation time upon my return from Nam. He did not, however, take off from work to spend any quality time with me. He had several home improvement projects lined up and was raring to go. So, my Mom fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast and then I climbed up on the roof.
I labored for nearly twelve hours on my first day of leave. It was just passed 6:PM when my Dad finally shut the work detail down. My Father was a lifelong workaholic and rarely took time off to enjoy life. In looking back, I do not believe that the man knew how to kick back and enjoy himself. But, on that day in May, for my parents, the war in Vietnam had ended and was best forgotten. Their baby boy was home and that was the end of it. So much for the vital support of the troops on the home-front. There it is bros’.
Jane Murray, my main squeeze, was waiting patiently for me at home. Her family, however, was less than joyful over the prospect of a marriage between their eldest daughter and a lowly United States Marine. The Colonel did not hold infantrymen in high esteem. Mr. Murray, was a US Army Artillery officer. The man fought in WW11 and in Korea. After the Korean Conflict, Mr. Murray remained active with the Army National Guard. He eventually rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. All to often, though, the man acted as if he were the Lord Almighty. In truth, the Colonel liked to be in charge.
The Colonel ran his family, except, for the “Golden Boy,” the first born, the anointed one, Ed Jr., as if they were basic training recruits. The girls would often times bitch to each other about the unfair treatment. But, in truth, neither sister had it in them to challenge the Colonel’s authority. That is until L/Cpl, Thomas A. Holloran arrived on the scene. It was a momentous event that shook the Murray family tree and caused all sorts of untold havoc. Lt. Colonel Murray was not ready for the coming storm.
The Sun rose and set upon the eldest son, Eddie, Jr. All the skids had been greased for the first born, baby boy, from day one. Junior was only required to achieve high marks scholastically. He was the child deemed worthy of having his own bedroom. You must not disturb, Eddie, girls. Your brother needs some quiet time. He must Study, now
The Murray girls were assigned to specific household duties early on. With so many kids, the need to relieve some of the burden from Mrs. Murray’s shoulders was the fist concern. In truth, the older girls functioned more like indentured servants than carefree children in the family. For the most part, Jane was assigned to extended childcare duties. There it is.
The younger siblings, Thomas, Marybeth and baby John benefited greatly from her gentle touch. Jane was a capable and devoted caretaker. The second eldest girl, Peggy, learned to cook and perform household chores early on. The girl definitely knew her way around a kitchen. “ Farrley,” as I affectionately called her, could whip up a first rate culinary feast on demand. Like many female baby boomers, the Murray girls paid a price in blood, sweat and tears for the sake of their family.
Being born a female child into large Irish Catholic family was no bed of roses Bros’. In truth, the Murray girls were strictly second-class citizens in the family pecking order. There was a huge blackboard which was prominently on display in the Murray family kitchen. The American Eagle that adorned the top of that giant blackboard loomed larger that life, itself. Each child’s name was listed, in order of birth, on that family roster. The daily schedule of activities for the week was posted for all to see.
Mrs. Murray was an Army Nurse having served a tour of duty in North Africa during WW11. Nurse McGarry met Jane’s Dad while caring for wounded GI’s at Walter Reed Army Hospital. They dated for awhile just prior to her deployment overseas. So, in truth, Ed Murray went off to Europe while Nurse McGarry went off to Africa. The couple hooked again at the end of the war in Washington, DC. It was something of a whirlwind type courtship with a military wedding soon to follow.
Patients at Walter Reed Hospital served as ushers and nurses filled in as bridesmaids. It was a real life, Walt Disney type, wartime fairytale. My courtship with their daughter, however, was not near as blissful. I was totally frustrated with the way the Murray clan was interfering in our affairs. I desperately wanted to leave Vietnam behind and start a new life with my main squeeze. And, I wanted to do it my way. Yet, my main squeeze was begging for me to be more patient. Jane was always pleading with me to give her just a little more time.
