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It really is about time... I really should get started on an outline... This is an expanded outline, I started typing and got carried away. These are just some stories that resulted. They can be expanded and be told in greater detail at a later date. This document should not be shared with anyone without my permission. I respect your opinion and am looking forward to some constructive criticism (bad and good [if any]). I don't know if I would even want to publish something like this, but once I got started I realized that it might be something that would answer some questions that my son may have. I regret that I do not have something like this from my parents.

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I talk a lot... and now I want to write a lot. I have done a lot of interesting things; I have been to a lot of interesting places; and, I have met a lot of interesting people. I have met many people from all around the world. I do not form any preconceptions about people. I have a worldly view that is open to new and different cultures and I love to meet people who have not been inundated with only the American point of view and experiences.

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grew up in a small midwestern town where you didn't really have to lock the doors on the houses or the cars. We would walk to and from school at an age when most people would cringe at that thought today. I remember riding my bike to school when I was in the second grade. Of course, our parents all warned us about speaking to strangers and all the other warnings that one gives to their children, but we never had to really heed those warnings because I am speaking of small town America. I was raised in the Catholic religion and attended Catholic grade school and high school. I was taught that everyone was good, but also knew that there were "bad" people out there... they just weren't in our town. My father was a businessman. He was raised on a farm but left that life behind when he was still in his teens. He was a hard worker who lived through the Great Depression and had used his wits to make his mark. While in his teens, he organized groups of young adults to form what was referred to as "threshing outfits" to help the local farmers process their grain and prepare the crops for sale. He and his brothers used to hold barn dances on the farm. This certainly gave him a lot of experience in dealing with the public. This experience helped him when he later opened a tavern in the early 1950s. He had a large building which was the garage for his trucks which he used to deliver goods from the local merchants to St. Louis, or, to bring them goods from St. Louis. He sometimes found himself going back and forth to St. Louis several times a day. He rented an adjoining building to a man who made it into a tavern. Rather than continue renting the building, he decided that he could do that as well and started his own tavern business. That was the background of my life growing up in the 50s. The tavern business did not allow for what one would describe as close family relations. My mom helped my dad in the business and they were there every night. They would leave the house together at 7 or 8 in the evening and would not return until the tavern was closed. This meant that my brother and I were supervised by a

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string of babysitters until our parents believed that we were mature enough that when left alone we would do no physical harm to each other. My childhood was a happy one. We didn't have any worries and we had everything that we wanted. My parents were not wealthy by any means, but they were able to provide us with everything that they thought would bring us enjoyment. My parents both enjoyed playing cards. I remember learning how to play all the simple games like crazy eight and rummy at a very early age. Then came more difficult games such as Canasta and Pinochle — games which required a little more thinking and strategy. My mom was an educated woman at a time when it was unusual for a woman to go to college. She graduated from a small college near her home town. My dad was not educated in a traditional manner. He certainly was educated through his business dealings and had a lot of common sense as well as being very logical. I often thought that my parents really didn't have a whole lot in common, but they managed to stay together til my father passed away. They were fortunate enough to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I had a good education as did everyone in our town. I know that I was a rowdy little boy and I was certainly a handful for all the nuns that tried to keep all of their students in line. The neighborhood kids that I played with were not really a diverse group. We played baseball and basketball and in the summer there was always a group of 10-20 kids gathered at the playground of the school to have a game. I would also play a lot of games at home with the neighbor kids. We had marathon Monopoly games and also played a lot of Canasta and Scrabble. I leaned toward the games like Scrabble and the more competitive card games. My mom had taught me well. My dad always had a card game going on in the tavern. They played for money and people came from all the surrounding towns

