I walked outside the office and onto the gravel trail leading up to the parking lot I’d come down from earlier in the day. I heard a motorcycle start up behind me. I stopped and turned. The motorcycle drove slowly up to me on the gravel. I stepped off to one side. Then I saw it was the sergeant driving the cycle. I let out a sigh. It had never occurred to me that the sergeant would have anything other than a car.
“Want a lift?” he said, as the machine under the sergeant purred away.
“Honda 305 Dream,” the sergeant said, pulling his goggles up. “Hop on, or crawl on, in your case. Every day I can pick you up in the parking lot, drive you down to the office, and then back when you’re ready to go.”
I crawled onto the sleek black machine. I didn’t comment on the fact that neither my wife nor I had our car back running, and the cars we borrowed were not always available to borrow. Even if everything worked out perfectly, I would owe Sears and Roebuck for the rest of my life, not just for the loan of the money but for helping my family survive in its worst time. Mickey Thompson was another case entirely. He never ever discussed my owing anything, loaned me his car, and even tossed me a few dollars when I did something extra to earn it.
The bike handled the gravel like it was built for it until we got onto the asphalt. I’d had a Triumph motorcycle when I was a sophomore in college, but the Dream was a wonder compared to that hacking, it’ll start someday and run like a lump of coal rolling down the road kind of thing in comparison. After three accidents in six months and a Bell helmet cracked right down the center, I swore to my girlfriend, and soon-to-be future wife, that I’d never ride a motorcycle again, but here I was. I was relieved to ride it, however, as the walk down to the office had been taxing and the walk back up would have been even tougher.
The gate was in the center of the road, once you got under the main thoroughfare of the bridge traffic passing overhead. A building sat to the left side of the road, while giant palms ran, seemingly forever, from the building further into the base. There was no traffic. Church stopped the bike as a Marine PFC held up one white-gloved hand.
“You don’t have a base sticker?’ I whispered into the sergeant’s right ear.
“Hundred percent I.D. on this base,” the sergeant replied, pulling his wallet from his left rear pocket.
I did the same. I was reminded of the nuclear comment. Almost all military bases required identification stickers, but not this one. Evidently, they cared a whole lot less about auto or cycle insurance, registration, and any of that much less than they did about military identity.
The Marine leaned over and peered down at my I.D. card, then snapped to attention and did a perfect hand salute. I hadn’t put my piss cutter cover on for the motorcycle ride, so I couldn’t salute back. I merely nodded, and then put away my identification.
The sergeant pulled the 305 from the guard checkpoint at a very slow speed. Military bases around the country were almost zero tolerant when it came to speeding around on the base, given that the services are filled with so many young people that are a bit impulsive and expressive. I peered out past Church’s left shoulder. The road ahead, lined with the giant palms on its left side, ran the length of the base in a straight line. I made no attempt to say anything to the sergeant, as he knew where I was going and, obviously, how to get there. There were no traffic control devices on the main road or at least none that we encountered. About halfway down, without warning, Church leaned the bike to the right and entered a street marked with an “H” painted atop what looked like a grounded and dug into one-by-six wooden board. In front of what was obviously the administration building the sergeant made a U-turn and pulled the bike up to a row of white-painted rocks that served as a curb in front of the place. He turned the bike off but didn’t get off. I crawled off from behind him.
“You got about twenty minutes, sir,” Sergeant Church said, lighting up a cigarette he’d tapped out of a red and white Marlboro pack. “Twenty minutes gives me about half an hour to get to your place in Daly City and back, long as you don’t mind a little bobbing and weaving through the traffic.”
“I didn’t call my wife,” I began, trying to explain that I hadn’t called her for a ride, not that she probably couldn’t come for me even if I’d reached her, not in mid-day, and not with the vagaries of Mickey’s 442 availability or the needs of a less than one-year-old child because Mary was alone with Julie. Pat worked until five.
“Half an hour, sir,” the sergeant said, blowing a puff of smoke into the warm windy air.
Somehow, the sergeant had been able to guess that my life was being held together with threads, his having to help me in the bathroom no doubt contributing to his conclusion. Why could I not get along with other officers almost not at all but enlisted NCOs were almost, one and all, wonderful to me?