Jane Murray needed the time to allow her parents to get used to the idea of us being an item. The girl also had her heart set on a Church wedding with all the trimmings. As time went by, the stress in our relationship was taking a serious toll. The both of us were on edge and filled with anxieties. In truth, Jane’s parents were unfairly giving her a rough road to hoe. The Murrays’ were less than pleased about their daughter keeping company with me. An enlisted Marine was not the type of husband the Colonel had envisioned for his eldest daughter. There it is.
We would be out on a date and I would have to listen to Jane cry her heart out. She very much resented being treated like a mere child. Still, she did not want me confront her parents over it. In fact, my main squeeze, was forever pleading with me to hold back. Time, it seemed, was to be the cure for all our troubles. In truth, my girl was driving me nuts. Lt. Colonel Murray was a domineering and intractable individual. But, I could be just as intractable. I was determined to claim his eldest daughter for my own.
So, it was inevitable that we were going to clash. I got fed up with the whole Murray family sha-bang, one evening.
So, I informed Jane that I was going to put the ring on her finger. With or without her parents blessing, there would be
an official engagement. And, surprisingly enough, the engagement announcement went off without a hitch. For a time, things actually appeared to take a turn for the better. Yet, my main squeeze was still saddled with an unbelievable weekend “ Cinderella Liberty call.” My future bride was over twenty years of age and had to be home by the stroke of midnight. It was pure bullshit, bros.’
The Cinderella curfew was just another ball busting tactic used by the Colonel to keep his daughter under his thumb. Truth be known, both Jane and her sister, Peggy, suffered miserably at the hands of an arrogant and domineering father. So, when Jane asked me to accompany her to meet with Reverend Father, Jeremiah Feehan, I got an uneasy feeling. The Reverend Feehan was the associate pastor at Saint Kevin’s Church. This was the Church where the Murray clan worshiped on Sunday mornings.
Jane and I met with Father Feehan one Friday evening and had a discussion about life. It was, in fact, all part of the Colonel’s plan to derail our courtship. Although, I must admit that all went well on that first evening. At the end of the session, however, the Reverend Feehan mentioned that he would like to meet with me in private. Hence, an appointment was set up for the following Friday night. At the appointed time, I arrived and knocked on the rectory door. I would soon find myself fighting a new kind of war.
There was a noticeable change in Father Feehan’s demeanor. The Reverend demanded to know all about the war in Vietnam and my part in it. The priest was damn near menacing in his quest for information. Learning about my days in the Nam was his mission now. He was very guff and less than Christian in his mannerism toward me. I now knew the reason for my uneasiness. I was not inclined to share my Vietnam experiences with anyone. I was convinced that Colonel Murray had played a major role in organizing this modern day inquisition. And, in truth, I was one angry dude bros.’
An earlier attempt at making a good confession in Vietnam had been a total disaster. I ended up in a screaming match with a Navy Chaplain on the DMZ. So, here I am, once again, pissed off to the Nth degree with a know nothing state-side padre grilling me. The Reverend Father, Jeremiah Feehan, was, in fact, harassing my sorry ass to the nth degree. And, his “ Holier than thou” attitude was getting to me, big time.
As I saw it, the Reverend Feehan was just another rear area non-combatant son of a bitch. A would be “ Sky Pilot” (chaplain) who knew nothing (te-te) about life in the real “ World.” Out of respect for my main squeeze and in consideration of all that she had done for me, I tried to stay the course. And, in truth, I met with the insufferable bastard on several more occasions. Our counseling sessions were always adversarial in nature; we simply agreed to disagree. Sin Loi, Padre! It don’t mean a thing, not a damn thing. There it is.
The stress of those counseling sessions were taking a toll on the both of us. And, the time came when I had, had enough of the Reverend Feehan. His views on my lack of fitness for marriage pushed my buttons, big time. What the hell did a celibate male know about marriage anyway? Our final parting of the ways was neither a pleasant, nor, cordial experience. In truth, it was a full-blown verbal shit storm and I got the last word.