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to join in the action. When the county sheriff decided to organize a county-wide raid of all the taverns in the county because of underage drinking, their visit to my dad's establishment did not result in any violations of that sort. But, since the usual high-stakes Friday night poker game was going on with a lot of bills on the table, he was warned that if he continued gambling he would lose his liquor license. He decided to build a small cabin (the clubhouse) in the woods outside of town ...with the sole purpose of hosting a highstakes poker game. I was only 14 at the time. My parents had since sold the house in which I was raised and built a very nice apartment on top of the tavern. It doesn't sound like much, but it was just as nice as any house that was built at that time, and certainly had plenty of living space. I enjoyed going out to the clubhouse with my dad. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he would always let me have a beer out there. I would have to cut down a tree or two for the wood burning stove that heated the clubhouse in the winter. There was a creek that ran by the clubhouse. It was close enough to walk there in a couple minutes. I wasn't into fishing or hunting or anything like that... I just enjoyed going out there and listening to the St. Louis Cardinals and having a beer with my dad. My dad and I weren't close growing up. He was much older than any of my friends' fathers. He had me late in his life. He was already retired at the age of 62. At that time I was only 16. We never played catch or did any of the things that a dad normally would do with his son, but now that I was older we could enjoy the things that I found much more enjoyable to a teenager: a really good steak after a couple beers will offer much encouragement to a 16-year-old boy to go and cut down a couple trees. Every Monday after school I would drive out to the clubhouse with him and start my work at preparing the place for the weekly card game. That time spent together was the education that my dad was able to give me. In the winter, when it would get dark early, the poker game would start at around 7 and go on til the wee hours of

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the morning. I would "have" to stay there and serve drinks to the men who often drove from adjoining towns. I would also cook hamburgers and cheeseburgers for them. My mom did not like this at all, but my dad prevailed and I started with my worldly education. I stayed til 1 or 2 in the morning — even though I had to go to school the next morning. No wonder she didn't agree to that. But I treasured the experience and my dad was happy that he had the extra hands to help him with the card players — who would some time number 10-20 men. One particular young man used to arrive at the clubhouse before anyone else. He was the older brother of a classmate of mine. He was much older than I. (I often laugh at that because he was only four or five years older than I was at the time. But he had been in the navy for four years, so he was looked upon as a man of the world.) We barely had finished eating our supper when he would pull up in his old Chevy. I mentioned to my dad that he must be a good card player. My dad said no, he wasn't. My dad told me that he always had to come early to pay my dad the money that he lost the previous week before he would let him play again. That gave me a good idea about how to play the game and all the behavior that goes along with it. Another great benefit of the clubhouse was that my parents were always busy working at the bar. That meant that it was pretty much available to me and my friends to hang out there on the weekends and sometimes throw a little party (little? yeah, right).

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graduated from high school in 1966. What a time! VietNam was everywhere. VietNam was on the nightly news and the radio and the newspapers. I was only 17 and I had to make decisions that would effect my entire life. My parents did not offer any advice at all. They were religious and they were patriotic. If the President of the United States said that you should serve in the army, then so be it. I did not know any better and I did not even consider leaving the country and going to Canada or elsewhere. No one that I knew had done anything like that. Some of my friends joined the reserves for one of the branches of the military and some got married. If you joined the reserves, you would not have to serve in VietNam, and if you got married, you wouldn't get drafted (at least not at that time). I chose to do neither, and I soon received my draft notice. I don't have to go into detail here to describe the feeling that young men and women had during the VietNam years of the 1960s. Looking back, I do remember that there were many good times, but it is hard for me to think about those times because they were sandwiched between some horrific events. Perhaps writing these stories will bring some sort of closure to my experiences. My first day in the army was an "Alice's Restaurant" sort of experience. The military was still following practices that were in place since World War II. One of the rules and regulations directed the draftees to report to the local train station for transportation to St. Louis in order to report to the local army station for a physical to determine if you were actually physically able to serve in the army. One of the older guys (who was all of two years older than most of us), had a pin in his arm. He had broken his arm several weeks prior to receiving his notice. He had driven his car to St. Louis because of his certainty that he would surely receive a deferment because of the condition of his arm with the pin in it. Wrong! He passed with flying colors. He was frantic. He had to call his dad to come to St. Louis to pick up his car. Evidently, if one could walk, you were healthy enough to serve.

