Friday, November 22, 2013

22 NOV 13

One day in Dallas . . .

Got to remembering today.

I'm 67 years old.
Now nearer to the end than to the beginning of all things "Me."
Been thinking about politics and presidents.

Had these thoughts on things presidential:

The first president I can remember is Eisenhower.
I liked him because he reminded me of my grandfather.
I was 10.

Then came Kennedy . . . 
He became a sorta teen-idol figure.
I loved his look and sense of style.
Plus, he drove PT Boats in the war.

Lyndon Johnson . . .
I alternately hated or pitied him.
Hated his micro-management of the war in Vietnam.
Pitied his obvious pain at the American troop losses
that ensued.

Nixon . . .
Couldn't get a read on him.
He wasn't called, "Tricky Dick" for naught.
(Although I did write a college paper in 1974, defending
him, for a Political Science class I took via USAFI.)

Gerald Ford . . .
A caretaker ...
a nice guy who was just "there."

Carter . . . 
An embarrassment to all of us ex-patriots living in Berlin.
Thought his handling of the Iranian Hostage Crisis abysmal.

Ronald Reagan . . . 
Loved how he rebuilt the military to counter Soviet threats.
(But then, I'm a bit biased on the subject.)
Don't really know how his "Trickle Down" theory of economics
worked ... whether it did what he claimed or not. All I know
is that the country seemed to thrive, economically.

George the First . . .
A solid bureaucrat.
Well versed in the world of international derring do.
Plus, he was another WWII vet, one who'd flown combat
missions and had once been shot down.

Clinton . . .
A flim-flam man who made good.
The first president of my own generation
and he managed to avoid military service
by staying in college. (At least he was smart.)

George the Second . . .
A good man, trying hard
but not always getting it right.
Another one who avoided service in Vietnam
but at least he flew jets for the Air Guard.
(And how many thousands of my fellow citizens
joined the Guard for the exact same reason?)

Barack Obama . . .
An empty suit, not near as smart as
he thinks himself to be.
Still ... duly elected ... twice!

As for 2016 ...
dunno for sure.
It could very well be Clinton v Christie.

All I know for sure is that after 67 of my years,
The Republic still stands.

Being career military ... both in and out of uniform,
I learned to keep my presidential political thoughts to myself.

(Plus, I once worked with a soldier who's last prior duty station had been
the White House. Part of his duties required him to sweep the briefing
room for bugs prior to the president's morning briefing. At the front
of the room was a large flip-chart, with a black cover stenciled with
"PRESIDENT'S EYES ONLY." On his last duty day, he peeked under the
cover at the top briefing sheet. He told us that after reading what the
man has to deal with before breakfast, daily, he'd never criticize another
sitting president again.)

I've always tried to emulate him in that.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

09 NOV 13

Veterans Day Approaches . . .

Played around in Photoshop and came up with this
for a holiday facebook Timeline Cover photo:

Touched up another photo from Vietnam also:


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

06 NOV 13

Words . . .
We communicate with words.
The written word may have a lasting impression because of it's very nature but the spoken word, too, has a very strong impact ...
especially when delivered by a master orator.
Witness this video: "Remember How We Forgot"

                                        Poet, Shane Koyczan and Violinist, Hannah Epperson

Friday, November 1, 2013

01 NOV 13

A War Story ...

8th RRFS, Phu Bai, RVN
In 1967, we acquired a new room mate,
one Al Gray. He was from Alaska ... more
to the point, he was from the Aleutian Island
of Unalaska, a crabbing center. His father
worked in a cannery there and began sending
cases of premium crab meat to Al every month.
What to do? Make crab salad of course!

Al wrote and asked his father to include jars of mayo
with the crab ... soon, we were making up batches of
crab salad. Bread! We needed bread. Not just any
bread but a sub-sandwich type of bread.
In my travels to and from the airport, I'd spied a local
kiosk that sold bake goods.
I visited there ... became, immediately, entranced by the
kiosk owner ... a beautiful French/Vietnamese woman
named Mai (?). She was older than me by 20 years
but still jaw-dropping beautiful (Think Nancy Kwan).
She spoke four or five languages, English being one, and was
happy for the business. I made an arrangement to buy a dozen
baguettes of bread from her once a month.