I checked my Timex and made for the stairs leading up to the double door entrance to the place. Once inside I stopped and pressed my back into the closed-door I’d just come through, trying to get rid of the ache running up and down my torso and trying to straighten my shoulders back, but it was no use. Neither the ache nor my shoulders were in a cooperating mood.
I noted immediately that the barracks was commanded by a major, which made sense since I thought the commander of the entire base was probably only a Navy captain. The captain would outrank the major. Next to a black and white picture of the major was an imposing shot of a man who looked more like a ‘real Marine’ than anyone I’d seen in some time. Hard eyes, a bit aged, lantern jaw. His rank was sergeant major. I held my cover in my right hand, having had to wear it once I got off the bike for the walk up to the office entrance. I didn’t want to replace it in my belt in case my blouse leaked through. Wearing a stained coat was one thing, but a stained cover would never be overlooked.
I approached the commanding officer’s door but entered without knocking. Through the glass windows, I could see a counter and people working behind that counter. The commander’s actual office had to be smaller and probably behind the working area I witnessed. I stepped up to the counter. A woman noticed me and walked over.
“What can I do for you lieutenant?” she asked, with a smile.
“I need to see the commanding officer,” I said.
“Maneuvers,” the woman replied. “Won’t be back for two weeks. Somewhere called Twenty-Nine Palms down south. Sounds delightful. I wonder if there really are twenty-nine palms there.”
No commanding officer. I thought for a few seconds.
“The sergeant major in?” I asked, hoping she’d say he wasn’t.
“Want me to announce you?” the woman asked. “But then, you’re an officer and outrank him so you don’t have to be announced. His office is against the wall over there,” she pointed behind her, “His title’s on it. The door’s closed but that shouldn’t matter to you.”
I noted that the two other women, both civilians, like the woman in front of me, had stopped working to look up. I didn’t take that as a good sign. They were eager for me to go over and disturb the sergeant major, no matter what he might be doing in his office. The man’s appearance in the photograph had probably perfectly captured his attitude and comportment.
“Announce me,” I said.
The woman’s smile got larger. “Got it, did you?” she replied.
She stepped away and headed for the sergeant major’s door. She knocked three times but said nothing.
The door opened almost immediately. I could not hear what was said, but the sergeant major towered over the woman by almost a foot, and the woman hadn’t been that much shorter than I was, especially in my hunched-over condition.
The sergeant major disappeared. The woman walked back to stand in front of me again.
“The sergeant major will see you,” she said, then whispered, “like he has any choice.”
I got the distinct feeling that the woman had no use for the sergeant major but I said nothing, merely following her after she raised a hinged panel on the counter and let me through.
The woman opened the door in front of me and then closed it when I stepped through. I felt like she’d guided me into a lion’s den at the zoo. I almost wanted to check the door behind me to see if it automatically locked, but I didn’t.
The sergeant-major came quickly to his feet and stood at attention behind his desk, surprising me.
“I’m the new adjudication officer over at the lighthouse,” I said, forgetting to give him my name or rank.
“What can I do for you, sir,” the sergeant major replied, staring straight ahead, right through me.
“Stand at ease, or sit at ease,” I replied, looking over at the only other chair in the room, up against the wall.
I made for the chair, pulling it out and then placing it directly in front of the sergeant major’s desk before sitting down.
“I need your advice,” I breathed out, not wanting to say the words but I had absolutely no place else to go.
“That’s a new one, sir,” the sergeant major laughed out. “A junior officer needs my enlisted advice.” He said the last sentence with no humor in his voice at all.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m in trouble and don’t know what to do.”
I noted the sergeant major’s decorations for the first time. His chest looked like my own, rows of ribbons, with both the Korean and Vietnam campaign ribbons. He had a purple heart. A tendril of hope rose up inside me.
“Marine Sergeant Major to Marine Lieutenant, or man to man, sir?” he asked.
There was no beating around the bush with this Marine, I realized. Either I was to take a risk and trust him or simply make an uncomfortable situation even worse.
“Where’d you get hit?” he suddenly asked me, not waiting for my response to his previous question.
“Three in the torso,” I replied, knowing the obviously weathered and bright man had to have seen my ribbons and noted my physical presentation.
“No, that’s kind of obvious,” the sergeant major replied. ‘I meant, where in-country were you hit?”
