Written by Pete Steciow
It was February 1968, and I received a letter from the Portage County Draft Board to report to the Cleveland Federal Building. I had just purchased a new 1968 VW Beetle and had saved enough money to return to Kent State University. My plans were foiled, thank you, Uncle Sam, and The Vietnam War.
Not knowing my fate, and a real possibility that I may not return, I decided to take my two younger brothers to Florida before I entered into the service. The 1968 Beetles were underpowered, so as we followed the eighteen-wheelers through the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, they helped pull us along in their draft as Otis Redding’s song Sitt-in’ On the Dock of The Bay blared on the radio.
Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes
Watchin’ the ships roll in
Then I watch ‘em roll away again
Twenty-one hours of Otis and realizing this might be the last time we may be together, made our trip to Key West sentimental with some definite apprehension.
It was Spring Break week for the Colleges, so it was a hopping good time. My youngest brother, who had a mind of his own, stayed in the sun too long and fried like a lobster. He spent the last couple of days inside, nursing his bright-red burns.
That Florida trip was a reunion of a sorts, since our whole family had in the past made a half dozen or so trips to Florida. Each time I hear Otis Redding’s music, I think of our Florida trip and the trips the family made in happier times.
I heard Otis’ song many times before departing Oakland, California en route to Vietnam. I also heard it while I was in Vietnam, and each time it put me back on the beach with my brothers as we watched the ocean freighters coming and going.
The music washed up over me and flooded my head with memories of so many good times with the family in Florida and the times I spent with my brothers. For a few minutes I wasn’t a soldier in Vietnam but a son and a brother wrapped in the love of my family.