Once a month, we'd have a crab salad party in the room and invite
anybody who'd supply the beer. My boss, CWO Slusser, attended
a couple of times. As for Mai ... I had a big crush on her and we had
many a chat together. She told me that she was married to a French
soldier and was waiting for him to return and take her back to France.

Came Tet '68.
Lost track of most all of our LN's for about a month or so.
Was restricted to the confines of the 8th for the same amount of time.
Our LN's began drifting back ... telling tales of terror and death in the
surrounding villages. A mass grave, containing 3000 bodies, was
uncovered on the outskirts of Hue City.

Finally, local kiosks began reopening.
Business slowly began returning to normal.
Mai's kiosk remained closed. She never reappeared.
I heard rumors ... stories told by the locals, that she was executed for
being too friendly with the Americans.
Could never confirm this.
Have always felt guilt at the thought that our friendship may have been
a cause of her death.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

22 SEP 13

A PCS Story
"... and miles to go"

July 1971, returning from Japan ...
I was met at Travis AFB by friend, and former 14th Field Station comrade, ex-33B Bob Broner, who lived in Oakland. He'd ETS'd about three months earlier. We'd planned this meet-up because I had to get to the Oakland Army Terminal to pick up the Pontiac I'd shipped home. Bob had offered a room for the night and to drive me down to the terminal. We passed the night and picked up the car the next day. I departed almost immediately after, intent on making Reno by nightfall. Arrived in Reno and found a motel ... ate, showered, slept. Next morning I went looking for a bank. I'd converted all my cash to an  American Express Bank cashier's check and now needed to cash it in to pay for the road trip home to New Jersey. (Think it was for $400)
               My 1968 Pontiac LeMans, bought from my trick chief at the 14th, Milt Chambers

Visited several banks and not one would cash my check unless I had an account with them. What to do? Walking down a street, I'd passed an army recruiting office. I went in and introduced myself, explaining my problem. After showing copies of my orders, a recruiter volunteered to take me to his bank and vouch for me. This done, I thanked him and with money in my pocket was soon on my way. ( Had gotten a parking ticket for letting the meter run out. The car still bore the plates issued in Japan. They were valid for 30 days after return to CONUS. The Parking Officer had tried to copy the Japanese glyph from my license plate that identified Fukuoka Prefecture ... to no avail. He then just wrote, "Foreign" in the ID space. The ticket itself was in the form of an envelope and the instructions informed me to place two dollars in the envelope, seal it, then drop it in any mailbox. I was tempted to ignore it all but then figured that two bucks wouldn't break me ... and I was still a long way from home. No sense in pissing off the municipality.)

Interstate 80 East ... leaving town, began passing a long line of hitchers, most of whom held signs telling where they wanted to go. At the very end of the line was a pair of guys holding a sign that read simply, "East Coast."  I stopped for them. Figured I could use the company. They presented a Yin/Yang in physical appearance ... one clean shaven with blond hair that was cut in the military style, the other was bearded and wore his dark hair long, down to his shoulders. They were bound for Massachusetts. I offered them a ride as far as the Jersey Turnpike. They accepted. They related their stories ... the blond fellow was just a young guy bored with college, bumming around the country. The dark-haired one was ex-army, a Vietnam vet who was "just looking" too. Before clearing town, we stopped at a diner to grab some chow. They would not serve the Vietnam vet because he looked like one of those "God Damned hippy types." We left. Found a small grocery and bought bread, peanut butter and jelly. That's what we ate for most of the rest of the trip.

Entered Utah ... and the Bonneville Salt Flats. The highway divided, with the west-bound lanes now about a quarter mile off to the left. Had been driving for hours by this time. The two-lane blacktop, with bright white salt on both sides of the roadway, began putting me to sleep with the monotony of the white center line coming towards me. Pulled into a rest area. PB&J for dinner. My two passengers pulled sleeping bags from their backpacks and stretched out on the ground. I crawled into the back seat and fell immediately asleep. An early start the next day. Approaching Salt Lake City, the car began to bumpbumpbump. Stopped and checked it out. Was my rear tires. The tread had begun to separate from the tire body. (I'm guessing from the heat.) Found a Sears-Roebuck. Bought 4 new radial tires ... cost me $200.