“A Shau Valley,” I replied, wondering if that horrid crease in the earth, thousands of miles away, would ever dim in my consciousness. I already knew it would never leave.
“Rock Pile,” the sergeant major said, his conclusive tone seeming to indicate that there was no more to be discussed. The Rock Pile in South Vietnam was located close to Khe Sanh, only a few thousand meters from the A Shau, toward the sea, and like down in the valley, a lot of Marines had died there.
“What is it?” the sergeant major asked.
I started with my release from Oak Knoll but very quickly went into the nightmare I was just beginning to experience with Lightning Bolt. I detailed just about everything I could remember of the dialogue between the colonel and myself. I looked at my watch. I had fifteen minutes to get any help I might get before I had to get back to the sergeant or forego a ride home.
“I pulled a bit of a better billet, that’s for damn sure,” the sergeant major said, once I was done. “The major almost never shows up and then almost never talks when he does show up. The Officers Club over on Yerba in the tower is Lightning’s hangout, and I support him hanging out there all I can.”
I waited, trying not to show my impatience. The sergeant-major was running on about himself while I sat miserably in front of him. I wondered if he was prolonging my agony in order to do the sometimes obnoxious enlisted/officer tap dance, wherein officers were portrayed as effete lazy snobs and the enlisted men as hardworking strong ‘real’ Marines.
“Okay, here’s what you do,” the sergeant major said, surprising me once again with his directness and willingness to help.
“You’re the Marine Corps Adjudication Officer for this region or zone, or however they break the world apart for that sort of thing. Your commanding officer is not the adjudication officer. He’s your commanding officer, which means he has nothing to do with the decisions you make or any of the rest of it when it comes to the adjudication part. His job is making sure you are there and do the work.”
“Yes?” I asked after he’d stopped talking for almost half a minute and did not go on.
“You’re going to go in tomorrow, sign, and then stamp every one of those cases and files as approved. You get up and leave. Call Lightning the next day and tell him to call you when more claims come in.”
“My God,” was all I could get out. The audacity of the plan was more than shocking. It was stunning. “He’ll have me court-martialed for certain on that one.”
“He’s screwed,” the sergeant major said. “He’s not the adjudication officer so he can’t change, certify or do a damned thing. If he reports you, then neither can anybody else change your decisions on the cases, not without a nuclear explosion going off that will certainly cost Lightning Bolt his career, if not more.”
“Are you sure about this?” I asked, a shot of excitement traveling up and down the center of my body, followed by small bolts of fear.
“You won’t have to call or stop by to let me know what happens,” the sergeant major said, a great smile opening up to cross his face. “I should be able to hear the results all the way over on this island.”
At that, he slid a card across the desk toward me. It was the major’s Marine Corps card with the eagle, globe, and anchor in gold on its surface. Major Martin Bullman was crossed out, and the sergeant-major had written his own name under it.
I took the card and smiled, mostly to myself. The sergeant-major was having some of his own problems with his commanding officer but saying nothing about it, other than the hint the card modification gave away.
“I can’t thank you enough sergeant-major,” I said, grasping the card and then standing to leave.
“Quite some ribbons you have on that uniform,” the sergeant major replied, getting to his own feet.
“It wouldn’t seem to me that you were any kind of regular company-grade officer over in the Nam, and you sure as hell don’t give that impression now. Before you leave the islands, we’ll have to have a drink up in the Officer’s Club over on your side. They let me in as a sergeant major, although I’m not sure why.”
“Thanks again, sergeant major,” I said, standing and extending my left hand
The sergeant took it, gripping my hand more gently than I would have guessed. He held my hand a few seconds longer than was necessary
“They play hardball back here, so, as quickly as you can get yourself a glove,” the sergeant major said, letting go of my hand. “Until then remember the Marine Corps motto.”
“Motto?” I asked.
“If you can’t baffle them with your bullshit then dazzle them with your footwork.”
The sergeant-major smiled at me with a twinkle in his eyes. I would be sure to contact him again, no matter what happened, I realized.
I rushed from the sergeant major’s office, glancing down at my Timex. I had only two minutes to make it to the bike, although I knew in my heart that the buck sergeant would never desert me. I lifted my head as I limped down the steps, using the railing for support. I had a plan. I hadn’t had a plan for anything in some time. The last real plan I’d had in the A Shau had cost a lot of Marines their lives. It was such a release to know that my plans now would not cost lives, not if I could help it.
