This Chapter is dedicated to Jim Flynn
The entire mess of paperwork that transferred the GTO to Slate and the 1969 Volkswagen bug to me took almost an hour. The Volkswagen was brought out from the back of the dealership and parked for me to drive. The GTO had disappeared and I somehow knew that I was never again to see it on this planet. The Volkswagen was slow in acceleration. It was also slow in top speed, hitting only eighty-one miles per hour on the freeway, as I took the thing home. I also realized that the car was fun to drive. Shifting up through the gears, not worrying about the revolutions of the engine because the instrument panel of the car had no tachometer. I had the temporary base pass that was good for a few more days and I was happy that I hadn’t bothered to get a permanent sticker or I’d be doing that all over again because of changing cars. The speed limit on the freeway was seventy and the Volks could do eighty-one, which was close enough. No problem, the way I saw it.
The furniture was stunning. The Volkswagen was pretty terrific too, for what it was. There was no question that Bart Abrate knew his business and Slate had come through pretty well at the dealership too. My wife was overjoyed and Julie always happy about everything. The only real problem I had, other than a severe shortage of money, was the Marine Corps. The look in Major Stewart’s eyes had not been missed by me. It was a look from the past. It was a look from Sugar Daddy or Jurgens back in the valley. It was a look of death.
I was fully exposed. I’d never seen a major while I’d been in Vietnam, and the only colonel in my life at that time had been the battalion commander. Aside from chewing me out for using foul language on the combat net, and accusing me of getting almost everyone in my company killed in combat, I’d never had much communication with him either. The Gunny had handled almost all the communications our companies had with the battalion, and most of that wasn’t with the ‘six-actual’ himself.
The time passed rapidly, as I recovered enough for my abdominal wound to heal over. No more four-by-fours or any of that. Every morning and every afternoon I stood for thirty minutes with my shoulders pressed into the bare living room wall, working to be able to once again look like a proper Marine. I learned to sleep on my back instead of my side, so my torso would be straight all night long.
When I reported back to Headquarters battery I was assigned as executive officer to the outfit, with a small office right next to the commanding officer’s much larger corner one. The captain was from the south somewhere, as his drawl was pronounced, but he was a great guy. He was ending his tour in the Corps in the near future, however, so I had no idea what or whom would be replacing him.
The headquarters battery wasn’t a battery of artillery at all. It was the organizational collection of analytical information about how the real gun batteries operated and stayed fit and functional. It was also the paperwork generator for all the personnel and supply of the firing batteries. My job was to report in at seven a.m. every workday and hover over the First Sergeant who labored to get the daily report out before noon. Every time the daily report was examined by the officers at Mainside and any errors were reported back to individual units, like my own, and that reporting was neither kindly delivered nor gently received. Since the invention of the electronic IBM typewriter, interconnected by telephone, daily reports had become nearly instant in transmission, although it took hours to get one ready and then edited to send. Since the system had come online for the entire Marine Corps, two months before I’d arrived, not a single report had ever cleared inspection without at least one error being found, at least not from our battery. Each day, right before lunch, was the only time I ever saw the captain mad. A week into my tour with the battery he called me into his office and pointed at my erect chest, as I was finally able to stand fully at attention.
“You think you can edit the daily and get it right?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, looking straight out over his head and through the window behind his sitting position.
“No, I’ll try, maybe, or any of that crap?” he asked, surprise in his voice.
“No, sir,” I replied. I wasn’t really as certain as I sounded, but I knew I was pretty good with the written word and numbers.
“Tomorrow you take over from the First Sergeant, but tonight you take over as officer of the day. Nobody else to do it. If we go error-free on the report, even for one godforsaken day, I won’t ever volunteer you for that again.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, immediately wondering what was so rotten about being officer of the day.
“Officer of the day for the battery?” I asked, hesitantly.
“Officer of the day for Camp Pendleton,” he replied, leaning forward and down to read something on top of his desk in front of him.
I knew I was dismissed. Officer of the day for the whole base. I had no clue about what that might mean, but the First Sergeant would.
“Yes, sir,” I whispered more than said clearly out loud.
“Report to Mainside at 1600 in Class A’s and wear the raincoat as it’s not cold enough tonight to require your overcoat,” the captain said, not looking at me. “You’ll be under arms provided by the armory unless you want to use your own personal weapon. Even so, you’ll need the basket-weave leathers.”
“Yes, sir,” I intoned again, turning to exit from his office. My overcoat had been stolen from the Basic School the day I’d paid for it using a Navy Federal Credit Union loan, but there was no way the captain could know that.
