Illegally Sane 13
It was Pat’s turn to fill up the pitcher at the bar. Me and Reed thought it was excellent time to make a quick trip to the head. I asked him along the way, “How long have you lived in White Pines, Reed?” “I grew up here.” “With Pat and Cody?” “Nah…Cody showed up about five years ago, actually a couple of months before your brother moved down here. He bought the gun shop in town and a whole lot of land around here.” “What about Pat?” “Well he just started showing up about a month ago. He pops in here about twice a week. He said he stays at a motel over in Tannersville. He doesn’t say much, but he seems to be a real hard listener. I think he’s down here scouting the area for something, may be a new plant location or maybe oil, or gold, who knows? All I know is his Legion card says he’s a member of a post in Arlington Virginia.”
When we got back to the table the beers were already poured, so I got back to my story.
The shower point business die down quite a bit as most the line units had finally set up their own shower facilities. So the Sergeant Major sent Richardson and Burgess back to San Isidro and assigned me, Vargas, Torres and Rivera to courier duty at the embassy. After a couple of weeks of hanging out at the embassy, they finally sent me back to Bragg. We still had troops in the DOMREP, but basically it was all over down there. Two things had happened since the last time I left; college kids starting burning American Flags and the Marines and 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Vietnam. In short, the Vietnam War was official.
Two weeks back in Bragg, we traded in our M14s for M16s and I had to re qualify with the new rifle. This time it wasn’t a problem at all, the armored gave in a rifle with a straight barrel right off the bat.
One of the things I had really had liked about the Domrep was how quickly the time seemed to have passed down there. So with 14 months to go, I thought I might give Vietnam a try. The guys told me it was real easy to get over there; all I had to do was see the Career NCO. Hmmm.. I thought, Career NCO, I didn’t know there was such a thing. So I made an appointment to see him.
I told him my situation and how I’d like to kill some more time overseas. I also mentioned that I heard they were looking for guys to go over to Vietnam. He smiled at me, “We sure are son and I can get you into any outfit you like over there, and get you a nice little cash bonus on top of it.” This was great I thought, 13 months ghosting around in some headquarters outfit in Saigon and I'd be out in no time at all. Then he dropped the bomb on me, “All you have to do is sign up for 3 more years and you’ll be on your way in a month.” “Hold it Sarg, that ain’t the deal I’m looking for. I’m trying to kill some time here, not add to my sentence.” “Well, I’m sorry son, but that’s the only way it works. Now what do you say?” “I say good bye sergeant and thank you for your time.” Career NCO my ass, he was the RE-UP sergeant and I should have known that, but I didn’t because I was a lot more interested in getting out then staying in. Yup, the only career he was interested in was his own.
Now my pay off from Sergeant Major Clark seemed to be a new job. I was drafted into S-2, Support Command Intelligence. It wasn’t exactly like James Bond. I’d draw a jeep and go to support command headquarters each day. There I would make the coffee, answer phones, run errands and type up disposition forms all day. The worst part was, I reported to Major Knox and he did not like me at all. In fact I got this really strong feeling he was trying to get rid of me. He finally succeeded by pulling a real fast one.
One night he was pulling F.O.D., field grade office of the day over at division headquarters. It was a week end and I foolishly happened to mention to Larry in front of him that I was going to Fayetteville that night to tie one on. Knox held that thought in mind that night when he woke me up in my bunk at 2 in the morning.
With a flash light in my face, he bellowed, “Get up Moran.” “Go Away, I replied.” “This is Major Knox and I am ordering you to get up now and get dressed.” I grogged to again and said, “Sir, I am drunk as shit, can you please let me get some sleep?” “Nope, the colonel is flying in tonight and you’ve got to get up, get a jeep and pick him up at Pope.” “Sir, can’t you get someone else?” “No Moran, I’m giving you a direct order and you better be there in one half hour.”
I was totally out of it, but somehow I managed to put my boots on the right feet and get a jeep out of the motor pool and weave and wobble my way to Pope. When I got there the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. So by the time the Colonel showed up, I was curled up under a blanket on the hood of my jeep. The Colonel, being a nice guy, just nudged me and said, “Moran, can you drive me to Support Command please?” I was totally gone, so I just said, “I don’t think so, sir.” He calmly replied, “Well do mind getting into the jeep so I can drive us there?” “That’s cool with me sir.” ”I dozed off again in passenger seat jeep; he ended up dropping me off at my barracks on the way back. I just saluted with a good night sir and staggered in and went to back to sleep. Needless to say, Knox fired me the next morning.
My buddy Larry filled me in of the details back at the barracks that night. He said the Colonel wasn’t really that pissed, so there wouldn’t be any charges, but I’d definitely be in the dog house for a while.
Two weeks later I was pulling interior guard at post headquarters. It was a three day stint; two hours on, four hours off, two hours on four off, 24 hours a day. After three days of this you don’t know who you are anymore. When it was finally over, I was walking in the hall on my way out of headquarters, when a familiar voice rang out. “Hey Moran, come here son.” I turned around and it was Sergeant Major Clark. “Need to talk you, Moran.” We walked into his office and I just stood at attention as he closed the door. “Heard you want to go to Nam, any truth to that rumor?” “Well sergeant Major, under certain circumstances, yeah.” “What kind of circumstances?” “Well, if I had a deal like the one in the Domrep, I’d be real interested.” “You’re off duty now aren’t you son?” “Yes Sergeant Major.” “Good, let’s take a little walk outside.” He put on his hat and we walked out of the building and around to the parking lot. We chit chattered a little along the way. “So you’re working at S-2 now ain’t ya?” “Not anymore.” “Didn’t get along with old Major Knox there huh?” “You might say that Sergeant Major.” Finally Clark found a staff car in liked. “Okay, son, pull up a fender and I’ll let you know what I have in mind.” I leaned up against the car and he started to fill me in.
