Ahh!!! Finally!!! looking forward to the ride back to the Company area for a hot shower, hot breakfast and some sack time. Again these ideas bring a laugh from my bunker mates. Problem with transportation and we have to walk out to the gate, hoping to catch a ride there. We get there just as it appears our tankers are heading out to Pleiku. I wonder why all of a sudden my partners are backing up away from the corner. Our trucks seem to be swerving closer and closer to us. Man!! they’re split shifting and double clutching something fierce. They’re going to get into trouble for that for sure.

We jump on a deuce and a half headed our way and just before we get there my newfound buddies jump out, yelling for me to cover for them. That’s kind of strange, thought I, as we continued on to the company area. It’s mid morning as I trudge thru a nearly deserted company area. I walk into the mess hooch and encounter a lone individual, sitting at a table reading stars and stripes with a massive egg sandwich and a large cup of coffee in front of him. Now I’m not sure what provokes the guffaw from him as he looks at me. But he relents without me saying a word, pushing the sandwich over to me with the coffee. He continues chuckling as he walks to the back without a word to me. My thank you can barely be heard as I stuff the sandwich in my mouth.

Partially satisfied I head for the armory, check my weapon and am asked where my partners are at. They had some errands to run say I. Now why is that so funny!!! Finally, the showers… That’s funny I think, there are controls for hot and cold but there is only cold. I DON”T CARE!!! Clothes and all I step in. Someone left a bar of lava soap here. Perfect as I scrub down. There, clean body and clothes I march to my hooch for a dry change. Someone has straightened up my area and made my bed. As I’m donning dry skivvies a Vietnamese women walks by, giggling as she sees me. (Guess what guy’s, that still happens to this date) No matter I think, only that cot matters nmw!!! The pleasure of relaxing into that antique army cot literally brought a sigh of pure pleasure.

WHAT WHAT WHAT!!!!! It’s that damn sergeant again. Where are your cohorts in crime? He asks. Sick call is all I can come up with. At least he doesn’t laugh as loud as the guy’s in the armory did. I’m glad you’re all cleaned u and rested he says. We need to work on beefing up the sandbags around the hooch. Rested, RESTED, hell it’s only been 20 minutes. (There’s special place in hell for buck sargeants I thought, but he turns out to be the same sargeant that shepherded me thru some tough times) We assess the job needs and I tell him the way it’s set up won’t work for proper drainage and could flood the hooch. (Farm kid irrigation skills you understand) Whatever he say’s, just make it work and get it done. Working steadily I get the baseline re-dug, drainage ditch re-configured, when I realize this is one hot ass country. Then I see my sarge coming with my bunker mates. They get to work and “sarge” asks, which one of you wants to work on something else??? MeMeMe, anything is better then sandbags. Why are they loughing again!!!

As we walk thru the company area a sense of dread comes me. There is only one building left and it’s not a welcome sight. SHITSHITSHIT (Pun intended) My brothers words as he put me on the bus for basic training come to mind, “DON’T VOLUNTEER FOR ANYTHING”!!!!! My insightful sergeant asks jokingly if I’ve ever burnt shit. Well say’s I, we only had an outhouse on the farm for many years so I’m somewhat familiar with the need to neutralize fecal leavings. Good he says. After a quick tutorial, where he stayed safely out of reach, he pronounced me “Shitburner extraordinaire” and he left. Now not to brag, but there needs to be a proper order to this, so as not to leave the latrine lacking in accessability. The big thing is not to get in a hurry as that tend to fling unsavory chunks of @#$%^& in various directions. I discover right off that the hook handle could be a bit longer. I also could go into exact details of other facts I came across but I figure one’s imagination can come up with them on your own. There are several cans of df there but one can had AVGAS,”Do Not Use” printed on it. I never did learn if it was a joke or not but the urge to use it was great so as to hasten the burning process. So humming and stirring to Boil Boli Toil and Trouble I completed the best “SHIT BURN” in the history of the 359th. I remember some weeks later at a company meeting to hier locals for such menial chores that many thought $5 a month to chip in was too much. $5 a month too much for burning #$$%^, geez louise, get real…

LUNCH, finally a little late, but the same gruff guy wanted to know why I was always coming in late. He fed me anyway. I wish I could remember everyone’s name but I’m lucky now to remember to wake up in the morning. As I get back to the hooch, I see my partners are still at it. It doesn’t seem much progress has been made tho. I look lovingly into the hooch and see my cot, all alone and begging for a reconciliation. But I remain resolute and plod on with my sandbag assignment. Then, would you believe it, “sarge” shows up again. This man has a manical desire to make my life miserable. “Got another job”, he says. anyone interested???