Ending the marriage counseling sessions on a sour note, ratcheted up the tensions in the Murray household. Jane was damn near crying all the time. And, I was at a loss for words. My main squeeze was too timid and frightened of her father to put an end to all the undue harassment. And, the Murray family interference type bullshit was steadily piling up. The heat had definitely been turned up a notch or two. It was all “ Boo-Coo Dinky Dau, bros!”
At that moment in time, I was not at all thrilled about Jane’s unwillingness to confront her overbearing parents. My head was spinning and I did not know which way to turn. So, I placed a phone call to Hank Decker, Hotel Company 2/1, USMC. I spilled my guts and gave Deck an ear full. “ Deck” sympathetically listened to my tale of woe and then told me to go get ‘em. There it is!
Deck had married Ms. Gloria Priano in late September of 1968. Colonel Murray had forbidden his daughter to accompany me to the wedding celebration. My dearest comrade and closest friend from the Nam was getting married. And, believe it or not, my fiancée could not attend the wedding. There was just something plain wrong going on here bros’. Mrs. Decker (Hank’s Mom) had even placed a call to the Colonel for me.
Mrs. Decker had assured the Colonel that she would personally watch over his daughter while she was in Geneva. Being his intractable and arrogant self, Colonel Murray declined to accept her gracious offer. So, I went off to Geneva, New York on my own. But, the anger and the hatred was steadily rising inside me. In truth, getting some serious “ Payback” was weighing heavy on my mind. The Murray family lunacy needed to be addressed once and for all.
After some serious soul searching, I determined that the time had come for a showdown. Upon my return from Geneva, I place a call to my fiancée. I explained to Jane that I could not take the Murray family interference type horseshit any longer. I would be coming over that evening and, come hell or high water, I was going to straighten the Colonel out. I made it perfectly clear to my main squeeze that I needed for her to stand by me. It was a proverbial case of now or never.
My words were met with a deafening silence. A silence that seemed to linger on a bit too long. My heart sank a little but then came the words that I needed to hear. - “ Ok Tom, I love you, I’ll be ready when you get here.” With Jane now solidly in my corner, I prepared to confront the intractable Lt. Colonel Edward S. Murray. And, I was not about to lose this war bros’. When I arrived at Jane’s house, a very cool reception awaited me. I was ready for it and looking forward to a major type confrontation.
So, I did not mince words and challenged the Colonel’s authority right from the get-go. For the record, I presented my case boldly. My ultimatum was firm, deliberate and final. The air was thick with tension and anxiety. Lt. Colonel Murray was defiant as ever and determined to bring me to heel. The Colonel verbally berated me and told me, in no uncertain terms, how things were going to be. He was not at all pleased with my attitude.
Mrs. Murray was walking around the family living room in circles. The woman did not know where to turn or what to do next. I made it clear to the both of them that I did not give a damn how things were done in the Murray family. My name was Tom Holloran and I did things my way. And, their daughter and I had planned a future together. So they might as well get used to the idea. I then laid out the bare facts.
In truth, I was over the age of twenty-one and their daughter was over the age of twenty. By Church and State, we were free to pledge ourselves to each other without interference from anyone. And, I had, had enough of all the Murray family horseshit. It was all going to end now or there would be serious consequences to follow. I then announced to their chagrin that I would take my fiancée from their home in a heartbeat.
I also made it crystal clear to the Colonel and his wife that there was no need for us to have a Catholic priest bless our union. I did not need a Church wedding. In fact, a justice of the peace would do just fine! Since Jane’s uncle was a Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop, my words damn near sent the Colonel and his wife into orbit. The man called his daughter forward and demanded an immediate oath of allegiance to the Murray family.