I moved through the large room where all the battery’s clerical work was done, and then exited through the double doors and stepped out into the sun. The First Sergeant stood near the doors, smoking a cigarette and looking out toward the not-so-distant mountains.
“I hear you’re taking over,” he said, omitting the sir which my rank called for. Being Junior for so long had inured me, however, so I didn’t react. “Thank the living Christ,” he followed with, taking another deep drag from his Camel, the distinctive pack scrunched up in his left hand.
“What’s the deal about the OOD thing?” I asked, hoping to learn something to prepare me.
“Race war every night in the barracks at ITR,” he said.
ITR was the infantry training regiment for Marines just coming out of basic, sort of like The Basic School was officer training following OCS.
I didn’t let on anything in my expression or demeanor, but I was immediately taken back to the A Shau and the race war that’d gone on inside my own company. There was no chance that such a ‘war’ could be as violent as it had been for me, I knew, but still, the knowledge didn’t make me feel very good.
After calling my wife there was nothing for me to do at the battery so I drove home, got my raincoat, and into full Class “A” uniform, before heading off to Mainside, checking before I left to make sure my .45 was loaded with an extra magazine. When I found the place, having to ask three Marines on the way in for directions, I found the office of the OOD to be a small isolated place, with two tiny bedrooms off the main room. The main room had one desk with a single telephone on it and a holster and the duty Sam Brown basketweave leather belts. A buck sergeant came in the door behind me.
“Lieutenant?” he asked.
“Got the duty,” I replied, strapping on the leather rig over my Class “A” green uniform.
“Armory?” the sergeant asked.
“Got my own,” I answered, moving back through the door to get the Colt out of the car. The buck sergeant followed me.
We went back inside the office.
“What do we do?” I asked him, taking a seat next to the desk, letting him have the ‘command’ chair behind it.
“We wait, and if nothing happens for us to be called to do, we go out on patrol when darkness falls. That’s when the trouble may or may not start.”
We sat and read magazines until a call came in just before dark.
“Trouble out at the ITR barracks near Pulgas,” the sergeant said, his breath more of a string of sighs than any other descriptor I could think of to use to describe it.
We drove to the ITR barracks, a long one-story building located across a drill field, with other buildings built on the other side of that drill field.
The sounds coming from the barracks, yells, screams, and worse, told me all that I needed to know.
“Drive the Jeep into the center section of that barracks sergeant,” I ordered.
The Buck Sergeant didn’t reply, merely heading the Jeep toward the big double doors that hung open, gaping into the night, the light from bulbs running up and down the length of the long structure providing only the dimmest of illumination. When the vehicle stopped, I got out. I walked directly through the double doors. Bedlam was occurring inside the structure. It seemed that everyone was yelling at everyone. I decided instantly that nobody was going to hear anything I said.
I took out my .45 Colt, aimed it at the ceiling of the building and began to fire. I walked the long-distance of the right side of the structure, firing all six rounds from my automatic. Some of the rounds I aimed at windows with dramatic effect. The windows blew out in explosions seemingly not connected to the impact of the high-speed heavy rounds. I stood at the end of the structure, turned, and then walked back to the entrance I’d come through. The Jeep was still there, its engine quietly humming away and its lights illuminating the entirety of the double-door space. I walked to the Jeep, climbed in on the passenger’s side seat, and then went to work reloading my .45 from one of the double canvas pockets that held my spare ammunition cartridges.
“What have you done?” the sergeant asked, his voice harshly low and demanding. “What are you doing now?
“I’m reloading, what in the hell does it look like I’m doing?” I replied, exchanging the extra magazine into my weapon. I cycled the slide, gliding a round into the chamber, and waited. My ears were ringing from the close-in nature of firing .45 rounds inside without ear protection.
“We’re getting the hell out of here,” the sergeant said, putting the Jeep into gear without any orders or instruction from me.
“What about the riot?” I asked, having to hold onto the windshield with my right hand to keep from being tossed out of the vehicle as the Jeep sharply turned and then accelerated away from the scene.
“You hear anything back there anymore, sir?” the sergeant yelled, as the Jeep went up to higher RPM in second gear. “Those men are scared shitless and it’ll be a miracle if both of us aren’t called up on charges when this shift is finally over.”
The Jeep pulled out onto the hard asphalt road, heading back into Pulgas proper where the ridiculously small office of the duty officer was located.
“What’s our plan now?” I asked, settling the Colt back into its holster and snapping the clip to keep it secure. I engaged the safety first, though, leaving a round in the chamber with the hammer fully cocked, just like in Vietnam.
