William ‘Gunny’ Adams – Vietnam Veteran
I met William ‘Gunny’ Adams in a small hostel on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica near the Panamanian border. On the second morning of my stay, he welcomed me in the kitchen, where he had set up his computer, with the words: „I have made up my mind, I am going home.“
William was born in 1939 in the USA. As part of the US marine corps, he served twice for a period of one year during the war in Vietnam in 66/67 and 70/71 as an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) technician, which means being specially trained to deal with the deployment, disarmament, and disposal of high explosive munitions or bombs. When he retired from the army at 37, he just couldn’t go back to his normal life in the States, although having a wife and children, he traveled to Brazil and started to work as a consultant in the timber business for the Brazilian government, living between cities on the coast, in the Amazon with the native people and traveling around the world.
In the last 35 years after his retirement he has been to every country in Central and South America, ten islands in the Caribbean and several countries in Africa, altogether 56 countries, with only short breaks in the US to see his family. His military pension allowed him to live in the different countries without necessarily taking a job, but focusing on stuff he really liked: being a world traveller and Amazon explorer, republishing a book, making furniture, composing music… At the end of march 2016 around his 77th birthday he decided to return to the US, settle down near his family in Mississippi, trying to rebuild a closer relationship. He is also waiting for a place at the military retirement home located in the area. At the moment he his on a waiting list with 685 places. William expects it to take 5 years to be his turn, if on average 12 people die every month.
William calls himself “stubborn S.O.B. (son of a bitch), who doesn’t want to grow up“.
“I was married four times. Every woman was 19 when I married her. I have a thing about the 19. I taught them to be independent, when they’ve learned, they left.”
„Keep faith in self, follow your dreams, have fun trying!“
The black and white picture was taken for an interview in the NEW YORK TIMES in 1985, about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The color pic was taken in 1996 after leaving the jungle, where he had suffered from different diseases like dengue fever, malaria or parasites. On one occasion he had kidney stones. Until the bush pilot arrived 6 days later to take him to a hospital, the natives had given him ‘herbs’ to relieve the pain, but with that came a 6 day out of body experience.
“I’m just smoking a bit of pure marihuana in my pipe. It makes my breathing easier, the lungs feel better and it gives me a positive feeling”
“After 35 years it’s time for me to go home and get to know my grand- and great-grandkids.“