I’ve been writing on this blog for several years and would say I’m fairly satisfied with what I’ve written. Recent comments have been enlightening. I have, from time to time, mentioned my writing to friends and family, and while there weren’t many takers, some did read and offer encouragement. A few old high school friends had seen it, and they are successful folks; you can lay to that, mates. West Coast lawyers and such. More than one expressed the idea or opinion that, “I could have gotten out of that”.
Well, gee whiz, I guess I coulda got outa that. But wait…
Does that mean I never would have known Martin? That I never would have known Chico? Doc Shramm, Mother, Cossey, Stallion, LT, Sgt. Corn and Livermore? Susie and well, you know, everyone?
Maybe it means I would never have learned to say, “You dinky dau!” , “didi mau!” or “ricky tick”.
I never would have flown in a Huey Iroquois, a Chinook or low bird (once anyway). I never would have seen the line of birds, the “slicks”, coming in to pick us up at Bu Gia Map. I never would have walked the streets of O Rang or seen the monsoon storms come rolling in over the beautiful green hills of Cambodia.
What about the sounds? The familiar sound of that whop, whop, whop of the Huey blades,
the peculiar thunk of the U.S. grenade launchers when they were fired,
the chatter and the noise of monkeys traveling through the jungle canopy over our heads,
the young NVA near LZ Salty, who yelled, “I attack GI!”, as he fired his RPG,
followed by the staccato bark of an M-60 machine gun.
We’re old men now and some near death; you can lay to that also. Another sunset, the sky darkens and night falls. An old man takes to his easy chair by the fire; does he think of his money? He’s made some good investments, to be sure. His family is well cared for he knows. He can relax and have an exquisite wine from Napa valley, or perhaps an expensive whiskey.
Or an old man may have a strong drink of cheap gin and remember a file of infantry along a jungle trail, heavily laden with packs, rifles and ammo, machine guns, grenade launchers, radios, rations and water. The only sound is the pouring rain and they are, as people say, soaked to the skin. They are soaked, through and through, o my brothers, as they make their way quietly up the trail, keeping an interval.
The man with the wine cellar is very pleased this night and counts his lucky stars. He and his wife have looked for years trying to find the perfect home with a view of Puget Sound. Oh, they’ve looked at many fine homes but none had the view they wanted. Well just today their offer for a home was accepted! And not with just a view, but an exclusive home on Bainbridge Island no less! Tonight he’s going to have one of his vintage wines that he’s been saving. What luck!
Has our gin drinker dozed off? No, he’s awake; he’s been thinking-Damn I was lucky! We were lucky! Lucky that the rain concealed our movements and any noise we made carrying all that gear. It may not seem important to others, but it was the difference between life and death. By god, when he gets to his next army reunion he’s going to propose a toast he heard: “Here’s to us and those like us and the hell with everybody else!”
To each his own then.
To be fair, I have to say, I went to a large high school in Columbia and really the only high school in town. There were many young men and women who served their country with distinction. My sister graduated with the class of ’65. After one of their reunions they formed a committee, raised some money and donated a memorial plaque that is now in the lobby there. The names of twenty-eight soldiers and marines who once walked the halls and attended classes at Hickman High School are inscribed there.
Twenty-eight who never returned from Indochina.