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he year was 1968. This was the time period when President Johnson had increased the draft call up. The amount of civilians to report for active duty was the highest since World War II. Normally, the draftees from our area were sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for the first couple months of their enlistment for basic training. Fort Leonard Wood was busting at the seams dealing with the increased influx of personnel. The army found a place for us to train. We were sent to El Paso, Texas to train at Fort Bliss. Fort Bliss is the reason that the word "oxymoron" was invented. To say the least, our time at Fort Bliss was not so blissful. Basic training lasts for eight weeks. Eight weeks of "bliss" at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. This is also a time when you learn to deal with the army mentality. Never, never, never volunteer. We were administered tests and tests and more tests. After the first group of tests, an instructor asked if anyone had a drivers license. Many of our fellow new recruits shouted out: "I do. I do!" The instructor asked them who knew how to drive a stick shift. "I do. I do!" they shouted out again. The instructor chose several of them and then said: "Clutch this broom, put it in gear and sweep up the place!" That certainly taught me not to be so quick to volunteer for anything in the army. Well, at least I was on my way to "see the world." I must have done quite well on the tests that were administered to all the draftees. I was called to attend a separate group of trainees after a couple weeks. We had been selected to become helicopter pilot Warrant Officers. I had already learned that one should never volunteer for anything. Besides the general rule of never volunteering, there were other important reasons to refuse this offer. The biggest reason, in my nineteen-year-old mind at that time, was the need to sign up for an extra two to four years of service in the military. I already had my taste of the army and I certainly did not want to extend that time in any manner. The second reason was that the life expectancy of a helicopter pilot in a war zone was not very long. As I mulled over those two reasons, it

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didn't take me too long to just say no and walk out the door. Little did I know that the army had an alternate plan for me. Upon completion of basic training, I received orders to report to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. I had already seen enough of Texas, and now I was to continue my time in the army at Fort Sam Houston. I was to go to Medic training there. Medic? Why? Someone said that after administering the tests to the draftees, the army takes the ones who score the highest and those that score the lowest and make them medics. To this day I am trying to figure out if I had a high score or a low score. The training at Fort Sam Houston lasts for 12 weeks. Twelve weeks to teach one how to treat anything from a scratch on the hand to a massive wound. My belief is that the purpose of the training is to expose us medics to so many photographs and movies of blood, guts and gore that the experience would prevent us from going in to shock when first exposed to a similar situation. Of course the training is important and one could actually learn important life-saving knowledge. Actually, the training is so indepth that some states recognize the US Army's Medical Training to qualify one who has completed that training to obtain a license as an associate nurse.

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n 1968, San Antonio held what they called "The Hemisfair." This wasn't exactly a world's fair or anything, but it was a very big celebration. When we finally received a weekend pass, the gates were open. We only went there once. It was a wild, wild weekend because we knew the chances of our receiving orders to report to VietNam were very, very high and there was no need to hold anything back. I was with some fellow trainees when we went to the Hemisfair. We spent quite a bit of time in one of the German beer gardens, when the booze got the best of a couple of my friends. They hopped on a couple of the golf carts which were used by the supervisors and security people. They rode around the fairgrounds and basically caused a lot of havoc. Needless to say, their rationale to any questioning was always, "What are they going to do, send me to VietNam?" Well, it didn't take long for those words to come true. Upon completion of our medic training, the large majority of trainees were sent to VietNam. We were given a 30-day leave and then orders to report to Oakland, California for transport to VietNam. I still didn't have any clue as to what to expect. Yes, the nightly news had all the video clips of this or that battle. There were some guys who you talked to who had returned from VietNam and were ready to give you some idea of what to expect, but that would never be enough to prepare you for the actual experience. I told myself that I should experience this for myself before I could give any opinion on whether it was right or wrong. Boy, was I wrong on that point. I don't hold anything against the guys that fled the country to Canada or even the draft dodgers. I only know that they had some kind of extra perception or insight into the terrible situation that drove them to do what they had to do in order to escape the fate of going to war. All I knew is that I had 30 days to party before I had to report for that assignment. Those 30 days were hectic. I was only 19. The drinking law stated that one had to be 21 years of age to consume alcoholic beverages. What a joke — one could go to die for their country, but they could not toast a beer or cocktail to that end.