MEME I says…As long as it doesn’t involve sanitary chores. No he says, hop in the jeep and we’ll head for the motor pool. (Why are my workmates laughing again) On the way sarge asks if I’ve ever broken down tires before with split rims. Why yes say I. Many a tractor tire on the farm was repaired by myself. Good, he says, we have a couple at the motor pool that need broken down, patched and fixed. Finally I think, a couple of hours work and then nap time. Arrival at the motor pool ends at a pile of flat tires, that number somewhere between 1000 and infinity. Two old Vietnamese men appear to be working on the pile but the ratio of repaired tires to flat tires is disconcerting. I quickly demonstrate an affinity for such endeavor and sarge disappears again. I quickly see there is no system in place. The old men have trouble with the pry bar so I break the rims down and they strip the tubes, replace them or repair as we can. We have an impressive amount of repaired tires in a row and I’m airing up the remaining 20 or so tires when a individual approaching from the garage across the way. He has the appearance of someone with anger management issues for sure.

I had asked the sarge earlier about the garage area as there seemed to be an unusual amount of cursing coming from the area. Well, private you need to know that those “gentlemen” are not to be trifulled with. Your life will come to depend on them on a daily basis. And as you will come to learn, they are somewhat demented and not to be angered. Good to know I think. Now one those demented individuals is bearing down on me with a scowl on his face. “Son” he says. “I don’t care if you ever contribute to this world’s gene pool or not, but you will flip those wheels over so the rims are down from you”. But says I, it’s hard to get to the valve stem that way. With the look of someone trying to explain to a chimp how to peel a banana, he tells me that the split rims have a tendency to explode off the rims. Then he adds for emphasis, “that is not a request, dunbass”!!!As he leaves my thoughts turn to very derogatory terms, Flipping the tires over (the Vietnamese have already left, something about a curfew) I begin to air up the remaining tires. Not five tires later a rim explodes off as I’m sitting on the tire. Now I thought about going and saying thank you but there was sill fear in me about approaching the garage. There was also new found knowledge that these old farts knew what they were talking about.

The discouraging part of the tire gig was that as I was sitting there drinking a soda (brought to me by one of the demented ones), admiring my handiwork, a convoy returned. I was like a group of vultures descending on a carcass. Those rows of repaired tires disappeared like shaved ice on hot pavement. As I learned later to be last is to have to repair your own tires. And as with the latrine chores in the company meeting there was griping about the $5 a month for the local labor in fixing the tires.

As I ride back to the company area with these “vultures” I find they are a somewhat demented bunch also. Kind of a gallows humor abounds among them. One of them how I liked burning &*^%$*. Not fun I say, but I wonder how he knows I burnt %$#&^% that day. Getting back to the company area everyone disappears to the armory and the mess hall. My thoughts however are only of the loving embrace of my vintage army cot. I fall on t and sleep of the dead…. Approx 1 hour later there is that “sergeant” again. Vivid thoughts of my hands around his neck come to mind.

Sorry, Huskey but we need you on guard duty again. Your 201 says you qualified on a 60, right. Right I say. Draw your gear from the armory and a 0 with 4-5 boxes of ammo. Now say that my mood had soured somewhat is an understatement. Waiting for guard muster I realized I hadn’t eaten supper. Walking down to the mess I walk in and run into “guess who”???? No way, he says, not this time!!! But he goes and brings back two beans and franks C rations. I can live with that> Plus he hands me two cold cokes. A life saver this man.

Back on the green line!!!! Now we’re in a tower position across from the village. Believe it’s the same tower where Carr got an award for tearing up a mortar crew that opened up on the base. and they gave me an M60 machine gu, with ammo. Now those blood thirsty communist hordes have met their match. I win the rock paper sissors for the first time and take first watch. I’m protecting the free world as I scan my perimeter and eat my beanie weenies. Geez, that smell is still there. Mixed in is the smell of Vietnamese cooking. Even today that smell takes some getting used to. Now my eyelids are drooping. I hope the attack comes soon so I don’t miss it. Standing on one foot then the other. slapping my self. kind of hard to hurt yourself by when you know it’s coming. I hear pounding on the trap door and realize someone is cursing me in a loud whisper to get the $%^&# off of the door. Yes, relief, finally. The final battle will have to wait until I’m awake and ready. I appropriate a hammock that someone left so I can sleep up off the ground. (snakes you know) Iwake just as daylight is breaking and realize I’ve slept thru the night. I look at my tower mates and in unison they say “you’re welcome”, as they’ve covered my shift and let me sleep till morning. I don’t even mind they ate my extra beanie weenies and pound cake. Now aseasoned vereran I can’t wait to do battle with my sergeant again!!!!

1968 TO 1969

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