The story begins
as Master Sergeant Tommy McGlynn, a Boston Irishman, has
caught a hop from Okinawa to Nha Trang in South Vietnam to visit Master
Sergeant Joseph "Mitzi" Mitzamuri, the Hawaiian, who is stationed there with
the army's Special Forces.The two professional soldiers began a friendship
after a fierce battle in war torn Korea that would last to the grave.
Word is received
at headquarters that the air force has a plane down in
Laos. Because Tommy and Mitzi were familiar with the area where a parachute
had been sighted by an Air America crew member, they are asked to go in and
search for the downed pilot. They accept.
Entering the area
of search with a high altitude parachute jump they
eventually find the pilot in the hands of a guerrilla force friendly to U.S.
interests. During an attempt to reach an area where a helicopter will extract
them to a base in Thailand they are ambushed by North Vietnamese forces.
Tommy, with the pilot, and Mitzi are separated in the confusion of the ambush
but each find their way to the pick-up site. The pilot is wounded in the
torso and Tommy suffers a head wound and falls unconscious before they can be
picked up by the helicopter. Mitzi, finally struggles to the extraction point
where Tommy and the pilot were wounded. He finds the pilot but not Tommy and
they are successfully extracted. Tommy, suffering the onset of amnesia
follows a Lao back into the jungle. The Lao who is deserting an assignment
with North Vietnamese forces, leads Tommy back to a village far from where
the action initially occurred. Tommy unknowingly accepts what is happening to
him and falls into village life. He lives with a Lao woman and fathers her
child not realizing he belongs in another place.
The commander of
Tommy's unit, the 7th Special Forces Group, stationed at
Fort Bragg, North Carolina informs Ann, Tommy's American wife that he is MIA
and he remains in that status until he's presumptively declared dead.
Ann, unable to cope
with her husband's loss moves home with her three
children to live with her mother in Atlanta but first visits Tommy's
grandfather McGlynn in Massachusetts. He tells Ann Tommy is still alive
because he never came to say goodbye. The old Irishman then tells her two
strange tales of how his grandmother and father visited him ever so briefly
after they had died. The stories frighten Ann and do little to convince her
Tommy was still alive.
Ann has a habit of
writing a letter to Tommy every night they were apart.
The letters she doesn't mail him are kept in a shoe box and she treats those
letters much like a diary. The day comes when she writes her last letter to
the man she loved, the father of her children. In her final letter she tells
her husband all that has happened since she was told of his being missing, of
how she becomes reacquainted with a high school sweetheart out of the past.
How the children take to him and are once again happy. Then, Ann tearfully
closes what would be her last letter to her husband. Tommy, John and I were
married yesterday. Goodbye my love. And for the first time she closes the
letter without telling Tommy she loves him.
Years after his disappearance
an incident causes Tommy's memory to return
and he makes his way to the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, the capitol of Laos.
Realizing the problems his return will cause, the CIA Chief of Station keeps
Tommy's return a secret until an air force colonel, familiar with Tommy and
Mitzi's initial mission, notifies the rescued pilot and his father, the
general. The general, now retired informs Mitzi, who is also retired and
living in Hawaii and together they travel to Vientiane to assist Tommy in his
A medical exam by
the embassy's doctor shows Tommy to be suffering from
Jaundice and a few other ailments associated with life in Southeast Asia. He
also suspects something much worse, the ingestion of liver flukes and
recommends further evaluation upon Tommy's return to the States.
Tommy foregoes immediate
medical follow-up in order to secretly see the
family he has left behind. Ann, his wife who has remarried, and his three
children who now live in Marietta, Georgia. Secretly because of two things,
one, under terms of his return Tommy must "remain dead". The other being his
medical condition. He knows that he's terminal and is determined not to
threaten his family's stability with his sudden appearance or hurt them in
Tommy attends church
in Marietta. Unexpectedly, Kimmie, his youngest
daughter, who was an infant when he was declared missing, sits in the same
pew. Despite Tommy's beard, the young girl sees something familiar about the
stranger beside her. After giving the recognition some thought and studying
his picture at home she's convinced she met her father. She presents a
convincing argument to her disbelieving mother, brother Danny and sister
Lisa. In her argument she asks her mother if her father had a front tooth out
of line. Startled, Ann answered that Tommy did have a fixed bridge that was
slightly out of line but remains unconvinced. The family looks for the
stranger at Mass the following Sunday with no luck. Tommy is back in Hawaii
with Mitzi and Mitzi's wife.
Undaunted by their
failure to find the stranger Kimmie insists she has
seen her father until she convinces her mother to start asking questions.
Ann, although still a bit skeptical places a call to Hawaii, to the one man
who would know the truth. Mitzi.
Reading through Mitzi's
pauses and initial denial Ann, convinced now her
husband, gone for so long, is alive!
"Mitzi, I'm coming
to Hawaii. I'm leaving on the first available flight.
My children are upstairs in tears, and I'll not allow them to suffer through
There is another
awkward pause before Mitzi answers, telling her to come
if she must but not to bring the children.
Ann flies to Hawaii
and finds the husband she had lost. Yes, he's alive
but extremely ill with no hope of recovery. Ann realizes she still loves him
and is torn between their past and the present. She has a husband who has
taken care of her and the children and most importantly, her children are
happy again. Tommy, although still very much in love with Ann tells her to go
back to Marietta, to care for their children. To forget him.
Ann returns home
and the children begin a new relationship with the
father they thought they had lost. Tommy is still very sick and despite signs
of improvement succumbs to his illness after a short time. Ann experiences
the same sensation Grandfather McGlynn had described and realizes Tommy is
gone. Mitzi calls Ann to tell her of Tommy's passing but there's no need to,
Ann and the children know. Ann remembers the old Irishman sitting alone in
his apartment in Ashland and calls him.
"Hello, Grandfather McGlynn? It's Ann."
"Ann darlin, I've
been sitting here waitin for your call. Tommy came to
say goodbye. Did he?"
"Yes he did grandfather. Did he . . .?
"Yes, darlin, he
did. I've waited all these years, and now he has. I'll
be goin to join him and me darlin Bridget, soon. Wait. Is that a tear rollin
down your lovely cheek? Don't weep, child, be glad we've all known one
another. Kiss the children for me and tell them goodbye. Goodbye sweet Ann."
Tommy is buried under
the marble headstone that had been placed over an
empty grave when he was presumptively declared dead.
As Ann and her children
mourn their loss at the funeral, off in the
distance, another woman and her two children in Lao dress stand together
watching as the man they also loved as a husband and father is laid to rest.