The Colonel demanded that his daughter make her choice, right then and there. Was she going to obey his wishes or not? What did she intend to do? Colonel Murray was agitated and impatiently awaiting the answer to his outrageous demand. In turn, Jane tearfully told her father that she was going to be leaving with me. With an unanticipated rebuff to his ironclad authority, the Colonel damn near went into shock. The man was speechless and I was relishing every moment. Thank you, Who Art!
His eldest daughter, Jane, had finally stood her ground and defied parental tyranny. It was truly a night to remember people. In truth, I only wished to God that the Colonel had ordered his daughter out of his house. I was already packed and ready to drive off into the Sunset. Jane and I would tie the knot in the town of Silver Springs, Maryland. In L/Cpl. Holloran, the Murray clan had met their match. And, the times they were a changing bros’.
In truth, the State of Maryland was both kind and accommodating with regard to its treatment of young lovers. One did not even need a blood test to secure a marriage license, there. It was my kind of town, bros’. I was chomping a the bit to say I do. Try as I might, though, I could not get Jane to run off and elope with me. I would have relished the opportunity to stick it to Lt. Colonel Murray one more time. But, Ms. Jane Murray, the ever faithful Catholic, had her heart set on a Church wedding. There it is.
Truth be known, I owed my girlfriend, big time. Jane had written the daily letters, sent the packages, said the prayers and stood by me. I was, in fact, totally in her debt. So, for Jane’s peace of mind, I consented to play the family game awhile longer. In the end, the Colonel grudgingly came to accept his daughter’s decision. And, the tensions eased up some. In truth, life became a bit more tolerable for us.
The Colonel never again attempted to test my resolve; nor, did he refer to US Marines as idiot sticks. Lest I forget, the Most Reverend Father, Jeremiah Feehan became the topic of juicy gossip around the Church hall. The entire time the Reverend Father was breaking my back over my lack of readiness for married life; he was sneaking around with one of the nun’s from Saint Kevin’s School. When the affair was outed, they broke their “ Sacred vows” to the Church, took off and got married. - Get-some, Rev!
The unspeakable scandal sent shock waves throughout the entire parish. My future in-laws were stunned and left with egg on their faces. In truth, I loved every moment of it. And, from time to time, I would tease my mother-in-law but good. I would devilishly tell her that I was going to invite the Rev and his main squeeze over for dinner. And, her daughter and I would greet them in our Sunday best. Payback is a bitch, bros’!
Some years later, Jane’s youngest sister boarded a plane for a week’s visit to Texas with her boyfriend. And, praise the Lord, it was all accomplished with the Murray Family blessing. Lt. Colonel Murray did not, in fact, have a single word to say on the matter. Everything was just fine and dandy! Funny, the things that come to pass as time goes by. I never broke the Colonel’s back over that younger sibling vacation in Texas. I just grinned and shook my head.
Still, the Colonel got my message, loud and clear. In truth, I was very happy for Marybeth, the baby sister in the Murray family. “BB” as I affectionately called her was a good kid. By finally taking a stand against an overbearing parental authority, Jane had paved the way for her younger siblings to spread their wings and fly. They got to enjoy the freedoms and rights of passage that had been vehemently denied to their eldest sister. There it is.
In the year 450 AD, Pope Leo sent a King’s ransom from Rome to Attila the Hun. In return, the Huns released all Roman males held in captivity. There was no negotiation for the return of women prisoners. The women were simply lost forever. There was no theological problem. Eons later, the tumultuous decade of the1960’s would change the old world ways of doing things forever. And, in truth, the times they were a changing bros’!
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Second Vatican Council, the Vietnam War, the Civil rights movement and the Women’s movement brought into question all that the WW11 generation held sacred. Our Government and the Church were being challenged openly in the court of public opinion. The so called “ Greatest Generation,” suddenly, found themselves caught up in a rebellious shit storm. And, they were totally unprepared for it, bros’. The spin masters had lost power and control over the people.