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I hold a soft spot in my heart for the town that I grew up in. The taverns never really worried too much about serving underage patrons. I certainly had poured enough alcohol in my body growing up. We hopped from bar to bar as if we were legal adults. I took advantage of that situation and definitely had more than one or two drinks to toast to my departure. The only thing that was always in the back of mind was whether I would survive to toast upon my return. I remember the actual date when I was supposed to report for duty after my 30-day leave because of a watershed event in American history which would really make everyone aware that not everyone had the same opinion of the VietNam conflict (yeah, right, "conflict"). On the last day of my leave I went to some friends' houses to say goodbye. At one of my friend's house, his parents were in the living room watching television. The program was interrupted for a news flash. The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1968. It just so happened that I was to report for duty the next day. The sights which were on the television as they covered the convention made one wonder if there would even be an America the next day. Everyone was silent as the television news cameras showed the protesters being dragged away by the police and beaten with billy clubs by Chicago's finest. That sight was indelibly etched into my brain and I see it to this day. The people that were protesting were all my age. What was happening? Do they know something that I don't know? The questions bombarded me as I was sitting there with my orders to report to VietNam in my pocket. What a situation for a young man of 19. The pressures to make such important decisions weighed heavily upon me. I often wonder what I would do if I knew what I know now. The only thing that I know is that I would never allow my son or daughter to be forced to make such a decision without knowing every single option available and to choose for themselves what they think they should do.

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I did have enough of what I call street smarts. I had my orders to report to the army base in Oakland, California. I also knew that if one reports to a military base, it is their responsibility to provide you with transportation to arrive at your duty station. There is an air force base near my home town. I had my father drive me there the next morning. I didn't know where I should go, so I went into the first large building that I saw. I remember the look on the airman's face when I presented my orders from the Army. He was flabbergasted. No one outside of the air force had ever showed up at his desk with such a request. It took several hours before someone finally came to inform me of what to do. I had just saved myself the cost of a commercial flight because I was going to arrive at the Oakland military base on a U.S. Air Force military transport. I found the entire situation quite humorous. Here I was in my U.S. Army uniform appearing out of nowhere at this U.S. Air Force base and basically, explaining to them that they had to provide me with transportation to my duty station.

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he next two days were very, very interesting for me. I had arrived at the Oakland Army Base, but I did not report immediately. What were they going to do, "send me to VietNam?" I knew that I would not have any use for any money where I was going, so I decided to go across the Bay to San Francisco and party til I ran out of money. I didn't have a lot of money, so it was only going to be a couple days at the most anyway. I checked into a really downtrodden hotel and changed out of my army uniform. (As if that would prevent one from presuming that I was in the army.) My hair was as short as peach fuzz in the “designer� army crew cut. I didn't know anything about San Francisco except that you should "have flowers in your hair", but I had no hair to put any flowers in. I walked around and around the city. Towards the evening, I spotted a group of young kids (just as young as I was). I felt like I was Columbo as I walked behind them, crossed the street when they did and continued to follow them through the streets. They arrived at a big building and stood in line. I crossed the street to check it out. It was Fillmore West. The venue for all the best rock groups of that time. The group Steppenwolf was headlining the bill. The back-up bands were Santana and the Staple Singers. What a concert! I would cherish that night forever. After the concert I went bar hopping as much as I could til I ran really short of cash. Early the next morning I took my bags and went to the Oakland base. That short trip across the bay was definitely not something to looked forward to, but I did it anyway. We went through the process of turning in some army clothing and receiving army fatigues. We slept on an army cot in one of the largest auditoriums that I had ever seen. There were literally thousands of fellow soldiers waiting to be sent overseas. I ran in to one of the guys that I had trained with at Fort Sam Houston. It was good to see him. Ironically, he was one of the few college guys who trained with us and always spoke about not reporting in protest of the VietNam war. He didn't want to talk about what changed his mind, so we just passed the time away