The motorcycle ride was tougher than I thought it would be. Without goggles, I had to keep my head out of the slipstream, which meant I couldn’t see much of anything or where we were going. Our speed was such that there wasn’t any real opportunity to talk either, or I would have had the sergeant drop me off at M&M. The race was important to me for reasons I couldn’t explain, even to me. When I was in front of the apartment in Daly City, I turned, once I got myself off the bike with some difficulty and thanked the sergeant.
“See you at zero seven hundred,” I said.
“What about Vince Lombardi time?” the sergeant asked, a sly smile crossing his face.
“Screw Vince Lombardi. He’s a Green Bay Packer and this is the United States Marine Corps,” I replied. “See you at zero seven hundred.”
“Yes, sir,” the sergeant said, with a smile and some enthusiasm.
I realized I could not make the walk to M&M. I had to go inside. My bandages were probably soaked through. I also knew that I was wearing my Class “A” uniform with blouse the next day. My orders said Class “A” and that was the order I would follow. If the colonel wanted to court-martial me then I was ready for that. The sergeant-major had not only given me a plan but put some spine back into my attitude and my step.
I went inside, taking my time, assured of nothing but no longer afraid of whatever it was that the Marine Corps could throw at me.
My wife was a wonder, although I avoided telling her anything about how the day had really gone. I was not going to be swayed by the plan the sergeant major had laid out for me.
I collapsed onto the couch in the living room, but I knew the peace of a quick nap or simply a short period to lie down and recover from the day’s events wasn’t going to happen. A very small person made her way across the room, sort of crawling, sort of walking, and using every bit of furniture to beeline for the couch. Julie was glad I was home. How could I not respond to that kind of totally accepting and open greeting?
The debate going on inside my mind could not be quieted. I had bandages to change and a uniform to get out of. I only had two khaki long sleeve shirts, and. although the officer shirts required by the Marine Corps were wonderfully made of the best quality materials, how long could the shirts endure the constant leakage of blood?
Mary washed the shirts first in cold milk, which worked every time, but I still wondered. How long would it take for the incision to heal, and what was I to do about wearing the Class “C” short sleeve shirt that was a whole lot thinner and would not hold me together at all?
Mary walked into the room carrying a small thin box.
“Here it is, the solution to the problem,” she said, tossing the box over Julie’s head, to land on the couch next to me.
It was a box of Saran Wrap, I saw immediately. I recoiled back from it automatically, then looked up at Mary.
“Something wrong?” she asked, reading the expression on my face that I hadn’t been quick enough to hide.
Saran Wrap, the effective tool the North Vietnamese Army had been clever enough to field down in the A Shau Valley. Tightly wrapping their bodies with the thin plastic substance allowed them to charge into the fire of very high velocity, but low mass, M-16 bullets. Instead of the bullets tumbling, like they mostly did when hitting something as water-filled as a human torso, the quarter-inch in diameter bullets would simply race right on through. The soldiers could keep charging. The wrap was the solution to my physical problem, I realized, but the psychological problem of using the wrap in that way made me almost nauseous. The graphic mind photos that appeared before me, of the wrapped bodies penetrated by thousands of flechettes fired by the Ontos, nearly replaced the reality of my wife and daughter standing in front of me.
“Nothing,” I got out, breathing shallow and trying to hide my feelings.
“Let’s get you changed and try this out,” Mary replied, choosing to ignore my rather obvious negative reaction to the plastic wrap.
I would wear it and I’d also drive down the mental demons that had risen up at the sight of the box.
Saran Wrap, had, after all, been invented right after WWII, a long time before the Vietnam war. It’d been invented to cover the wings of exposed aircraft left out in the open for storage, and so it would cover me. I needed to get over to check on the GTO and I needed to be able to be presentable for whatever new command I would probably be very shortly assigned to, either that or the brig.
In the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror before I changed. The Sergeant Major had given me two platitudes, but they were platitudes that would help me survive the remaining time I had in the Corps. I’d figure out as quickly as I could what might serve as a ‘glove’ in the game of the peacetime Marine Corps I’d been thrust back into, and tomorrow I would go to my Yerba Buena Island office and ‘dazzle them with my footwork.’ I stripped off my shirt, tossed the bandages I eased from my torso, and called through the open door for my wife, as Julie had crawled right along with me to end up sitting on my right foot.