Continued East.

Now began a very long stretch of the trip. The pull of home was strong. Pushed the car hard ... 90 mph or better. That Slant-Six engine was humming! (This was long before 55 was the law.) Across  Wyoming, then Nebraska ... through Omaha and Des Moines ... places I'd only read about in geography books. Late afternoon and the blonde fellow reckoned that we might be able to spend the night with a cousin who lived in Rock Island, Illinois. We cut south on I-280, crossed the Mississippi and entered Rock Island from the south. Found the cousin's house. We knocked and were warmly welcomed, told to go and clean up while the family would throw together a meal for supper.

-To be continued

Friday, September 20, 2013

20 SEP 13

back at the Property Book Office ...

 I arrived at FSB in March 1973.
 Since my TS clearance hadn't yet been re-approved,
 I was put to work at the Site 3 Property Book Office.
 There was a warrant officer as OIC (can't remember
 his name), an E-6 NCOIC (can't remember his name
 either) and two enlisted warehousemen/drivers.
 I do remember their names ...
 Ray Pike and Paul Cole.
 On a summer day that year, with nothing much going on,
 we three decided to paint parking lines on the asphalt in front
 of the loading dock. This was to make it easier to back a truck
 into the space in front of the loading doors. We also marked out
 reserved parking spots for the OIC and NCOIC, loading spots
 for the two trucks and an X-striped no-parking area.
 I posted this picture because those yellow paint lines can
 still be seen here ... some 40 years later.
 (On a slow Friday afternoon, we'd wash the trucks and then
 soak up some sun, sitting in folding chairs to the right of the
 loading door while we awaited the end of the duty week.
 There was no overhang back then and the late afternoon sun
 shone directly onto the loading dock.)
 (Photo shamelessly borrowed from Thomas Kemnitz).

Things remembered ... Ray Pike was memorable for driving from
Berlin to Spain (and maybe Morocco) and back in a bright red Mini-Cooper.
(This was back when they were tiny little cars with 12" wheels.)

I remember, also, when Paul Cole acted as the roadie for my band, "Transom," when we played our one and only downtown gig at Club Sloopy ... October 1973.

               Transom, on stage at Club Sloopy. (Paul Cole, seated lower left.)       

Link to a recording of "Transom" performing at the Berlin Funkaustellung - September,1973:


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

11 SEP 13


A day to remember
A day to reflect

What I wrote two years ago:

My perceptions haven't changed.


Friday, August 30, 2013

30 AUG 13

Idle hands ...

Been ailing ...
digestive problems.

Spent today at home napping off and on.

Began perusing facebook and found an
interesting B&W photo of Janis Joplin.

Liked the composition, the naturalness of her pose.
Decided to tweak it some, using Photoshop.
Here's the final product:


Thursday, August 22, 2013

22 AUG 13

Confronting ...

Came upon this posting on facebook today:

Applaud her courage ...
but am in absolute awe of her great good luck.
The flake with the AK could, just as easily,
have pulled the trigger on her.
It would have been,"Goodbye, Antoinette. RIP."

Am not saying that she was wrong.
She used the only weapon at her disposal,
... and it worked!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

03 AUG 13

Musicians ...

Some I've gigged with, while others I'm only acquainted with.
All are talented.

These are the portraits I've managed to produce
via Photoshop and other graphic manipulation software:
(Click on picture to enlarge.)