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talking. I told him that I had gone to this bar the night before and — wow! the women were awesome. He started laughing. I asked why, and he said that all the "women" were actually men. I did not believe him. He called a couple guys for verification and I was in shock. I sat at that bar for a couple hours til my money was almost gone and never once had an inkling of an idea that I was not watching a beautiful woman dancing on the top of the bar. I had to spend my upcoming time in VietNam remembering that the last beautiful woman I had seen was actually a guy — what a memory. After a day or two of waiting to process and for a transport plane to be available, we climbed aboard a regular TWA jet with flight attendants just as if we were going to fly to New York. The flight was a long one. Other than the flight crew, there were only soldiers in army fatigues on the plane. We talked amongst us about what we all did during our last month-long pass. Some had talked about saying goodbye to their girlfriends and some about how difficult it was to say goodbye to their wives and children. Our thoughts were broken by the sound of the pilot announcing that we were about to land. As soon as the pilot announced that we were starting our descent the lights went out and we heard the sounds of what we going to hear for a long, long time. Shots resounded and flashes were seen. My eyes opened wide and from that moment on I was on high alert. Upon landing, the flight attendants started moving in fast motion. I knew that the faster they got us off of that plane, the faster they would be able to return to the States. As we got off the plane, we heard the shouts from the soldiers who were waiting to board the plane for their return to the “real world,” as we started to refer to home. These were the lucky ones. These were the ones who had survived their tour in the war zone. These were the ones who were returning home. These were the ones returning to their loved ones and an America which was split right down the middle and then split over and over again. There would be no parades for these veterans. There would be no thank you either. They would hear first-hand from the

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protesters about how wrong the war is and why we should not even be in VietNam in the first place. This was a turbulent time in America and they would soon experience that rocky ride first hand. Everyone has heard all the pros and cons of the VietNam War. I am not going to delve into the many varied points of views regarding the VietNam War. Young college students and retired school teachers sometimes had the same point of view and then again sometimes other college students and other retired school teachers had different points of views. It was a time when America was forced to meet her conscience face-to-face. That conscience was being shaken upside down by the returning VietNam veteran.

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e hurried off the plane as fast as we could. We did not have a clue as to what was in store for us. We said our goodbyes to the flight attendants and lugged our gear with us. We passed the returning soldiers waiting to board in our stead — they were going home. We were formed into a large formation and our names were called off. We were then processed and received more gear. Gear to be used for the war. We then played the waiting game for a couple days until we were assigned to our units. While we waited, various tasks were assigned to us “newbies”. No glamorous tasks for us, things like cleaning the latrines and emptying refuse into barrels for burning were the norm. Being a medic, I didn't have any backbreaking manual work to do, but I did have to supervise the burning because it is a sanitary inspection (as if I was an expert in this area). Soon the roll call was given to inform us of our units. I was assigned to the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One). I think that until that moment I was always hoping and thinking that I might be assigned to a noncombat unit — but that was not to be. We gathered all our gear and were trucked to unit headquarters where we were given a short indoctrination and then had to get on a helicopter to be flown to our battalion headquarters in Lai Kai, VietNam. As we were waiting to be processed there, I looked at the map on the wall indicating the areas where the First Infantry Division were assigned. I can still feel my bones shudder as I saw that they had bases in the northern part of the country. I didn't know much about the war, but I did know that you didn't want to be close to North VietNam. We then boarded a small helicopter for transport to our battalion field base. We flew over the jungles and the open fields and even saw green mountains which I didn't even know existed in VietNam. Once there, we were processed again by a doctor who was in charge of the medics. There were three of us new medics. Brand new medics. I was assigned to a platoon of 18 other guys. I was treated as if I was the guy that everyone wanted to have as his

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best friend. They all knew that they should have the medic as their best friend. I look back at that time and know that their expectations certainly exceeded my ability. I had no clue as to what was in store for me. The army wasted no time at all. The next day we were sent out on a mission. Our mission was pretty basic. We would be transported by helicopter to a spot and then we would walk back to the base. Simple, right? That first patrol was an eye opener. We boarded the helicopter with our gear which we would need for those several weeks. I looked around the small helicopter which held about ten of us and eyed the pilot and co-pilot and the gunner. The gunner was intent. He constantly looked down at land below for potential flare ups. After about a half-hour or so they all started yelling, "Jump, jump!" I looked over the edge of the helicopter and saw nothing but water above some kind of weeds or grass or whatever. We were at least ten feet above the ground and they were all yelling for us to jump. Okay — I jumped. I often think that there could have been anything under the water line. It is known that the Viet Cong placed bamboo sticks which were were sharpened to a point and placed under the water level to drive in to the feet (through the boots) of the soldiers jumping from the helicopters. I landed... and felt no pain... what a relief! We ran as fast as we could to the edge of the field. There we gathered, awaiting the lieutenant to guide us. I saw that our entire company was there. (A battalion consists of four companies; a company consists of four platoons.) We started on our trek back to the base. This was our mission. Search and Destroy! If we encountered the enemy while we marched back to our base then we would do what we could to eliminate them. Eliminate is a much more subtle word than kill, but it all amounts to the same thing. It was them or us. Sometimes it would take us a couple weeks to get back and some times longer, depending upon whether we encountered the enemy or not. Never shorter, though. We would walk through the jungle at a very deliberate pace, always careful and always, always

