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Candidate Albert D. Martinek,
Class 09-67

-  Grateful Remembrance of Home   -

by LTC Albert D. Martinek (R)

Albert Martinek, Class 09-67Thirty-nine years ago on July 20, 1969, at around 3:00 PM EDT, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. became the first men from earth to land on the moon. They were a long way from home. 

I actually watched the Apollo 11 moon landing the morning of the next day, on July 21, at around 2:00 a.m. In Vietnam, the time difference from the east coast of the United States was about twelve hours. For me, the next day had already begun. Since March of 1969, I had been assigned to the 1st Signal Brigade in Long Binh, South Vietnam. At the time of the moon landing, I was a young Captain supervising the night shift in the Army Communication Operations Center, shortened to the acronym: the “ACOC.” My crew and I watched the grainy images of the lunar module descending to the moon’s surface via AFN (the Armed Forces Network) on a small 14 inch black and white television I had purchased in the PX shortly after arriving in country. My shift ended before Neil Armstrong stepped off the lander six hours later and uttered those famous words – “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” 

The fact that I was in South Vietnam, instead of somewhere backBuzz Aldrin - Apolo 11 Moon Landing home was a giant leap for me as far as I was concerned. At the innocent age of 21, after a short diversion at the University of Missouri, I had enlisted in the Army in February, 1966, completed Signal Corps Officer Candidate School by April 1967 and was commission a Second Lieutenant. Less than a month later, I got married. And about fifteen days after my wedding, I shipped off to West Germany, where in 1968 my daughter was born in an American hospital in Heidelberg.

In January of 1969, I returned from Germany with my young family, and with orders for Vietnam. Once stateside, we made the long trip home to Missouri, and then to South Carolina where I deposited my wife and six-month old daughter.

Following on the heals of the TET offensive in 1968, I arrived in Saigon (Tan Son Nhut AFB) via Flying Tiger Airlines on a hot morning in the spring of 1969, by way of Fort Lewis, Washington, Sacramento, California, Anchorage, Alaska and Yokota, Japan. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted from First Lieutenant to Captain and assigned as a section supervisor of the ACOC.

Three years before, I had been a naïve young man from Troy, Missouri, but I arrived in Vietnam as a husband, a father, an 1st Signal Brigade HQ - Long Binh, VietnamArmy Signal Corp Officer and one of the Officers in charge of the Army’s primary operations center for communications in all of Southeast Asia. Everything had happened so quickly, I thought.

Back to the night of July 21; before the moon landing we had spent the evening compiling information about the status of various communications throughout the theatre. The ACOC was manned two 12-hour shifts, and it was the job of the night shift to prepare for the daily morning briefing of the USARV Signal Officer, a two-star general. We had also “felt” the B-52 bombing of a nearby hotspot during the night. The bombers’ impact area was too far away to be heard, but the shock waves caused by the exploding 500 pound bombs shook the blast windows of our bunker.Neil Armstrong - Footprint On Moon

That was also the night when we thought for awhile that we had uncovered and prevented an act of sabotage. One of our duties was to check the security of the building, the communications bunkers, and all the supporting equipmentHF radios, teletype equipment, and the mobile vans that housed them. During a routine inspection of the emergency backup generator, one of my crew discovered a brown paper bag sitting on the engine panel. We called the emergency ordinance disposal (EOD) team and they carefully unwrapped - - two baloney sandwiches and a bag of potato chips. A civilian (PA&E) worker during the day had forgotten to eat his lunch.

So, the early morning hours of July 21, 1969, had already been an exciting day in its own right. But to top if off, we witnessed history by watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on my little TV.

Later, around Christmas, I was privileged to be in the audience when Bob Hope brought his USO show to Long Binh. There, standing on the stage with Bob were Connie Stevens, Miss World, and Neil Armstrong, recluse in his shyness and somewhat in awe of the vast sea of jungle fatigues sitting before him. But he said one thing on that stage that I will always remember; and it doesn’t really matter whether it was part of the script or not. He said, “Going to the moon was a great experience for me, and a great honor, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. But there’s nothing like coming home.” Every soldier in that audience, especially the wounded sitting or  

lying on cots up front near the stage, knew exactly what he meant. They responded with a loud, collective roar of agreement.

Wherever I have traveled, whatever great distances I have roamed and then returned, home is the final destination. I am older now and time has moved everything to the past, everything except my memories. And those I remember vividlythe ramblings of my youth in South Vietnam, the moon landing and watching Bob Hopeand I am always grateful to have made it back home.  

- - - - -

Note: This story appeared in the July, 2008, monthly newsletter called Pikes Peak Country, that “Dave” Martinek publishes and posts on his website. Dave is a Realtor in Colorado. The photos were submitted along with the story, and are courtesy of the internet. The story was submitted by Dave for republication here in January, 2011. If you're thinking of retiring and are looking for a mountain getaway, you simply must contact Dave and see what he has available. You can reach him through his website: Pikes Peak Country


This page originally posted 30 January 2011 




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