“We’re going to drive to the office and wait until dawn,” the sergeant said, “that’s the plan.”
“What about the mission?” I asked, wondering why the sergeant seemed to be so emotionally upset.
“You really think those idiots are going to make one move for the rest of the night?” the sergeant said, holding the speed of the Jeep down to the point where it lugged in high gear. “Those Marines back there are scared to death and they’re not wrong. You need to check into the hospital or somewhere, and not because of what you just did but because you don’t’ have any idea of what you’ve just done.”
We rode on into the night, back toward the main part of Las Pulgas. I knew the sergeant was right about some things. I didn’t truly understand what he was talking about. The men who’d been creating the disturbance had been properly silenced. The night was pacified, cool, and filled with inactivity, as it was supposed to be. The mission of taking care of the base had been satisfied. What was the problem?
I checked the Colt, just to make sure. It was loaded with six rounds, one round in the chamber and on safe as I’d prepared it. I had six more in an extra magazine in the car if I needed them. The night should be quiet, but if it was not then the Colt was ready to do its job.
“No matter what happens tomorrow, sir, I’m not serving with you in any role whatsoever as the duty officer again,” the sergeant said, speaking loud enough to be heard over the whine of the Jeep’s little four-cylinder engine.
I said nothing, as we drove on. Leadership in combat wasn’t something that was done with social approval. I was used to the sergeant’s kind of reaction.
The mission was what was primary and then the survival of the men, or at least that was what was always taught and trained for. No Marines had been lost in the night. That fact was a compliment, the way I saw it, of my leadership understanding and application. I tried to get my mind to wrap itself around what had happened. The real mission was secondary, back in the USA, just as it had been in the A Shau Valley. Without Marines surviving, the mission became pointless, at least for those Marines involved. I knew that I had to get along somehow, however, and I also knew I had to do it by dropping everything that I had become in the valley if I wanted to have a family, friends and any kind of life back in the phenomenal world to which I had somehow returned.
The sergeant’s fear and concern could not be ignored, nor his description of what the Marines in the barracks must be experiencing. They were not combat Marines, and, according to the ribbons the sergeant wore, neither was he. My handling of the race riot had been a mistake and, if I wasn’t required to pay dearly for that mistake, I needed to make sure I didn’t make that kind of mistake again.
The rest of the night went quietly, the sergeant and I drinking copious amounts of bad coffee, and he spent a considerable amount of our remaining time together outside smoking and staying away from me. There were two bunk beds in the duty officer bedroom. I finally fell asleep atop one of them. When I awoke a few hours later, the sergeant was gone. I left the basket-weave leather rig on the desk where I’d found it, grabbed my raincoat, and carried my .45 out to my car. I’d only have two hours to make it home, get showered, say good morning to my wife, and get back to prepare the entries necessary for the vital daily report at the battery.
I walked in the door to our apartment and knew something was terribly wrong. I turned to look at my wife, standing in the kitchen, separated from the living room by only a half wall. She pointed at our own telephone, sitting on the wall.
“Your father,” she said, her voice low with a bit of a break in it.
I didn’t’ get a chance to ask her anything, as the phone immediately rang.
I picked it up before the second ring.
“Your brother is dead,” he said, his voice flat. “The plane bringing him home crashed at Fort Belvoir last night.”
I said nothing, trying to process what he’d said. He didn’t say any more so I hung up the phone, glanced at my wife, and then went back to the front door and left. I walked to the beach not more than a couple of hundred yards away. I headed south, dressed in full uniform, my shoes filling with sand.
My brother. First all the Marines in Vietnam and now my brother. The world was filled with those dead and those waiting on the brink to be dead. Yet I lived and walked. There was nobody on the beach. The weather was too cold, the sun a day’s old memory, and cloud-covered waves swept angrily into the shore nearby.
It was hours before I returned home, my uniform a mess, my shoes even worse. I called the base, not saying much of anything to my wife. What was I going to do without the guy who’d just begun to be my best friend in the world, other than my wife and daughter? The man who’d come to see me in Japan, to play chess with me and lose on purpose, and then ask me to be his best man at his wedding. Colonel Fennesey immediately granted me leave to attend my brother’s funeral, once I got through to him. I tried to talk to my wife but nothing would come out. Her ability to allow that silence spoke volumes about her. I could not lay down and rest or sleep. All I could do was walk around, aimlessly, letting the ocean air, and the spume of the breaking waves wash over me
The trip to Washington was a trip through hell for my wife and me. I knew I shouldn’t be driving. I was suffering from a lack of sleep like I hadn’t had since the Nam, but driving on into the miserable days and nights anyway, risking everything I loved or cared about but not able to think about it.
