The Fortunate Son recounts the parallel lives of an army brat and a group of Vietnam veterans who intersect decades after the war. The veterans open up to me, the army brat, perhaps in a way they never have with their own families. Why? Through my father, Top, their First Sergeant, we have a common link. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other. They begin to understand the sacrifices of an army family. But, more importantly, they want me to understand how our family’s sacrifice and my father’s tour of duty in Vietnam with them, in the jungles, gave them confidence to believe they would make it home alive.
Fortunate Son is not about a single battle or a single soldier’s tour of duty. You will meet us, learn something about us, and get a glimpse of our lives during the war years. You’ll find out why half a century after that tour of duty ended, we remain bound together. If you’ve ever been in the military or part of a military family, you’ll know that we all are bound together. For those who find the military to be foreign and unknown, our story may help you to understand why it binds so many together.
Fourteen of these soldiers have shared their stories. Their stories describe two life transitions—first from civilian teenagers or young men to combat grunts trying to stay alive in the jungle—and then back to stateside life. What happens between these transitions, as they slog through the jungle day by day paints their portrait of Top, my father. Now, I appreciate why they remain bound together half a century after their tour ended. Their stories are an unexpected gift that bestows new insight to me on my father. So, as you read and “listen” to these soldiers’ stories, both what they say and how they describe Top, you understand why I’ve learned that I am The Fortunate Son.
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The Fortunate Son:
Top, Through the Eyes of Others
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Tim Trainer is an army brat. He was born into the Army in Japan and was a high school junior when his father retired from the Army. Typical of Army or military brats of the times, he had attended ten schools by the time of his high school graduation.
He did not arrive in the United States until he was past his fifth birthday. After arriving in the United States, the Army life meant living in various parts of the United States, on and off post, depending upon his father’s duty station.
He had three “tours of duty” at Ft. Knox, KY, (some elementary school, some high school, and basic training). Upon his discharge from the Army in July 1975, he left the Army behind permanently. At the time of his discharge, he was twenty-one and half years old but had spent twenty years as either an army brat or on active duty.
After the Army years, he eventually earned a law degree and moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1987. Since moving to the Washington, D.C., area, he has worked as an attorney in federal government agencies and in the private sector. He has traveled extensively around the world, including several trips to Vietnam.
This work is evidence that his break from the Army was not “permanent.” In the late 1990s, his father, who was reuniting regularly with men he had served with in B2-7, invited him to meet the guys when they met in Washington, D.C. This led to his father’s invitation to attend a summer reunion in 2003. Since 2003, Mr. Trainer has been a regular attendee of the B2-7 reunions in Washington, D.C., and at the summer gatherings at what he calls “Camp Gast.”