Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part I

A photo snapped of Rod in the field somewhere in Vietnam.

On January 1, 1967, New York Times headlines buzzed with coverage of a deadly war raging thousands of miles away in Vietnam. By February, journalists hustled to be the first to break news of the quickly deepening tensions surrounding the Vietnam War: “2,000 in Capital Protest War: Clergy and Laymen March in Front of White House.”

Across the country, civilians everywhere were beginning to see the true effects the war was having. Rod MacKay was not oblivious to what was happening around him. “The Vietnam War was starting to become more noticeable, and a lot of stuff was going on,” he said. A young man from small-town life in Maine, Rod was a bright 18-year-old. His family had moved several years earlier to southern California. “Several friends and I had been talking about it one day,” he said. “We knew a lot of people had been drafted and we just had a few drinks one night and decided we were all going to enlist. So, that’s what we did.”

Rod knew the next step was going to be a tough one: telling his family. “First I had to decide to go home and tell my folks I had enlisted, because they had no clue. Which was…,” he laughed. “That was an experience. My mother was very upset. My father looked at me and he was a bit upset, too.” Both of Rod’s parents had served in World War II. “My mother, the lieutenant nurse, and my father the sergeant,” he said. “So, they knew what could possibly happen.”

Rod’s sister Shari, standing with framed photos of her brothers Rod (left) and Craig (right).

Rod’s parents were not the only ones horrified that he had enlisted. His younger sister, Shari, shared in their fear. “It broke my heart because I had heard dad’s stories,” she said. “And everything in the news that was going on at the time—the idea that he would be over there putting himself in such danger—and I know that because of the position that he had. He would be in frontlines and stuff like that, clearing areas in the jungle. Doing all these things that he did, it just terrified me.” Though scared for her brother, Shari knew there was no stopping him. “I knew my brother,” she said. “I knew he wasn’t just there to be some idiot. He was doing what he thought was right for his country.”