When Mary came in, I handed her the box of Saran Wrap and applied new four-by-fours up and down the outside of my center incision. I extended my arms out from my sides when I was done, and Mary went to work wrapping my torso tightly. The NVA had prepared for combat in exactly that same way I was preparing for it.
They’d gone out and been hit, as I would be on the morrow, but they’d not gone down. I was determined not to go down.
<<<<<< The Beginning | Next Chapter >>>>>>>
If you do not have the Three Books of Thirty Days Has September
they are available below.
Keep up the excellent work, Lt. As I have read the Cowardly Lion, I have formed some questions. Did you ever find out who was at Oakland before you and told people about you? Did you ever meet up with McMaster’s and/or Puller again or their father’s? Did you ever run across Chute or Peterman again?
I’ve always found it interesting how each hospital treats you. Some are old buildings with awesome medical staff or a new building with a crappy staff. Never knowing from one shift to the next how things were going to be like. Keep on trucking, Lt.
I later worked for the CIA in the field and would report back physically,
upon occasion to D.C. Every time I would ‘pop in’ on Puller, after I found out
he was heading up the VA and I identified who I was. He did not remember me
from the hospital but we became friends. I would do as much therapy as I could because
he suffered from bouts of severe depression and PTSD, of course. He also drank
terribly heavily, even his office and in the mornings. It was a deadly mixture
that would eventually prove fatal. Great guy, though. Never saw Masters again. or Chute or Peterman either. So many lost in time if not in life itself.
Just tonight purchased the three book set of “30 days”. Thank you for sharing your story. Am following “The Cowardly Lion” and will purchase it too when it is completed. Marine, Danang 1965.
Thank you, James
LT…I just got to say you are one helluva man. I read your first books about your time in the A Shau Valley. You did what you had to do and did it well without a lot of help from your Battalion Command, Thank God for air power though. Any way reading this chapter I see you got the saran wrap trick over your bandages. Well I was never in combat but I am was and still am a coal miner and these days I work in the strippins repairing heavy equipment, mostly welding. About 12 years ago i got a very gash right below my elbow down to the bone and about 4 inches or so long. Now being out on the mountain in the middle of nowhere and such I had to do somethin to stop the bleeding so I heated up a chunk of steel red hot stuckit in the cut and burned the blood vessels shut. That night Got home and wrapped it all up after cleanin it up and wrapped it in saran wrap to keep the dirt out when i would go to work. It took about 2 month to heal up, but I didnt have to go to the doctor for stitches. Good thing I had no insurance bein self employed. Saran wrap works great for that stuff.
I often wondered after reading the 30 Days series and this one so far did Nguyen and Gunny live through the battle? I see in the one chapter you thought you saw Nguyen when you were bein loaded on to a plane but you werent sure if it was a dream or if it was real. Gunny and Nguyen both seem to be fellas that could lasso a tornado and ride it cross country and never even get a wrinkle in their clothes.
Thank you for what you done Sir. God Bless You
You are one class, and tough, act my friend!
Thanks for writing about your own situation of trauma here for all of us to read.
Oh hell it wasnt any trauma, nothin like what you been through, just another day at work, dumb shit happens all the time, I shoulda been watchin what I was doin a bit more. When I read about the saran wrap it just made me think of it
Another outstanding read James….and I liked you comment about the NCOs….they are who really ran the show….at least in the US Army. Most I knew would help any officer if the officer was a decent human being. Most lieutenants I met, while in service, were pricks. They were all bark and no bite….loved pushing people around….but that’s just the way it was….and I like your new “plan”…can’t wait to see what happens…
I knew some truly wonderful company grade officers, most dead now. Guys like Deathridge, Dan Smith and more are not, but they don’t comment much because that is what ‘real deal’ guys do, or don’t do. Just part of the thing about combat. It does not breed a lot of open conversation or communication. Part of what the VA has such trouble coming to understand that there’s a helluva difference between real combat vets and all the others.
Interesting comments there. While I’m not a combat vet, or a veteran at all, I spent my whole adult life in Fire/EMS. We might talk crap to each other but almost never talk about the real ugly stuff. There is really no point in it since we all know what its about. Just an observation. Thanks for another great chapter!
