Instead of returning home for Christmas during my freshman year, I spent my entire two-week break with Laura’s family in Ann Arbor. It was then I learned Roman had also been in Vietnam, but there was a big difference between him and my father—he was more than willing to talk about what he’d done over there.
The first time Roman had mentioned Southeast Asia was when Laura and I had stopped by the hardware store on Christmas Eve to see if we could help with the holiday rush. Laura’s mother, Cynthia, was working as a cashier, so Laura had opened up another cash register, while I went to find Roman. I located him at the back of the store in the sporting goods section where he was showing a gun to a customer.
Because I’d never been around firearms before, I watched in awe at how easily he handled the weapon, stripping it down, explaining its features, and then putting the whole thing back together in the blink of an eye. Roman noticed my fascination at his expertise, and when the customer left, he immediately began telling me stories of his time in Vietnam working for the CIA.
Laughing at himself, he said, “They called us spooks back then.”
For Christmas, he gave me my first weapon, a .22 revolver, and I spent the rest of the week at the gun range. The following year, during my Spring break, two important things occurred: I asked Laura to marry me and Roman gave me a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum.
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