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observing. We would walk single file. The lieutenant would be the third or fourth in line. Behind the lieutenant was the radio operator and then the medic. I got to be very, very close to the radio operator. Everyone had someone whom they would get close to. Your life depended upon it. We would inevitably encounter the enemy. The enemy was invisible. The jungle was a cloak of darkness and would not allow one to see much more than ten or twenty feet in any direction, and then only in certain places. Encountering the enemy meant that someone was shot. Unfortunately, it was usually an American soldier who got shot first. We would stop and shoot at the direction of the shots until it was quiet. Then we would back out a distance and call in an air strike. In close areas, the cobra gunship helicopters would come over and you would hear a thunderous roar. This roar was the result of thousands of 50 caliber bullets being sprayed over an area as large as a football field in about 2-3 seconds. It was as if it was one deafening sound, but it was actually thousands of sharp sounds being made by the onslaught of thousands of bullets. Later, we would go back to the same area to search for the results of the cobra gunship. This would go on and on and on. After those days and days and weeks and weeks of marching through the jungle with leeches and mosquitoes and incessant rain we would finally return to the base camp.

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ase Camp. What a heavenly haven. A party was in order. Everyone hurriedly tore off their fatigues and took a shower as quickly as he could. The water was solar heated, but even if it wasn't hot, it wasn't cold. Nothing was cold except the beer which was sitting in the bins waiting for us. The cooks prepared a big bar-b-cue with music and all the steak, beer and soda you could eat and drink. I was amazed that I could actually smell cleanliness. I thought that we should not shower before the next mission, because it was obvious to me that the enemy could actually smell us coming. The heat and humidity was also our enemy. In order to keep dry, some guys would shake baby powder on them... this would cause a strange, clean odor that was like a big beacon which said, "Here I am!" After a couple missions or so our company was rewarded with the job of guarding a bridge. (Don't ask me where.) We arrived at the bridge and walked to bunkers which were used by the soldiers whom we had replaced. In the mornings we would scan the area and in the evenings we would be in our bunkers. The lieutenant told me to come with him one evening. We walked to meet a jeep. The jeep had a huge spotlight on the back of it. This spotlight was special. It was not just a spotlight. It was a spotlight which shined on an area and when you wore night goggles you could see as if it was as bright as daylight. It was a giant night scope. Medics are not required to carry weapons. Most conscientious objectors are assigned to be medics. Not all medics are conscientious objectors, though. I had nothing to object to — except to my getting killed. I soon found that a rifle did not do me too much good while trying to help injured guys in the jungle. I requested a pistol. When I saw the night scope in action, I knew that I wanted that, too. I requested a night scope. It arrived about a week later. It would not attach to my rifle, but it would fit the original rifle for which it was designed, which was an old WWII M-14 rifle.

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Soon after, our company was called to help reinforce a firebase unit which was in dire need of help. I don't know why, but things changed the same day that I received that night scope. In the late afternoon, I attached the scope to the rifle. With the help of a couple other guys we placed objects a couple hundred feet away to shoot at to enable us to align the sight on the rifle. The night scope also had a small magnification with crosshairs in the sight. I was amazed at the accuracy which was achieved at even a distance of 200 feet away. I was a good shot. Even with a pellet gun when I was in grade school. Now I was shooting holes into objects at a distance of 200 feet!!! In the dark, at that!!! I felt that I was really ready to light up the night skies. Some people say that everything happens for a reason. I often wonder for what reason things happened to me. Soon after taking target practice I started becoming weak. I didn't know what was happening. I was very, very weak and had to lay down. I fell asleep in the early evening. One really does not think of sleeping when he is a soldier. The adrenaline that courses through the body during the time when you really need it does not allow for sleep. I realized that I was not sleeping: I was passing out. I had a severe case of malaria and it hit me like a freight train. When one gets malaria, the red blood cells are attacked and they all burst at the same time. Slowly, over the time of four hours or so, they are replaced by new red blood cells. The red blood cells carry oxygen to the brain and throughout the body. Without these oxygenated cells, one passes out til they are replaced. This happens over and over til eventually, if not treated, one dies. It is ironic that I got malaria. Hey, I was the medic who handed out the malaria pills once a week on Mondays. Well, as it turned out, we had been called to reinforce this firebase which was in a different area of VietNam and the mosquitoes there carried a different kind of malaria which required daily pills. Since we were called out of the area that we were in and were not at our base camp, I was not advised or given any different pills than what I was initially given.