The funeral passed in a blur, the wonderful team that did the burial was impressive and the people who gathered were not memorable at all. My brother’s fiancée had come in from Buffalo. She was shattered but I wasn’t capable of doing anything but nodding at her, buried in my own grief. The grief seemed magnified by all the Marines I’d lost just such a short time ago, making their appearance at the very edges of my consciousness. I was seeing things, I knew, from a brutal and extended loss of sleep, but the Marines were there nevertheless. I could feel what I didn’t actually see.
The return from my brother’s funeral was like my return from Vietnam, without the airplane, the plastic bag holding me together, or even the long reception hall at Travis Air Force Base. I was changed once again in some insidious unknowable way. We arrived home in the night, Mary, me, and the baby, having driven the Volkswagen all the way from Texas in one shot. I was in no shape to report to the battery but I had no choice.
My leave was up and Colonel Fennesey had been only too kind to advance me the unearned leave days and nights it took to drive back and forth to Arlington National Cemetery. There was no way we had the money to fly. I dressed, my uniform unpressed and uncleaned since my departure. My dad had worn his Coast Guard Uniform at the funeral and wondered why I had not. He also said these words, which still resound in the very back of my mind: “You know, if this had been you instead of him we could have had a service with honors, escort, and the caisson.” My brother ‘only’ had the Bronze Star with combat V while I had a bunch more. I knew that was what my dad was talking about but still couldn’t believe his statement intimated that he’d have preferred me being dead to my brother. I hadn’t taken my uniform to Washington because I wasn’t parting with my brother as a military experience. It was way too personal for that.
I got to the battery without incident, driving the Volkswagen I’d somehow had the good fortune to buy. The car had been splendid on the trip except for passing through Arizona without air-conditioning. We also hadn’t packed any water. Halfway across the ninety-nine-degree desert, we stopped to get water. Some gas station guy with a big iced tank of water was upset that I thought he was charging money for water under such conditions. The water was free he said, but any container to put it in was five dollars.
Amazingly, Lieutenant Jackman was sitting on the single step up to the doors of the place when I arrived at the battery.
“Craig, what the hell are you doing here?” I asked, stopping right next to him and looking down.
“Your brother, so sorry,” Craig replied, not looking up at me. “You were supposed to be the new commanding officer like Colonel Fennesey said you would be, but Fennesey got transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps and Major Stewart is commanding the battalion.”
“Yeah,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“You’re not battery commander,” Craig intoned miserably.
“Okay,” I replied, a bit depressed and stung by the change, especially in light of the fact that I’d been burying my Army lieutenant brother. “So, who and where’s the commanding officer?” I asked.
“It’s me,” Jackman replied, this time looking up to meet my eyes. “But you can be the real commanding officer,” Craig said in rush, coming to his feet and smiling fully and sincerely. “You can have my office. Only you know how to do that stupid daily report. You never had one kickback before you left but since you’ve been gone the thing’s never made it a single day without mistakes, and the Top keeps blaming me.”
I understood Craig’s quandary and his lack of care for Marine Corps procedure and discipline back home. He too had had a really bad tour in the Nam. The First Sergeant, however, was quick and experienced enough to be able to ‘play’ Craig in a way he couldn’t play me.
Craig and I turned the battery upside down as both of us threw ourselves into fighting back from what we’d become in country. The battery began to gleam, the rocks out front all repainted, the walk refinished, the storage area reorganized, prioritized, and accounted for. We saw nothing of the command structure or any of the officers at battalion, and the experience reminded me of what had happened in the valley.
After two weeks I was called to the command post to report in to Stewart, which I did, only to find him not there. My fitness report was handed to me. I sat down, read it, and then laughed out loud, surprising the major’s staff. I had gone from being the number one officer in the battalion, first out of 13, to the 23rd. I was required to sign the fitness report, as it was so bad. Instead of signing and leaving, however, I asked one young clerk for a big envelope. I put the fitness report inside and then addressed the envelope to the division commanding officer, General Dwyer, the same man who’d ordered me to my death in the A Shau Valley, and the same man who’d decorated me several times after I came back.
Craig and I worked away on the battery and waited. It took three days for the division to reach out to me. A staff car showed up at nine a.m. on a Wednesday morning and a Colonel stepped out, looking around like he’d never been to our part of the base before. Craig and I went out to greet him. We saluted, and he crisply returned the salute and then smiled.