                                    Bill McCasland - Bass

                                  Dwight Immel - Drums

                                       Ed Heinzinger - Drums

Gus Weiland - Guitar

Jack Souligny - Drums

Missy Alexander -Singer/Songwriter

Rich Smith - Bass

Tom Taylor - Drums

Joe Welsh - Drums

Bill Petkanas - Guitar/Pedal Steel

Rob LaSalle - Bass 

Naomi Kennedy - Vocalist

Joe Vasaturo (Joey Vee) - Singer/Songwriter

Cosmo Policriti - Tenor Sax

Chris Ellis - Singer/Songwriter

Chuck Cundari - Guitar/Vocals

Rusty Beckett - Drums

Nancy Janutolo - Drums

Felicia Michael & Bob Brophy - The Blue Yodels

Ebylee Davis - Blues Singer

 Jo-Ann Jodi Morrison - Trombone  (RIP)

Jamie Ratzken - Sax

Tom Impola - Guitar

Tom Higgens - Guitar

Gregory Monacelli - Guitar/Vocals

John Ciulla - Drums

Al Burgasser & Susanna Marker - Lumos

Dov Dixler - Keyboard

Shane Bordeau - Bass

Kim Lanier - Drums

Andrew Gauzza - Drums

Mike Smith - Flute/Keys


Monday, June 24, 2013

24 JUN 13

Kindred Spirits ...

Though our conflicts were separated by nearly 40 years time,
we were comrades in arms . . .
both of us holding the 98C MOS designation.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

22 JUN 13


My television lied to me ...
that is, while I was growing up in the '60s.
And ... I'm sure it lies to me today too.
What got me thinking was an episode
of "The Rifleman" I just watched on ME-TV.
In it, the bad guy (Lee Van Cleef) rides
into town and takes up residence in the
town saloon.
He's there to kill the marshal
but he wants to spook him first.
His character spends two days and nights
sitting in the saloon drinking whiskey and
staring at the marshal's office.
That's a big lie!
Two days of ingesting nothing but whiskey
would addle the brain and make any kind
of a confrontation a sure failure.
He'd be stumbling-down drunk.
This was typical for depicting tough-guy drinking
habits back in the day.
Fooled all us kids growing up into thinking that
TV actions were how real life was.


PS:  Never had seen Lee Van Cleef as a blonde before.
Liked him better with dark hair.

Another lie told ... If this character, who's come to kill the
marshal, just got out of prison ... where did he get the money
to buy two pistols, a rifle, a saddle, tack, a horse ...
and then have money left over to buy whiskey.
All those things cost a big bit of change back then. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

28 MAY 13

A Feminine Hand ...

Came upon this posting on facebook.
It's an elegy to a fallen air force officer,
a woman.
A nice piece of writing ...
definitely a feminine hand.

And whose hands first painted
this pool blue,
before a walled camp sprouted stacks
of metal shipping-container barracks
among the porches and grape vines
of Kabul's well-to-do,
And who imagined here
was where you would feed the
oblivious goldfish one
final time
with a smile as you walked past

And is this the very same bottle of add zest
Heinz 57 sauce
you seasoned your grilled chicken with
under this sudden-colored umbrella,
and where now are the leaves 
that floated in the pool then,
having lived their short lives
to fall from the branches and dance
with the suds and shadows till
they were scooped out to curl
into the forgottenness of feeding
other growing things,
pulling them to life from the soil where
their delicate veins became running trails
for the ants until disintegration?

Your going was less gentle than theirs -
but who knows
what the seed of your gift
will grow?

For Roslyn Schulte (1984-2009)

(This was posted by one Farzana Marie on facebook.
Don't know if she was the author.) 

                                R.I.P. Lieutenant Schulte


Monday, May 27, 2013

27 MAY 13

Memorial Day Again ...

