My plan was to attend graduate school but Uncle Sam had another plan, so I joined the Unites States of America Marine Corps. He sent me to Okinawa where I was to serve my tour. The Corps kept us busy all week doing nothing so we wouldn’t go into the “Village” and get into trouble.
On Saturday at noon we could go on “Liberty.” I would run three miles in my combat boots, which is what Marines do, take a shower and head to the Naha, the capitol of Okinawa. I would enjoy Kobe beef at a restaurant, I think it was the Harbor House, and have a couple of martinis, or maybe more.
The Japanese were building first-quality handmade classical guitars that were not yet recognized. With the exchange rate on the dollar, they were very reasonable and I bought one. So, I would go to a music store and play each one trying to decide which to purchase. Afterwards, I would head down to Naminoue, a district home to the Club 88, and order an Olympia beer, the bartenderess would reply, “One Orynpia beer hai dozo.” They had problems with “rs.”
After the Club 88 closed down I would go to the massage parlor before heading back to base and falling into the arms of Morpheus.
That’s where I met Fumeko, a young Ryukyuan girl, very petite, weighing maybe 90 pounds. She would walk on my back, most sublime. She always told me “Navy boy come back and take me Stateside.” I thought, “Good chance.”
I mentioned something about playing the guitar. She said she had one and wanted to learn, so after closing time, all of the girls would come down to the lobby and I would play for them. Their favorite was my finger-style version of “Love is Blue.” They kept asking, “Grill, pray ruv is bru.”
I got orders to Vietnam to go and “fight the communist insurgent guerilla forces in the viper invested jungles of South East Asia.” I went to tell Fumeko. She started crying saying, “Grill, I ruv you, prease keep head down, keep head down come back to me.”
Well, I survived. I went back through Okinawa on the way home and I went to see Fumeko to tell her I had made it. The girls told me, “Fumeko no here, Navy boy come take her Stateside.”
God bless Navy boy and God bless Fumeko, I hope God is holding her in His hands.
For all our Country’s transgressions during those days, I pray that “fragrance will linger on our heels.”
A former mayor of Valdosta, Georgia, Gill Autrey is now a licensed US Coast Guard captain who operates cruises on the Apalachicola River. He flew CH-53 Sikorsky helicopters in the Marine Corps during a tour in Vietnam where he attained the rank of captain.