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I gained consciousness and grabbed the radio and called the doctor. Our whole company was at that firebase and we were all under attack. This firebase was overrun the night before. It was very, very close to the Cambodian border and the North Vietnamese were simply crossing the border into South VietNam without any (known, at that time) repercussions. I actually crawled to the doctor's bunker area for what seemed like hours and hours. I had no strength at all. I laid on the ground at the doctor's feet and I heard him call in a medivac helicopter to get me to a field hospital. I heard the conversation between the doctor and the pilot. The pilot said he could not land because of the exchange of fire. The doctor stated very clearly that if he didn't get me out of there right now that I would die in an hour. Even that did not give me any strength to get up. To this day I can only vaguely envision a very surrealistic but harrowing escape and subsequent arrival at the field hospital.

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gained consciousness again. I was in unfamiliar surroundings. It felt like I was having a dream (nightmare, more like it). I didn't know where I was. My sight was limited, but I could make out that there was someone next to me. I squinted til I could make out that it was one of the guys in our platoon. He was absolutely covered in blood. I asked him what happened. He said he had malaria. I corrected him and said that he doesn't have malaria. He explained that he did have malaria. I asked how come he had so much blood on him. He said that he was on perimeter lookout and he passed out because of the malaria. The guys back in the bunker (about 100 feet or so away) tried to get him to respond on the walkie talkie, but he did not answer. They thought he had fallen asleep and bombarded him with rocks and anything they could throw at him. He did not react so they kept throwing because they thought they were not hitting him. He was almost stoned to death when he finally was able to muster the strength to crawl back to the bunker and eventually be medivaced. Normally, when one gets malaria in VietNam he goes to a field hospital where he is treated with quinine and whatever other medicine to regain his strength while eating (real) food. I had an additional problem. I had extreme dysentery as well as malaria, so I was not able to keep any food and nutrition in my system. I also had developed a sort of anemia. I was in bad shape, to say the least. I was transferred out of the field hospital to a rear hospital. Upon arrival, I was told to get into what looked like a sleeping bag. It was not an ordinary sleeping bag. It was more like a rubber raft that one would float around in the swimming pool. The bag had tubes running through it. The bag was actually an electric freezer. It had ice cold water flowing through the pads up and down the bag. I had to lay in this til my temperature was down to normal. I had to do this once a day til the fever would subside. After only a couple days it was determined that I needed better and long-term treatment. I was transferred to a hospital in Japan. I arrived at Camp Zama, Japan and was admitted to the hospital there. I was still very, very weak. I weighed only about 90 lbs. I slept and ate til

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I regained my strength. My time there in the hospital was a great time. I felt that someone had touched me and granted me my wildest wishes. I had gained a new appreciation for life. I gained a new appreciation for material things as simple as food and the air that we breathe. This appreciation is still reflected in my attitudes towards my daily life today.

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t took about 3-4 weeks before I felt strong enough to get around on my own. There I was, in the middle of a ward full of guys who had been in VietNam. And, this was only one ward. I have no idea how long I was incapacitated. I could get out of bed every once in a while to just walk around and stretch a little bit. I was able to visit with some of the other patients there. There were guys from all over the United States. We all asked each other where they were from and where they had been in VietNam and to which unit they were assigned. I have pictures of me standing in front of my bed. I had lost about 60 pounds. I have the pictures to prove it, it seems like it is impossible, but it happened in a very short period of time. I realized that I must have lost quite a bit of weight during the time when we marched through the jungle. When I first looked at those pictures I noticed that on one of the pictures the wall behind my bed had a huge crack in it. I looked at another picture and there was no crack. I showed it to one of the nurses on the ward and he explained to me that there was an earthquake in the area about a week ago. I must have slept (or passed out) through the earthquake.