An Unknown Soldier
 Back when I was a boy, a favorite game to play
 was "Army." We'd all gather our personal armory
 of cap guns and "dirt bombs," then we'd toss
 a coin to see which side we'd be on ...
 Heads - Allies, Tails - Axis.
 Everyone wanted to be an Ally ... cause the Axis
 not only lost the real war but were evil personified.
 (The "real war," being WWII.)
 We wore whatever bits of child uniforms that were sold
 in the toy stores ... cheap cotton replicas of pistol belts,
 pouches, packs ... plastic helmets. We'd even go so far
 as burning cork to use to blacken our faces ...
 just as the commandos in the movies did.
 One day, when I was 11 or 12, my Dad took me with him to
 Philadelphia on a Saturday afternoon. Walking to a business
 appointment, we passed an Amy/Navy Surplus store. The first
 I'd ever seen. After the appointment we stopped in the store.
 I was amazed! Never had I seen such an abundance of military
 uniforms and hardware. Dad wandered around while I was focused
 on the helmet liner bin. My thinking was that if I could get
 my hands on a real U.S. Army helmet liner (They just looked so
 keen!) I'd never have to be a German or a Jap again. I mean,
 the helmet liner looked just like the distinctive American
 helmet. No way could I ever be forced to play at being the
 enemy again. My father came up behind me just as I picked out
 a liner with two holes punched through it ... front to rear.
 I held it out to him and said, "Hey Dad, look at this. Somebody
 got shot in the head, neat! He took the liner from me, stared
 at it for a moment, then placed it on a shelf high up, out of
 the way. His face wore a mask of sadness ... almost grim.
 He picked out an undamaged helmet liner, took my arm and we went
 to the register to pay. It took me a good many years to figure
 out why he reacted the way he did that afternoon. Now I know.
 Enjoy the holiday but ...
 don't forget the reason for it.

Welcome Home All


Friday, April 19, 2013

19 APR 13

Quotes ...

On a very early morning, sitting in my kitchen ... yawning, yet wide awake.
Thought to record some of my favorite quotes from years past.

1.)   "The opposite of resonance is amplification.
A choir is the unified expression of voices
resonating with each other; a loudspeaker
is the amplification of a single voice, excluding
all others. A bell resonates, a cannon amplifies.
We listen to the bell, we are silenced by the
(James P. Carse - from Finite and Infinite Games)



Beginning at 0300:
The other side of the day ...
Of a sudden, the Boston bombers have been identified,
confronted and violence has ensued.
The pair are brothers. One is 26, the other 19.
They came here from the Chechnya region of Russia.
They've been in the country for the past 12 years.
They are Muslim. 
They seemed to have fit right in to their neighborhood.
As of right now, the older brother is dead, a police officer
is dead, a police officer is in the hospital, the younger brother 
is on the run and being hunted by most of the police in New England.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

16 APR 13 (2)

War Story ...
Of another kind.

Berlin in my memory ...
Boston on my mind ...

Years back, the mid '80s, we were at odds with Libya and the Red Army Faction. (That would be The Baader-Meinhoff Gang to the uninitiated.)
There were others too. It was the Cold War and the Soviets had a great deal of influence with societies who had no reason to love us.

After several bombings, in Berlin and elsewhere, we developed a strong sense of mistrust for all things unusual, out of place.

On this one normal weekday morning, my wife is leaving for work. I'm in the kitchen finishing my coffee. She leaves by the front door, then returns and informs me that there's a trash can on the sidewalk, directly in front of our front gate. I tell her to go on ... but to be sure not to touch the trash can ... that I'll be out shortly.

I walk outside, with my coffee in hand, inspect the can ... walk all around it. Our cars, with the distinctive American plates, had both been parked at the curb. My Beetle is still there. I form the opinion that if I were to build a bomb meant to kill a specific person, or persons, THIS is what I might come up with. It's a near perfect delivery vehicle. It's the official Berlin residential trash can, ubiquitous, made of a dark gray plastic, about 30 gal. in size, with a locking handle mechanism on it's top. The thing could be filled with C-4, then wired with a spring-activated contact switch set to go off if it were in any way disturbed ... then set directly in front of the local American's front garten gate ... begging to be picked up and moved.
A VC wet dream.

First, I called the Provost Marshall's Office. Reported on what I'd found. I was told that since it was so near to Tempelhof Central Airport,  it was a problem for the USAF Security Police.
Called the TCA Security Police ... was informed that since it was off base, it was a problem for the German Polizei.
Since my wife spoke excellent German, and mine was rudimentary, I telephoned her and had her call the local police to explain what we were dealing with.

I waited an hour and a half, guarding the trash can.
Finally! ... a green and white Volkswagen police van shows up, with two officers inside. They stop in the middle of the street, get out, walk over and asked me "Was ist los?" (What's going on?) I try explaining, with my basic German, until one cop gives me a disgusted look and walks over, picks up the can, sets it down on the curb. My heart about stops ... I fall flat onto the street behind the cops' van and stopped breathing. When nothing happens, I stand back up and give the cops a sheepish look. They seemed pissed ... but I don't much care. I KNEW what could have been ... knew that we would all be dead right now if I had been right. They seemed to have no concept of what it was that I'd been concerned about.