“I got a little job over there that would be just right for an outlaw like you.” “What kind of job Sergeant Major?” “Well basically, if everything works out right you’ll end up in a headquarters company in a ghost job, you know, on your own.” “I’m interested Sergeant Major.” “Well I can’t give you a blow by blow and there is a little catch.” “What’s the catch?” “Well in order to position you, you gotta do two or three months in a line outfit.” “Here or there?” “There.” “Now you’ll be completely on your own during this time, just a booney rat in a rifle squad. Now there ain’t going to be anyone looking after you, so the one thing you can’t do is get yourself killed or badly wounded. If you do, it f..ks up the whole thing.” “Should I write that down, Sergeant Major?” “Seriously, you don’t take the radio, you don’t take the point and you don’t take rear guard. You make sure you’re just one of the grunts in the middle. When the time is right, we’ll come get you and put you where you need to be. That’s all I can tell you, except that if you pull it off, I’ll get you out of there right away and you’ll have it knocked until you get out. You in, Moran?” “Can I think about it?” “No!” “Okay, then let’s do it.” “Good, we’ll be in touch, son.”
Three weeks later orders came down. PFC Moran transferred from headquarters company support command, 82nd Airborne Division, Ft Bragg, NC to 2nd Platoon, B Company 2nd/7th, 1st Cavalry Division, Au Khe, Vietnam, Republic Of. Naturally Larry saw my orders at headquarters before I did. He was an extremely bright guy and picked up on them right away.
He got me alone in the barracks that night and asked, “What’s going on, John?” “What do you mean?” “You didn’t come down on any levy, you’re under direct orders.” “What makes you say that?” “Shit man, they picked out a bunk for you over there. If you were on levy, your orders would just read, 2nd 7th and they wouldn’t have assigned you to a company and a platoon. That would have been up to the sergeant major and first sergeant over there.” “You’re good, Larry, real good.” “Hey I’m just asking if you need any help with this. I mean if someone if f..kg with you. I might be able to fix it for you.” “I looked at Larry and put my arm up and we side grasped hands. “I got it under control partner, but hey, thanks for the offer.” “Okay, JM, but just remember man, keep your damn head down.”
A week later, I was back in Brooklyn. I had two weeks leave to do my usual thing. It was getting really clear that Bob was totally losing it. He just stayed in his room all day and night reading Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, St Thomas Aquinas and Marcus Aurelius. He also had a new hobby too, plastering little paint pin holes in the paint on the walls of his room. Naturally, I asked him about his new hobby. His explanation was pretty simple. The FBI had tunneled under the house and was running periscopes up the walls to keep him under surveillance while he was in his room. I guess he could see my doubts, so every morning he’d show me a new pin hole he found. All I could do humor him; there wasn’t much else I could do.
Cody kicked in, “Well what about you’re mom and dad. Didn’t they try to straighten him out?”
Well my mom died when I was about 18 months old. It was a freak brain embolism. My dad had to move in with my grandmother or lose us. He did the best he could.
He was working for a large company and heading towards 50, so with the job and all he couldn’t afford a real disaster with my brother, so he pushed Bob as much as could, but mostly just have to live with and worked around the situation.
Well, anyway, it was soon time to go back to work. So I said my good byes and got on the bus for Vietnam. It was a real long ride and finally my stop came up, Au Khe. I got off the back of deuce and a half, grabbed my duffle bag and walked into the CP tent. I reported into the first sergeant and he just glance over my papers and told me to report to Sergeant Marcus. He sent the company clerk with me to show me where my new house was. It looked adequate, so I walked into the tent.
“Hey, guys where’s Sergeant Marcus?” A voice rang out from the back of the tent, “I’m Marcus, you’re the new guy, right?” “Yes sergeant, Private Moran reporting for duty.” He walked up to me and looked me in the eye, and then he did a 360 walk around. “Find a bunk and stow your gear. I found empty an empty cot in the back and dropped my duffle bag on it. Then the guys introduced themselves.” Hernandez, man, welcome to the jungle.” “Blake dude.” “Reese Man.” “Frankenstein and don’t f…g say it.” Then Marcus called me over. “You’ve got to get some Cav patches, bedding and the rest of your gear from supply. The 82nd combat patches got to come off the fatigues. If you can get them in OG and black, no problem. But you damn sure ain’t going out with us with big red target on your sleeve. You got that combat?” “No problem sarg.” “The guys call me Snake, Morgan, and I’m going to call you combat. Any problem with that?” “Nope” “Good, then welcome on board.” Then he quickly turned to Hernandez, “Take combat here over to supply so he can get his shit together.”
On the way over to supply, Hernandez asked me, “Where you from Combat?” “Brooklyn, man.” “Oh, then you’re a lucky guy, it’s much safer over here man.” When I got back I settled in and met the rest of guys in the squad. They were all good guys, just kids like me, hoping to get out of here a live and start a real life when they got home.
A couple of days later and another new guy, Washington came in. He was two months out of jump school and green as hell. When I looked at him, I couldn’t believe how old I got in such a short time. The good news was he moved me up a notch from the bottom on the shit detail totem pole.
It took about a week to pick up on the base camp routine. It was detail, class, detail, class. I paid real close attention in the classes. I knew the final exam would come in the field under fire and if you failed there, there was no retaking the test.
Finally one day after chow, Snake told us, “Pack and check you gear, we’re going camping tomorrow.”
Cody broke in, “Hold that thought till I get back, I gotta hit the head.”