Whenever I heard the VFW Veterans talk their WW11 bullshit, it made me want to puke. The “Almighty Heroes” who supposedly won the “Big One” and saved the world thought their shit did not stink. These VFW barstool commando’s always looked down on the Vietnam Veterans. The WW11 veterans, often times, referred to us as “ those drug addict losers and baby killers.” In truth, the WW11 veterans were far too ignorant to comprehend that the alcoholic beverages they were sucking down also qualify as a drug. And, most of them guzzled down alcohol with a vengeance in their post clubrooms. So, “let he among us who is without sin cast the first stone, bros!” There it is.
What the VFW - WW11 veterans did succeed in doing was to create the "Cold War." The war that the "Baby Boomer Generation" grew up in. I can still recall those weekly air raid drills at school. I remember hiding under my desk while the nun led our class in the recitation of the Holy Rosary. If the Soviet bombers nuked us, the nuns wanted to make certain that we were all in a state of Grace. When we met the Lord our God, our souls were to be as pure as the driven snow. Thus, our entire class would surely be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and ready to pass through the "Pearly Gates."
Who’s the leader of the club who’s named for you and me, MIC - KEY – MOUSE, - MIC – KEY - MOUSE! Boys and Girls from near and far you’re welcome as can be… Not to worry sisters, even though you scared the living shit out of us, Mouseketeers, all is forgiven! It was not your fault. There it is. Do I hear an Amen on that bros’? – AMEN.
Yet, sometimes, just sometimes mind you, in the still of the night, I believe that I can still hear some of my old grammar school classmates whimpering while I pray. Have you built your family bomb shelter today? Do get with the program now, Mr. and Mrs America! A fall-out shelter will definitely save your sorry ass people. The failure of the WW11 Crowd to establish a just and lasting peace brought on the fifty-year struggle that we came to call the “ Cold War with the Soviet Union.”
The Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War came about because of our government’s diplomatic failures in the aftermath of WW11. In truth, the WW11 veterans never came anywhere near to bringing about the peace that was meant to be. So,“ Peace on earth, the Big One, the Greatest generation,?” I don’t think so, bros’! In fact, the VFW veterans version of “ WW11 Peace on Earth” is a myth. Their grand old victory parades were political spin. In truth, for all of their sacrifices, they came up short in the final analysis.
Once again, the times they were a changing bros’. The United States Government as well as the Catholic Church had to face a new reality. The masses would no longer blindly and obediently follow orders. A new generation of Americans was rightfully demanding to know the whys and the wherefores before committing themselves to another crusade. The Church had to open its doors and let in a breath of fresh air.
And, finally, the women in the USA were becoming a national force to be reckoned with. “ You’ve come a long way, baby!” In truth, the 1960’s were something of a, heavy duty, mind blowing trip bros’. In the post Vietnam era, a new day did dawn in the USA. So, do “ Get some sisters and welcome home Marines.” There it is.
As for me, I still accompany my main squeeze to Church on each and every Sunday morning. My faith is my anchor on this mystical journey we call life. In truth, faith is the only thing that kept me from blowing my brains out in Vietnam. So, once again, I want to say: “ Thank You, Who Art and Hallowed be Thy Name!” What I love about the Roman Catholic Church, I hold near and dear to my heart. What I find difficult to understand about my Church, I simply choose to set aside.
On balance, I do firmly believe that my Church has done much more good than harm. In truth, Mercy and Forgiveness will always trump the call for payback, bros’. Therefore, I continue my daily prayer routine and staunchly support my Church. I intend to die a practicing Catholic, Bros.’ Together, Jane and I still light that votive candle after Mass. We do so in memory of all our fallen brothers and sisters, now. And, we shall continue to do so for as long as the Good Lord will allow.
Finally, for all of our brothers and sisters who serve our nation’s cause in harms way, let us pray: “ Who Art in Heaven” watch over them and bring them all safely home to their families and loved ones. - Amen! The beat goes on.
Tom Holloran, USMC
Hotel Company, 2/1. RVN. - Class of 1967-68.