Bombs scared the crap out of me back then.
They still do today.



16 APR 13

War Story ...

Split personalities ...
people in the National Guard seemed
to all be afflicted with this malady.
I joined the Guard in 1990.
I chose the local battery of the
192nd Field Artillery ...
became an OJT 13B, cannon-cocker.

My very first drill week-end,
I stood on the drill floor in my brand new,
unfaded, BDU uniform looking about me.
What I saw was a very mixed bag of men,
some of whom I had to wonder at.
They seemed to be trying to provoke an
"Unfit For Military Duty" discharge.
What ran through my mind, actually,
was something a former First Sergeant
might have said:

"You're fucking up my formation!"
"Fall out!"
"Blizen birksen blusaflock"

Anyway ... that was my thinking for the first few
months of my enlistment.
Came my first trip to Annual Training and in the
field, my thoughts were changed.
One such "slacker" was our assist. gunner.
He was a walking laundry-bag ... always wrinkled.
On the gun ... he was Wyatt Earp.
He was fast and smooth, knew exactly what he was doing
and ... did I mention that he was fast. During one
FFE exercise, with the guns all firing as fast as they
could, I watched him, mesmerized by his repetitive
We were heavy artillery, firing the M-114,
155mm gun. The A/Gunner removed the firing lock,
opened the breech block, inspected the breech (for
burning residue), swapped primers in the firing lock,
inspected the breech again after the projectile and
propellant have been loaded, closed the breech block,
inserted the firing lock, attached the lanyard,
waited for the order to fire, pulled the lanyard ...
BOOM! ... a sudden, soft punch to the gut ...
then started the process all over again ... at top
speed. It was something to see ... and it changed
my opinion of all the rag-bag soldiers in the unit.

They didn't do this for the spit & polish army ...
they were in it for the "dirty-shirt soldier" army.
Indeed ... so was I. Loved field duty with the Guard.
Wet and cold, hot and dry ... crappy chow or MRE's ...
all was worth it when you recieved a "Go" rating at the
end of a field exercise.

                                          Breech end of the M-114 Howitzer


Sunday, April 14, 2013

14 APR 13

Drummers ...
Specifically female drummers.
I try to encourage my granddaughter, Grace Mei,
with any news or video of female drummers.

There's Viola Smith ... from back in the '40's ...
a contemporary of Krupa ...
and every bit as good, in my opinion.
She was kept from the limelight because she was a woman
... and at 100 years of age, she's still drumming!

                                                                 Viola today


Monday, April 8, 2013

08 APR 13

War Story ...
Thanksgiving 1966

         USASATC&S Fort Devens, MA
Was in casual status, awaiting class assignment.
Company C, the Holding Company ... everybody was a casual.
Thanksgiving approached.
We were given five-day passes for the holiday.
We were free at the end of the duty day, Tuesday.
(That would be 1600 ... 4 PM in civilian speak.)
Return was to be NLT 12 Midnight, on the Sunday following.
(We had "Cinderella Passes" back then.)

                            Main Gate, Fort Devens, MA (from Town of Ayer)

My permanent casual detail was Guard Duty.
It was a day on/day off schedule.
It was touted as an honor to serve in that platoon.
I bit ... took the bait when I arrived.
(My only excuse is that I was fresh out of Basic Training.)

The duty day was early to rise, morning chow,
afterwards, prepare for Guard Mount inspection ...
lunch, then dress.
Report for Guard Mount.
Receive your guard-post assignment.
Report to the guard's barracks.
Enter the rotation ...
usually two hours on guard, four hours off ...
until reveille was sounded.

Off-duty day was dedicated to personal needs and getting prepared
for Guard Mount. Hours spent spit-polishing boots, studying the
Soldier's Manual, going over the eleven General Orders until you
knew them backwards.

