Happy Cinco De Mayo!
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the day I stepped off the Freedom Bird at Travis Air Force Base ...
... to be welcomed home by screaming hippies, shouting "Baby killer!".
I was going to go back and tell them I didn't kill any babies,
But the MP's that were escorting us past them, wouldn't allow me to go over to the fence. Hmm, I wonder why?
After 418 days in the land of the big bivouac[i], a ton of MP's escort those of us Sp-4 and below, from the tarmac to the front door of an EM club or some sort of bar. As I recall it was conveniently located near several forms of public transportation.
My first thought was, “What do we need MP’s for? Who is going to be stupid enough to attack a planeload of soldiers fresh back from the War?”
Later I realized they weren’t there for our protection, they were there to protect the hippies.
So then I go into the EM club, order a drink and I get carded ... I am 19.
“Are you kidding[ii] me?” I shouted. “I just got home from Vietnam, and I can’t have a [iii] drink?”
The poor bartender, who probably had to put up with the same thing several times a day ... every day ... was sympathetic ... but
“Hey, I understand man,” he stated, shrugging his shoulders. “Hell, I agree with you. But, there’s nothin’ I can do about it. I don’t want to get fired.”
So, several of us who were under 21 went back outside looking for a safe place to smoke a doob. The MP’s were gone by then, so that wasn’t too hard to find.
A military bus to the airport and a quick flight down to The City,[iv] a taxi to Union Square to feed the mind & a really freaky bus trip to Salinas to visit some graves that I never managed to find. I did find myself at my ex-fiancé’s house. Not sure why I went there ... perhaps to flash my wedding ring in her face. But she wasn’t home.
I did find out that my social skills had deteriorated. I don’t know how long I sat staring at the wall. Somewhere along the line, John, her father, drove me to the Greyhound Bus depot. Probably didn’t say 5 words the whole time I was there. I never did see him again after that.
Mom was ecstatic to see me home and then sorry again to see me dash off to Kansas. My wife[v] was already there at the time. I ended up being stationed there at Ft. Riley, even though I put in for Ft. Ord ... typical.
Our unspoken mission was to train 90-day wonders before they were sent to Vietnam. We did a lot of bivouac & war games. We often taught these LT’s some hard lessons.
One time our then-current 2nd Louie was shouting orders that although technically by-the-book correct, would never be done in actual combat.
The seasoned veteran sergeants argued with him, but he insisted we would do it his way. So we marched right up the middle of this wide open valley with thick forests of trees half way down the hill on each side. About half way thru the valley we looked at each other,
“Man, if there were any real enemy[vi] around we would already be dead”.
“No kidding man."
"We are dead.”
"We are dead.”
“We should just start dropping as we walk.”
Looking around at each other, everyone began grinning ... then one by one we fell to the ground, playing dead. Next, groups of 4 or 5 fell until the entire platoon was lying there (including 3 of the Noncoms).
“Get up off the ground, you idiots,” LT screamed. “What the [vii] are you doing?”
“No can do, sir,” came an unknown voice. “We’re all dead.”
“That’s right, sir.” One of the ‘dead’ NCOs stated, as he jumped to his feet, dusting off his uniform before saluting the LT. “You walked us into an ambush, sir. We are all dead.”
One by one, then by two’s and three’s, the “dead” rise, dusting themselves off, and then sauntering off toward the platoon’s camp area.
“Form up the platoon”
“This is the platoon, sir,” Sarge said. The Platoon Sargent, sporting two stars on his CIB, rigidly controlled the corner of his mouth to prevent a laugh from slipping out. All of the NCOs standing around him fought back their own laughter, as well. “The rest of the men are all dead, sir.” The Noncoms made no attempt to form up the platoon.
I won’t explore LT’s reaction as we all went back to camp ... but the response to LT’s reaction was shouted over someone’s shoulder as the platoon walked off.
“What are you going to do, sir? Send us to Vietnam?”
[i] Well, minus a quick trip home to square away an unexpected bundle & about 2 1/2 months between a hospital in Yokohama and recovery in Camp Zama.
[ii] I don’t think “kidding” was the word I used at the time.
[iii] Expletive deleted.
[iv] San Francisco
[v] Long since ex
[vi] Derogatory name deleted
[vii] Expletive deleted