I guess, after re-reading your comment, that I don’t get the point of what you are trying to say.
Wowee Lieutenant, wowee.
Thanks for the short but so meaningful compliment, Stuart!
Great CHapter. I remember my boys telling me that would much rather be on an in-coountry bacse than any Stateside. Guess times haven’t changed.
Stateside bases had less than a lack of understanding. They had a very healthy crew of men who had not gone to the war for real, but wanted so desperately to be known as having gone to war for real…and hence the maltreatment of those coming back from the real shit….
I never knew about the Saran Wrap trick, Lieutenant. What other tricks did they have to unload on you? I’ve read a lot, but never came across that. Diabolical.
Today is Vietnam Veterans Day, sir. I just wanted to thank you again for your service and sharing your journey with us.
We’re burying my father in law Wednesday. He was 84, and a Navy Veteran, serving from 1955-1959. My flags are at half mast to honor him.
Yes, the low tech tricks that work. Saran Wrap, whom would have thought? Pungi sticks set down in little pits along the path. An empty beer can with a grenade inside, waiting to be pulled out by a string across the path being encountered. The spoon of the grenade coming free. You hear this click, then a fuse burning sound, and then you wake up back home with no legs, if you were lucky.
Thanks for another great chapter, James. Semper Fi! Also, tomorrow is Vietnam Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service.
Got the thanks, and much appreciate it. Some vets don’t get that people saying ‘thanks for your service’ might really mean
exactly that. But I do, and I appreciate the comment and the heartfelt emotion that goes with it.
Bucking the Tiger is always an adrenaline rush. I am sure you will be the winner. Go get ’em, Junior!
Define ‘winning.’ Tough one. I worked to beat that asshole and then encountered more.
The military at the time, back home, was not ready for returning vets, especially those from real combat.
Another great chapter. Heard you on a podcast interview this morning. Looks like I’ll be buying a couple more books. You sir, are an excellent writer. Wish it were easier for you to get your work out to the public. God Bless, Allen
Thanks Allen, as I did that podcast some time back. Much appreciate the compliment.
You hit the jackpot with the Sergeant Major and much to your surprise, got some awesome advice!! Good job getting past the Saran Wrap, it’s gonna be a big help while you are in uniform and keeping your uniform from getting permenatly stained!!
Yes, blood is a problem for uniforms, although whom would be in such a position to even know that!
Mostly, the medical units of the military keep guys in my bad shape from being released on their own.
Not Oak Knoll at that time.
Alrighty then, sounds like you have found your footing and are charging forward!! That’s what we like to hear LT!!
Home. The A Shau…it’s back there, pushed ever farther back there…even to this day…but the learning
from that pit of hell remains in my very fiber. I come back and man oh man do I come back…but like the Gunny,
and the Sergeant Major…using the system to beat the system.
Can’t wait to see what plays out next.
Keep firing off these chapters.
Right on it Duke, 18th half done and soon…
Thanks for everything.
want to tead it all….
Thanks Steve, great compliment. I am working away
Great chapter. Can’t wait for the next one.
Thanks Ron, some sparks in the next one, for sure.
Thank you Jim I am very pleased with your writings. The depictions are so real, HM2 K. Cooke.
Thanks mightily HM2 K. Much appreciated compliment.
Thank you Jim.
You are most welcome Kenny and I will keep going…
good read sir, good read
thanks for the compliment
I can hardly wait for the next installment. (I’m really pissed.) Listening to the non-coms pays dividends.
Thanks for the understanding and the following of my writing Robert!
Junior, somehow I missed your list of ribbons/decorations. I’ve got Purple Heart, Vietnam Service and Campaign, and National Defense (fire watch). What else?
Oops, and Combat Action Ribbon.
Yes, there was and remains that pesky little thing. No medal. No combat badge, like the army. The Marine Corps was finally responding to the army’s badge.
Today’s ribbons are so funny. They’ve jammed the top end with awards to high officers. Legion of Merit…give me a fucking break. All those ‘distinguished service’ medals above e the silver star in
rank. Shit bird ribbons every one.
Wow! You were blessed by those two sergeants!
I was indeed, and they were not the last.
