What it means -- Date Estimated for Return from Overseas Service.
The day you go home.
The day you walk from the terminal at Tan San Nhut, onto the concrete pavement, toward the ramp that touches the Boeing 707.
Freedom Bird, the airplane is called. Freedom Bird will take you Stateside, back to The World, to the Land of the Big PX.
On DEROS day, you will walk from the ratty terminal and onto the concrete. DEROS day will be a hot day, maybe a wet day.
DEROS day will be just as hot as the day you walked down the ramp from another Boeing 707.
But on DEROS day, you won’t care about the heat. You will walk into the heat, and you will see Freedom Bird fifty meters away.
Just fifty meters away, Man.
Those hundreds of miles you walked, those miles you rode in Hueys -- all those are a long way behind you the day you see Freedom Bird and the ramp.
Freedom Bird has air conditioning, Man. Cold air.
Freedom Bird has a half dozen round-eyes. Stewardesses in white blouses and blue jackets and blue skirts or red jackets and red skirts.
The round-eyes speak American.
Fifty meters. You could walk that fifty meters on your hands. You know you could.
On DEROS day, you will wear the Class B uniform -- short-sleeve khaki shirt, khaki trousers, AG-344 overseas cap, white T-shirt, white drawers, black socks and black shoes, black garrison belt, brass buckle highly polished.
For twelve months, minus the five days you were on R&R, the khaki uniform was stored in the supply room tent or at the bottom of your foot locker, or maybe the uniform hung on a hanger on a nail driven into a support stud in the squad hooch.
The black shoes might have a bluish-green grunge on the leather when you take the shoes from wherever you stored them a year ago. Jungle fungus. If the shoes do have that grunge, you will wash the shoes and buy or borrow black shoe polish and apply the polish to your clean shoes and buff the polish to a sheen.
You will Brasso the belt buckle, polish that buckle to a Stateside shine, and maybe wash fungus from the garrison belt so it is black again.
You will take apart the two three-piece sets of collar brass, one piece with the big “US” letters and the other piece with crossed rifles or crossed sabers or a tank or whatever represents your branch of service.
You will Brasso each piece of brass and rub off the residue of polish, and, with the end of a handkerchief, careful not to touch the brass, affix each set to its proper collar.
If you are an infantry soldier, you will lay each set of brass into the blue plastic discs before attaching the brass to the collars.
You won’t pin your ribbons one-eighth inch above the left shirt pocket just yet. You will save that job until the morning of the day you are to board the Freedom Bird.
The Freedom Bird will take you to Oakland Army Terminal. The weather in Oakland might be cold and rainy or just cold. It doesn’t matter what the weather is at Oakland. When you walk across the concrete and to the ramp, you will wear the short-sleeved shirt and khaki trousers. You will not feel the cold or the wet. You will feel the Home.