“This place looks pretty damned great,” he observed.
“Thank you, sir,” Craig shot back. “I’m the C.O. but he’s the one who really makes the place jump.” Craig pointed at me.
“I’ve heard,” the Colonel replied. “I’ve heard you hold some sort of record for the most daily reports without error, but let’s go to your office about another matter.”
We walked into the office and everyone came to their feet.
“Stand at ease,” the Colonel ordered, and then headed for Craig’s corner office. I looked at Craig, not knowing what to expect, but all he did was smile and lead the way, following the Colonel.
Without comment, the Colonel took Craig’s seat, or at least the one I’d been occupying in Craig’s stead.
“This fitness report,” he said, leaning back in the chair. “This won’t work. You being in this battalion, that won’t work either. You have six months left in the Corps, probably, as they are holding a medical board that I can’t fathom you might pass. The general is solving this problem but only with your agreement. Forget about the fitness report, as it disappears. Forget about the battalion as you get transferred to the First Civil Affairs Group, another place that might benefit from your ability with the daily reports since they’re pretty terrible submitting them too. That outfit is commanded by a colonel serving out his last year and nothing much happens in Civil Affairs. What do you think?”
“He’ll take the deal if I get to go too, sir,” Jackman said from behind me.
The Colonel frowned. I stared into his friendly but also very intelligent eyes. I was waiting for him to ask me if the deal was what I wanted, regardless of Craig’s out-of-place and idiotic comment, but the Colonel didn’t reply.
“Okay,” he finally said, getting up from the chair. “I’ll have orders over here for both of you in the next few hours. It’d be best if you didn’t see the major or any of the other staff officers before your move.”
“That’s it, sir?” I said, rising to my feet.
“Oh, there’s one other odd thing,” the Colonel said, stopping in front of me. “You’re to attend RPS school next week.”
I just looked at him, dumbfounded.
“That’s the registered publications school,” he said, “so you can move from secret to top-secret clearance,” the Colonel stopped talking for a few seconds, the frown having returned to his facial features. “You’re being processed out, and if you aren’t you’re at the end of your three-year commitment. I presume you would exercise that discharge if the board doesn’t toss you out?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, my head spinning. Top secret was a rare classification unless there was some need for the designation.
“So why would Washington require you to attend RPS training if you’re getting out?”
Neither Craig nor I answered his question.
“The general sends his condolences about your brother,” the Colonel finally said, his tone light and diffident, as if his work was done in resolving the matter between Major Stewart and me, and my brother’s death was just a part of Marine Corps life.
The Colonel left, the battery staff all sitting back down after rising once again. Craig and I sat in his “my” office.
“RPS school, what the hell is that?” I asked.
“Undoubtedly it’s a school that had nine students but had to have ten for funding or some other Marine Corps bit of chicanery,” Craig said, before openly laughing. “And I’m going over to Civil Affairs instead of this shithole battalion crap, and you have to do the daily reports.”
“That was tacky as hell, what you pulled on the Colonel,” I said, not adding that he’d pulled it off on me too.
“He needed a deal, so I gave him one,” Craig replied. “You just don’t get it.
You’re a real live wounded hero and that bad fitness report, plus your brother’s recent passing in the line of duty, was about to echo through more than the division if it got out. This whole thing with you and Stewart had to be buried and they probably wanted to make sure that you were really getting out of the Corps too. There’s no place in the military for what you and I have become.”
“What have we become?” I asked, mystified as to what Jackman might say.
“We’re going someplace tonight,” Craig replied. “I’ll show you since you won’t believe me if I just tell you. You’ve been way down and you’ve got to pull yourself back up. For letting me come with you to the First Civil Affairs outfit I’ll buy.”
“Buy what?” I replied. “I don’t even drink.”
“You won’t be taking anything in with your mouth,” Jackman said. “You’ll be taking it in with your mind.”
Great read, Sir.
The saga of your roller coaster ride in the Marine Corp continues.
When you wrote of the racial trouble/riots that you might have to deal with as OOD, I envisioned if there WAS trouble, you would probably just go in and light up the place with your 45–and I grinned from ear to ear when you related that that is exactly what you did.
I am sure having to write about your brother’s death and funeral was a bittersweet part for you to do.
Others commented that they thought this was your very best chapter, and it certainly was a doozy. If not the best, certainly near the top!
To double my reading pleasure, I actually went back and re-read this chapter. Can’t wait until you get the next episode up to see what you have gotten yourself into next…
Where is Jackman going to take you?
What IS RPS school?