The actual guard duty wasn't bad ... during October.
But come November, it grew real cold at night in Massachusetts.
(We guarded such places as the commissary, the finance building,
the PX building, the ammo dump. We were issued M-1 Carbines
with three rounds of ball ammo. Do believe that those guarding the
ammo dump were issued 12 ga. pumps and three shells. There was,
also, a "Roving Patrol" who drove around the entire post all night,
keeping watch. This was the most sought after post ... usually
assigned to whoever made Supernumerary at Guard Mount on the day.)

The Thanksgiving break was a welcome one.
(One important detail ... it was also the week-end when the Army/Navy
Game was to be played in Philadelphia.)
I had some cash. Caught a ride to Boston's Logan Airport.
Eastern Airlines ran a shuttle flight that flew Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta (or maybe Miami??) ... then back again.
Cost for a ticket was $30 ... no reservations ... no frills.
The aircraft was a Boeing 727, used like a bus that flew.
Back then military personnel, in uniform, could fly stand-by for half
the price of a regular fare. My trip to Philadelphia cost me $15.
Had a great Thanksgiving. Saw family and friends ... ate myself sick
... told "war stories," from Basic, to everyone ... drank some beer.

Along came Sunday. Was driven to the airport late in the afternoon.
Walked up to the Eastern counter and asked about a shuttle flight
to Boston. EVERYTHING was booked solid. All the people who'd
come to Philly to see the Army/Navy game were leaving town too.
Every plane left fully loaded. What to do? My girlfriend volunteered
to drive me back ... but we had to hurry ... Cinderella passes, remember?
Went back to her house, packed quickly, departed. We drove but not
quickly enough ... arrived in the town of Ayer at around 0200.
Already late. Found a motel for her on the main drag, then reported in.
Signed the CQ log and found my bunk.

Later that day, the expected summons came.
The 1SG wanted to see me.
I explained what had happened.
He explained his position on discipline.
He told me that my planning had been effed up ...
to use this as a lesson.
He was going to punish me by removing me from the Guard Platoon and assigning me to permanent KP duty.
Groan ...
I was to move immediately.

The KP barracks were a half block up from the Guard's barracks.
Two buildings instead of just the one.
I was assigned to Company A's mess hall.
Duty day for first shift began at 0400.
Second shift came on at 1200.
That shift ran until work was done.
The shifts rotated.

When I reported to the mess sergeant, he asked what school I was
waiting for. When I told him 98C, he said that since it would be
a long wait for a security clearance before my school could begin, he
was going to take pity and assign me to an easy duty ...
Dining Room Orderly.
My job would be to sweep, mop, buff the dining room floor,
fill all the salt/pepper/sugar dispensers.
Keep the milk dispenser going.
Clean the serving line after the meal ...
to include shining all the copper piping contained therein.
Make sure that the silverware holder was always full.
Etc ...
It was a full, but not oppressive, routine.

I'd lucked out but didn't realize it.
Until ... this one December afternoon.
Outside it was snowing, windy and cold.
Inside I was sitting, looking through the
window and drinking hot coffee as I filled
the salt and pepper shakers.
It dawned on me that my former
platoon mates were lining up in the snow
for Guard Mount and would be spending
the night out in the weather, while I would be
sleeping in my warm bunk.

I, silently,  offered my thanks to the First Sergeant
and toasted him with my coffee.

"ASA!  All The Way!"



Friday, April 5, 2013

05 APR 13

War Story ...
Upon Leaving

(A word ... my English professor at WCSU would give me a failing grade were he to read this narrative.  I switch tense in the middle and do not compensate ... but since this is more a "stream-of-consciousness" piece, I forgo the editing.)

An observed fact:
Stay put for any length of time and you will accumulate "stuff."
I arrived in Vietnam with a duffle bag and a gym bag as my luggage.
Contained in both was everything that I thought I'd need to last
me through the year of deployment.

One year later, when leaving the 8th, I carried my duffle bag, my gym bag and a B-4 bag ... packed full. (The B-4 was a double-sided, foldable, suit case with a compartment for carrying a suit/uniform without wrinkling it much. It had a large shoulder-strap too.)

