I arrived In-Country Vietnam on December 10, 1969 as a newly minted PFC in the US Army. After landing at Bien Hoa Air Strip I was assigned to a Holding Detachment for in processing. That afternoon around 4:00, I noticed a line forming at one end of the outdoor PX. Upon inquiring as to it’s purpose, I was informed that it was the beer line. Considering that the temperature was over 100 degrees I fell in with everyone else. After getting close to the front I noticed that the beer being dispensed was hot. I stepped out of line and went to get my barracks assignment, noticing the smiles coming from the GI’s that were waiting with me. In my mind there was no conceivable way I could enjoy my favorite beverage hot. It seemed Un-American.
Training and processing began the following morning and I was caught up in the routine. That afternoon I passed by the 4:00 line while on my way to the chow hall. The smiles from the participants had now turned into laughs as I quickly walked by. I was still firm in my conviction that hot beer was never going to be on my menu.
Sometime around midnight the following night, the base took incoming rounds and the barracks next to mine had the roof blown off and the windows broken out. Laying there in the darkness under my bunk, I could not remember being more scared or helpless. With daylight, the cleanup began and life seemed to return to eerie normality.
The only change in my schedule came at 4:00. When the beer line opened for business, I was first to be served. After chugging my first beer I turned around to a chorus of cheers and back slaps. It seemed that I had just made it past the same initiation to Vietnam that they had gone through.