Might your next CO be friend or foe (new or old)?
Thanks for sharing your captivating story.
Wishing you the best, Jim.
Chapter XXVII should be published 11-19
Your questions might be answered, Walter.
Thanks for your support. Share this story with friends.
Thanks for the excellent read. I was at Pendleton 68-69, Camp Horno. No race issues in my unit, or during liberty in San Diego and Los Angeles. Hung out with my Black Panther and Brown Beret brothers at the NCO club. We knew what was going on outside base, but kept our brotherhood in tact. Met my wife at the NCO Club,1968, and we’re still married.
Really enjoy your stories and their progress. When you come to Nor Cal let me know. We can have dinner and relax over some innocuous conversation.
The only other racial strife I saw at Pendleton was in sitting on several court boards of judging officers. It seemed to me that almost all the charges proferred
were against black Marines. Finally, they would not pick me to serve anymore because I would not find any Marine coming back from the Nam guilty of anything.
Semper fi, and thanks for your comments about your own services.
I was at ITR in early ’64 right after boot camp, then again in early ’66 prior to deploying as they tried to teach us what to look for in country , booby traps,etc., as the “instructors” of various ranks had been there. Never really liked Pendelton but it was close to home at the time. Do not recall any racial strife in either “visit” there.
However after about 10 months in country I did notice an uptick in that issue, probably because alot of the FNGs had encountered it Stateside before enjoying the land of Charlie.
Outstanding chapter James, but OMG I have tears in my eyes from laughing at how you handled being the OOD that night !!! 🙂 Peace and quiet followed throughout the area !!
Made it through last week with some help from my friends, pray you did as well.
Please keep on sharing, I and I believe many others look forward to it.
The relatively few occasions where I resorted to violence occurred mostly when I was just back from and out of the hospital, thank God.
The times back then were less ‘accountable’ and less observed, not to mention less draconian in punishment. Thanks for your comments about
your own service and time.
Also your compliments. Much appreciated.
apparently your style of “crazy” was much more common than you realize, brother! I came home after 18 months and had a hell of a time getting my “stuff” together for decades. I was army and never wounded other than tiny pieces of shrapnel that weren’t worth reporting. god bless you sir!! you help the rest of us wackos get on with our lives
Thanks Guy for the compliment. I can’t recall ever seeing shrap damage too small to be worth reporting! Classic cool vet shit and I doff my hat to you.
Not that I had much choice. Like we knew much about all that at the time anyway. Small injuries incapable of being reported at the time don’t make it these days at the VA.
Thanks for the comment and telling a bit of your own background.
A fitting end to the first book in the Cowardly Lion series but somehow I get that uneasy feeling that a horsefly is about to land in your pie before it’s all over ? Things just never go smoothly for you do they ?
Well, Chuck, you must define ‘smoothly’ and no matter how you define it for that time, place and situation, it’s going to be messy.
Thanks for the comment and for being here through the whole odyssey.
Semper fi, my friend,
When you blasted the ceiling with the .45 I couldn’t help it with a big shit eating grin!
I never though much about the likely damage until much later. I wonder now how they
internalized that and simply moved on. Today, the analytics and followup reports would be endless.
Slight miss. Corps instead of Crops, unless I’m to young to catch the meaning.
“This fitness report,” he said, leaning back in the chair. “This won’t work. You being in this battalion, that won’t work either. You have six months left in the Crops, probably, as they are holding a medical board that I can’t fathom you might pass.
Forgot to paste.
Thanks Michael, I got the correction worked in…thanks to men like you writing in here to help me.
Nah, it was a simple mistake in typing, and hard to catch on re-rereading. Thanks for the help.
Another excellent chapter LT.
If I may be so bold as to identify a typo. In the section where the Colonel is in Craig’s office talking about the fitness report, “You have six months left in the Corps.” Corps is misspelled as “Crops” That’s probably why it escaped your spell check.
Yes, that blew right by spellcheck and me, of course. Thanks for the help and fixed now.
Another excellent chapter LT.
If I may be so bold as to identify a typo. In the section where the Colonel is in Craig’s office talking about the fitness report, “You have six months left in the Corps.” Corps is misspelled as “Crops” That’s probably why it escaped your spell check.
Thanks for the compliment William and for the correction, which I fixed now thanks to people like you.
Fantastic chapter LT! Your conduct to break up the race riot. Classic! Wish I had thought of that! Se per fi Sir, and Happy Thanksgiving!
In today’s world I’d be in jail, or worse. I had a hard time coming home and letting go of those tools that has stood me so well.