                                                      B-4 Bag

I departed Phu Bai on a USMC C-130.
Landed at Da Nang ... needed to transfer to a USAF bird for further transport to Saigon.
Trouble was ... the USAF occupied the other side of the air field.
I had to trek around the length of the runway, then back, to reach the air force terminal.
It was a hot day (Surprise!).
I was burdened with the three bags ... but managing ... sorta.
Along came a Marine Corps jeep, loaded with a USMC flight crew.
They allowed that even though I was naught but a Doggie, courtesy dictated that they offer me a ride ... but only if I could, first, sing the Marine Corps Hymn
... which I did,
... loudly!
I was hot and thirsty ... fast becoming tired and cranky.

The air force got me down to Saigon in one piece and I checked in with the 509th RR Group.
I was quartered in the Saint George Hotel.
Showered, shaved, changed into my khakis and went exploring.
Felt strange (not to mention unsettling) to be walking around in a war zone unarmed. Missed the heft of my M-14. Can't remember just how long my stay at the Saint George was ... couple of days, maybe. Then, it was off to Bien Hoa Air Base for another day of waiting before my TWA 707 "Freedom Bird" arrived.

                                                    Me, at Bien Hoa Air Base
On the day, waiting on the tarmac, watching the aircraft taxi up to us ... excitement building ... the plane stops, boarding stairs are emplaced ... doors open ... couple hundred dour-faced GIs, in jungle fatigues, deplane and file past us.
We just watch ... silently.
They stare at us blankly.

I feel sorry for them but am almost shaking with excitement,
wanting to board the aircraft immediately.

Seen through the cockpit windows, the pilot is white-haired.

We board.

Stewardesses are middle-aged, peppy, smiling ...
ours wearing a vest with a million unit pins on it.
She's made this Vietnam run many times.
I ask her about the old man who's flying the plane.
She gives me one of those "Idiot child?" looks
and replies that he's not old, just more experienced. 
"Now, please, take a seat."
I sit down and shut up.

Fully loaded, the plane sits immobile on the tarmac.
Thoughts of VC mortars run through my mind.
This white and red bird makes a fine and fat target.
What's the hold-up?
We're fueling.
It's a long way home.

Finally, we move ... taxi to the end of the runway, engines spooling up.

We start the take-off roll.

Over the PA system, which has been spewing elevator music,
comes the 5th Dimension song, "Up, Up And Away."

That jet engine roar fills the cabin.
Acceleration pushes us into our seatbacks.

I look out the window.


... becoming smaller, farther away,

... now distant,

... now gone.

Up ... up and away.

We are silent.

The stewardess suddenly yells,
"What's with you guys?" 
"You're going home!"
"Let's hear it!"

The cabin erupts with clapping, cheers and whistles.

We're going home . . .
Stateside bound . . .
"The World!"

"Fini Phu Bai."


All these years later, I hold no rancor for the NVA or the VC.
They were our enemies ... we were theirs.
We fought, no holds barred.
It was us who gave it up.
The only recollection that still rankles is of the Customs MPs at Bien Hoa. They unceremoniously dumped out my carefully packed baggage, rummaged through it ... and seemed to enjoy themselves at my expense. They confiscated my K-Bar knife. It had been my step-father's, carried by him through the battle of Okinawa and given to me for luck. When I explained this, the MPs just gave me that flat cop-stare and said that if it was stamped USMC it was government property, then turned and tossed it into a bin full of contraband.
An ignoble end for that sentiment and memory.

ca. 1968 - A photo depicting what boarding a "Freedom Bird" looked like.

My family picked me up at the Philadelphia Airport. Met my 5 month old daughter for the fist time. My mother had organized a "Christmas Party" at the house. Friends and family. Lots of talk, lots of laughter. I was mute, mostly. I was of age . . . and drank my weight in cold beer. Found myself out back, at the picnic table, shirtless and shoeless, wondering how my friends at the 8th were doing.
It was hot. It was muggy. It was New Jersey in June . . . and I didn't feel civilized.
The only one who seemed to know anything about how I felt was my step-father, Don, who'd been a marine and fought in the battle of Okinawa. He kept a weather-eye on me.
I was home.
I was not home.
I didn't know . . . anything
any more.

(Now, decades later, I've decided that what had to be "was.")