Get em JAMES , we had that saying too but a bit different “If you can’t impress them BRILLIANCE then DAZZLE them with BULLSHIT ” !!! Have a good EASTER FRIEND .
Great sayings we took away from your intense service. Never forget that stuff, and the lessons buried deep inside them.
Great read! Can’t wait for the next chapter. You have survived hell on earth. My dad was a Marine. Fought on Iwo Jima. He had a couple of stories but didn’t talk about the war. Have a good Easter.
Thanks Tom, for the stuff about your dad too.
I hope more guys will talk because of my work.
Seems like you have gained support from surprised sources within the ranks , which is a good thing . Now you need to focus on gaining back the confidence you had in the Valley . You can survive this battle also. I will follow your story to the end , Sir !
Another truth revealed
The NCO navigated the bullshit of the Corps brilliantly and in my experience loved to help a young officer
Hi LT, very interesting chapter. Never heard about Saran Wrap being used by the North Vietnamese before. Can’t wait to hear about the events following you next work visit.
Yes, the Saran Wrap was real and those NVA were tough cookies to use, knowing what was likely coming next. It’s in the 30 Days series of books I have written.
I have a mind shot of one NVA soldier laying spread out before me on his back. He was wrapped when they pulled his shirt open to see where he was hit. He was
hit any about a hundred or more of the Ontos flechettes. They made little bitty ‘x’ shapes in red on his torso but not too much, because the wrap worked to hold him
Another great chapter LT!
As a 2LT in an Armor unit,I learned to ask my Plt Sgt and 1st Sgt for guiedance when I had a problem. They always kept me focused and out of trouble.
I owe them alot for taking the time training me to have a successfull career in the army.
Like you, I found a special bond with NCOs that would help.
Thanks David. I much appreciate you writing about your own experience here.
James, You question, “Why could I not get along with other officers almost not
at all but enlisted NCOs were almost, one and all, wonderful to me?” It has
everything to do with how you treat others. You treated the NCOs with respect
and they reciprocated. Many young officers are like chihuahuas. They bark a lot
and threaten … and they receive no respect. Now a German Shepard only has to
say “woof” once.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
looked like a grounded and dug in a one-by-six wooden board.
Seems the “a” is extra.
looked like a grounded and dug in one-by-six wooden board.
I wonder if there really twenty-nine palms are there.”
Maybe switch word order
I wonder if there really are twenty-nine palms there.”
Doors closed but that shouldn’t matter to you.”
“Doors” = door is, so “Door’s”
Door’s closed but that shouldn’t matter to you.”
The sergeant-major came quickly to his feet
sergeant-major hyphenated here and some other locations but not all locations.
Hyphen seems unneeded.
The sergeant major came quickly to his feet
The Rock Pile in South Vietnam was located close to Khe Shan, only a few thousand meters from the A Shau, toward the sea,
Khe Sanh rather than Khe Shan
I’m having trouble picturing this. Yes, the Rock Pile was close to the DMZ and east of Khe Sanh. However, I believe the A Shau is west of Hue – so further south of the DMZ.
Page 19 for DMZ map.
Maybe?? The Rock Pile in South Vietnam was located close to Khe Sanh, toward the sea, and only a few thousand meters from the DMZ
“What about Vince Lombardi time,” the sergeant asked
Maybe substitute a “?” for the comma
“What about Vince Lombardi time?” the sergeant asked
simply a short period to lay down
the grammar police prefer lie to lay
simply a short period to lie down
Saran Wrap, had, after all, had been invented right after WWII,
Extra “had” and extra comma after “Wrap”
Saran Wrap had, after all, been invented right after WWII,
Saran Wrap, after all, had been invented right after WWII,
The NVA had prepared for combat in exactly the same that way I was preparing for it.
Maybe move “that” to after “way”
The NVA had prepared for combat in exactly the same way that I was preparing for it.
I await hearing how the plan unfolds.
Blessings & Be Well
Yes, the Rock Pile issue. I am not going to go in and surgically change the script here. I remember where the Rock Pile was in my mind but my mind is apparently wrong. It was a good deal further away
than I thought. But what the hell…I have to go with what I am recalling and then apologize for not knowing more at the time. Back then we did not have the Internet, GPS or any of that.
A Prick 25 that mostly worked. Mostly.