How can one ever go to bed again and not feel the warm, but cold, comfort of that Cold .45 under the pillow?
I’m glad you’re back up to snuff it seems. Aging is not for sissies. Once again thank you for an engaging read.
Thanks Tim, for the great compliment and for writing on this site at all. Means a ton to me
as I persevere now and finishing the last chapter and moving into those strange Nixonian times.
Thank you Sir, for continuing to help us understand ..
Chrly, that’s what I so hope I am doing with this chain of never-ending (seemingly) stories about what happened back in those days
and nights. Thanks for the thanks.
Thank you. I did not realize how much I missed your story and writing style, very glad to read this chapter and looking forward to the book. I always buy three copies, one for me and one for each son-in-law. Is there a plan yet to preorder?
Yes, order now from me at 507 Broad Street in Lake Geneva, WI 53147 and you will get one of the first copies of the book.
In October of 1968 after returning from Vietnam, I was assigned to Ft Belvior. A military plane had crashed across the river from Davison Army Airfield at Ft Belvior, with no survivors. I had put that out of my memory until I read about your brother. I saw the remains of that aircraft.
I went to the crash site but they would not let me close. I went to the morgue and they showed me my brother’s class graduation ring. It was rushed in half. They showed me a quarter, bent in half and said that I would be better off not viewing the remains. I followed their advice.
Thanks most sincerely for you comment and being there. Semper fi,
Hi, I would like to order my book today. How do get the payment to you?
Thank you, Craig Franklin
Thanks Craig. You can send the payment to PayPal (email@example.com email address for payment once you’re on PayPal) or you can
send a check to me at 507 Broad Street, Lake Geneva, WI, 53147. My phone is 2625815300 if you need to reach me.
Just read the chapter. I was never a Marine but I was in combat in Vietnam as a Helicopter gunner. Then again in Panama in 89 as an AC130 gunner and yet again in Desert Storm. However in Vietnam, Bien Hoa 1969 I was injured. Not wounded, injured. I was leaving the Airman’s Club and walked right into a group of black airmen. I did not get far as someone took umbrage with my color. A fist came from my right rear and downward. It broke my jaw in two spots and cracked it in another. The next day I was in hospital at Long Binh. I was in a ward with wounded army. I saw the horrors of men broken and trying to rebuild. Soon I was sent to the PI, Clark AB for 2 months to recover, then back to Bien Hoa. At Clark I saw no racial strife as had happened at Bien Hoa. The Bien Hoa experience taught me that logic makes no connection to reality. I had never had a problem with blacks, and none since. But the pot boiled over and I was one of the recipients of the hot water.
Jesus Christ! Man o man, did you go through the strangest of grinders and life experience. There was so little of rationality that went on in that situation. I am sorry you were so needlessly hurt.
I was at least shot in combat, which mattered not one whit back then. Now, as an aging vet I can take some comfort in that, but also laugh it. We went through levels, circles and degrees of hell, and all of us cam out of it,
those living, as brother. Thank you brother… for you story here and you compliment in writing it.
Jim, as I was reading your episode at the Barack’s remembered the comment we would make in Vietnam. What are going to do send us to Vietnam? You got there attention without every speaking a word. Their appears to be a dark cloud that is following you.
Yes, there was indeed a dark cloud and I was never sure whether I was building and causing it to flow with and over me
or that it was brought there by other forces. Thanks for pointing that out.
Another great chapter. Again, sorry for the loss of your brother. Hopefully, the major got a good ass chewing at least, but somehow I doubt it happened. That could be the reason you were told to stay away from him.
From the 1st chapter of 30 DAYS it is understood seeing some of your “sleeping dragons” awaken. Often we can fight our deamons during the day but when they come at night it is much more difficult. It took a couple years before my wife of 51 years came to grips with me getting up in the middle of the night, drinking coffee and smoking before going into another room. She still doesn’t understand why, just that it is best.
I’m guessing my paperback copies of the 1st and 2nd 30 Days are not coming back. Also, if there is a hardback of the 3rd 30 I need that as well.
SEnd me an email with your address and I will send the copies out to you just as soon as I get the email. I had some health issues and the list of people ordering got screwed up.
Semper fi, and thanks ever so much for the patience and waiting for me to get with the program!
Thank you, email sent!
Thanks JRW, most appreciated,
now I see why it was so had for you to write this chapter, God bless you James, keep writing, I understand my brother in law better now ( Marines 67-68 Viet nam wounded twice ) I use to not like him, but now I see why he is like he is
The immensity of losing my brother, right then, at that point, is almost beyond describing.
