Like Mitt Romney, I Also Longed to See Sunny Vietnam but Was Denied

Like Mitt Romney, I Also Longed to See Sunny Vietnam but Was Denied

Hey, it was great having Mitt Romney in town this week, was it not? He looks so different in Texas.

Those national mediatoids were making him out to be a rich plutocrat who made his money killing companies and shipping jobs to Vietnam, but when we got to see him here under our own warm sun, he looked like a friend of the working man.

My own thing with Romney goes way back to Michigan. He and I are the same age, and we both grew up in the Detroit area. The story that really tugged at my own heartstrings in the last few days was the one about how Romney -- a very big pro-military macho guy who makes fun of Barrack Obama for being a wimp -- couldn't go fight in Vietnam in the '60s because he was busy being a "minister of religion" in France.

He said in 2007 when he first ran for president that he "longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam," but he couldn't go do it because of the requirements of his Mormon faith. That faith required him to spend almost three years in France where he has said he converted a total of 10 French people to Mormonism.

A young Jim Schutze ready to serve his country.
A young Jim Schutze ready to serve his country.

This Vietnam stuff is always so complicated among guys our age. I note that now, at least, the Mormon Church doesn't object at all to members serving in the military and counts military service as a fine way for Mormons to fulfill the church's mandate for public service. On its website, the church tells those who want to serve: "We salute you and wish you well as you begin to serve your country. Your military service will provide you with many great opportunities. We hope you live up to them. If you do, happiness will come to you, and credit and honor will be reflected upon your loved ones and the country which you represent."

But it was so different for us Michigan kids back then. I remember. We all took our Army physicals at historic Fort Wayne in Detroit. I went there on an Army bus from Ann Arbor. Romney, if memory serves, would have been on the Bloomfield bus.

Everybody on the Ann Arbor bus longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam. Most of us told the driver that when we got on the bus and kept saying it all the way downtown. But we had problems.

Several guys were wearing dresses, high heels and full makeup, which I suspected at the time might get in the way of military service, back in that regrettably intolerant era. A couple guys were raving out the windows shaking their fists at passing buildings. One guy was making himself throw up some kind of purple jelly. Smelled like grape to me.

I told the driver I really strongly longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam, but I knew that my many enemies had been talking to the Pentagon trying to tell them not to draft me, some of them communicating through wildlife trained in human speech. I remember the driver saying, "Sit the hell down, right now."

Another guy on the Ann Arbor bus kept asking people to jab him with a finger as if administering a hypodermic shot. When we did, he would crash to the floor -- bang! -- in a very convincing faint, really of Academy Award quality as I recall. He looked up from the floor and asked, "How was that?" We all gave him a big thumbs up.

I don't know what it was like when the Bloomfield bus arrived at Fort Wayne. When the Ann Arbor bus got there, we piled off in our fancy hair-dos and high heels, ranting and muttering, puking and passing out all over the place (it had become a copy-cat thing). I remember looking ahead into the huge cavernous space of the old fort and seeing a long line of doctors and nurses in white coats waiting for us.

I overheard a young doctor at the front of the line who saw us coming and said, "Oh, shit, this must be the Ann Arbor bus."

The Bloomfield bus would have been quite different. Bloomfield was where Romney went to Cranbrook, a prep school where he was a manager of the hockey team. Romney A lot of those guys spoke French. I assume when they got off the bus, they said, "Juh sweez ministair duh raylee-jone! Juh sweez ministair duh raylee-jone!" And I assume the same wise-acre doctor at the front of the line probably said, "Oh, shit, this must be the Bloomfield bus."

The point was, we all longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam. Tragically, many of us were denied that opportunity. I, myself, was unfairly ruled to be 10 pounds under draftable weight. All the good slots went to those guys on the buses from the Irish and Polish-American UAW neighborhoods in the city -- the ones whose mothers made them get haircuts and put on clean clothes for their physicals. Looking back to that place and time, I think I can personally feel Mitt Romney's true pain.

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