I never again saw him in my vision of my Marines lost. I liken that Band of Brothers show where they are all at the church and
the list of who made it and who didn’t creates the men and them dissolves them as they fade into death. I added my brother to my ‘brotherhood of the lost’
but it never fully worked that way. Just how much emotional pain are we supposed to be able to endure?
and thanks for that incisive comment.
James, I have read every word and every line from the beginning and I have a feeling you could write for the next five years and not tell the complete story of things that happened to you in the early years. So much for one man..Good bless..
Thanks for writing and also for the compliment inherent in your effort. Lots of trials and tribulations, true, but those were vitally developmental times and it was interesting and dangerous to live through them.
As a DUSTOFF medic I consider myself lucky that I stumbled onto this story of yours. I doubt that there’s any verbal arguments that can compete with the 45 Colt. I carried one until the idiots making decisions for us unlucky bastards that it would be better for us to have a damn 38 revolver. Not near as comforting. I have appreciated every chapter and will sadly miss reading them. 🇺🇸😎🚁
.45 Colt. Close range, right there and always read to go. Like a mini version of the wondrous Thompson, which was too big and heavy for an officer to carry into combat.
thanks for the interesting and accurate note.
Damn it LT you just can’t catch a break and yet at the same time you get the breaks when you need them. Good chapter. I never saw the race war in Viet Nam. Our unit was so small and tight any race problems would have been squashed immediately! When I got to 1st Med I still never saw any race problems. Glad I missed that. Again good chapter and glad you are back. I would think writing this would awaken many sleeping dragons but then again talking about them is how we get rid of them. I hope you had a good USMC Birthday and will have a good Thanksgiving.
The breaks will come, as waves in a surf set come, but one must sit on one’s proverbial ‘board and wait for them.
Wiat and read on…as things do indeed change, and never forget that God fave me Mary and Julie to hold me together.
Welcome back Sir and thank you for another awesome chapter.
thanks for the great compliment Paul.
“Sleeping dragons,” how one has to be a part of that continuiing odyssey of life to know to use it.
The 1911 magazine holds 7 rounds and one in the pipe. when you said you fired all 6 rounds did you not have a full magazine?
Great writing sir!
USAF 360 TEWS, Tan Son Nhut AB RVSN ’72
I always loaded five in the magazine and one in the chamber, kept on safe, with hammer back.
Ihe Cold, factory, with factory ammunition, has a tendency not to feed the next round if six are loaded into the
magazine. An armorer can fix that by polishing the magazine tang but there’s no experts out there in the field.
Just stick to the habit, as if I need more than six rounds I’m not nearly as good as I think and thought I am.
thanks for the outstanding compliment, all in one word!
Thank you James🇺🇸
You are most welcome Mike, and I hope you like the next segment as much!
Thank you LT. Your writing is helping so many of us face demons we’ve kept buried for a long time. Each chapter helps us resolve what we have not had to understand about ourselves for years. ” The grief seemed magnified by all the Marines I’d lost just such a short time ago, making their appearance at the very edges of my consciousness.
I was seeing things, I knew, from a brutal and extended loss of sleep, but the Marines were there nevertheless. I could feel what I didn’t actually see.” Do any of us handle death as if we didn’t have the experiences that molded us during our time ‘in country’?
Thanks so much
Thanks for reflecting on that vitally deep and meaningful refrain that I wrote but pass over, until seeing you illustrate it, that I did indeed write.
Thanks for the comment and the compliment in the writing.
I knew by being patient you’d write a good chapter. I was CO of Hdqts 1/10 for 11 months. It took almost 12 months to be replaced by a Vietnam Captain. That must have been some sort of record in 1974. Being CO didn’t get me out of serving as OOD, but Camp Lejeune was very quite compared to Pendleton. Happy belated 246th Birthday!!!
Yes, Pendleton was accepting all the guys coming home from Vietnam at that time.
They were a mess and the Marines who had not gone did not comprehend what they were
dealing with. I was on seven court martial cases and would not vote to find guilty any
Vietnam vets on drugs or any of that. I got cashiered finally, for being a ‘lily white liberal,’ when
I was no such thing then. I am now, though.
Well, today is the 14th. I don’t suppose there is any way we can watch your speech live or taped, is there?
The 14th of what? I suppose that I could give a speech, but I hadn’t thought about that. I speak next at Columbia University in New York in March’and then West
Point in the next month. I have nothing else going, but I guess maybe I should.
And let me know what you think…
Glad to have you back. Great chapter.