Finally able to walk around a bit on the ward at the hospital in Camp Zama, Japan.

Here I am — all one hundred and maybe ten pounds of solid muscle.

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I was now quite mobile. I could get out of bed with no problem and also go and take a shower. I noticed that my feet looked really strange — like a really bad case of athletes feet. I asked one of the doctors to look at them and he made an appointment for me to see a podiatrist. I had to walk some ways as the hospital was quite an expansive building. I didn’t have to wait too long (army time-wise) before my name was called to see the doctor. He took off my hospital slippers and looked at my feet. He looked for awhile and then stood up and went to his desk. He took out his camera and returned to click away taking pictures of my feet. That really was a strange experience for me. The podiatrist told me that I had an very bad case of “jungle rot.” The extreme exposure to the nightly rain during the monsoon season in VietNam and subsequent drying out in my hospital bed caused the famous disease. With daily application of creams and the clean environment of the hospital repaired the skin on my feet in a very short time. But I still have visions of this doctor clicking away on his camera and taking all those pictures of my feet. I was really concerned that permanent damage had been done, but it all cleared up in a couple weeks.

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fter I had gotten my strength back, I was able to view the hospital ward that I was on in a different light. The hospital was full of soldiers who were injured or incapacitated in VietNam. And right smack in the middle of our ward was a card game! Hmmm. We were awakened early in the morning to the clanking of our breakfast trays. After we ate, we raced to the table for the poker game which was played daily. I couldn't join in right away because of my weakness. I was further limited by the fact that none of my records had arrived from VietNam. Without records, you couldn't get paid. Some of the guys had waited for a couple months to get their pay straightened out. Until that time, we did receive a small amount of pay, but the full amount would only arrive after one's pay grade could be determined from their records. Needless to say, I flourished in the card game. Some of the guys played poker because they thought they knew how to play. Some played to pass the time. Some played to prove something to themselves. But you always would have that one guy that didn't even know how to play. It was at this time that another event happened to me (well, happened to everyone there, but I look at it as happening to me). Bob Hope announced that he was going to go to entertain the troops in VietNam. The establishment (government) did not really want this to happen because it was not a "war." Bob Hope goes to "wars" to entertain troops. This was not a "war." Yeah, right. Bob Hope was adamant and he was going to go to entertain the troops in VietNam and that was that! Now, you might ask, what does that have to do with me? Well, when entertainers plan a show to entertain troops in a war zone, they realize that there are many, many supporting troops that are not in the war zone. The U.S. has troops all over the world and they offer support to those in other areas. On the way to VietNam was the hospital in Japan. Bob Hope was going to also put on a show at the hospital in Japan. Okay, but so?

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Poker amyone? I just won the pot and the man to my right has an eye on the winnings.

I kept the flyer for The Bob Hope 1968 Christmas Show.

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The patients in the hospital are there for a reason. And the reason is that they are sick, wounded or have been injured or otherwise incapacitated, but mainly they are not able attend a show. They are bedridden and incapacitated. A subsequent hold on discharges was ordered. The army needed an audience for The Bob Hope Christmas Show and the obvious way to get that audience was to keep the patients in the hospital and to allow them to attend the show. I was not going to be discharged from the hospital even though I was very close to being recuperated. That meant that I was going to be in the hospital for an extra three weeks and then go to see Bob Hope (and Ann Margaret and the Gold Diggers and Miss America and many others). This was fantastic news and everyone wrote letters and waited in line to call home to let their family and close friends hear the good news. We were all ecstatic. We were willing to do anything to get out of going back to VietNam — even if it was only for a couple weeks. Soldiers who are admitted to doctor's care for whatever reason are given what is called a profile. This profile lists the approximate amount of time needed to recuperate and be healthy enough to return to their originally assigned unit. It is also ruled that if a soldier's profile is longer than 90 days, he will not be reassigned to his previous unit but will be assigned to a new unit. That meant that we could possibly be assigned to return to the states rather than returned to VietNam. It was late November. Bob Hope's troupe would arrive in two weeks so as to be able to be in VietNam on Christmas. I had an invitation to The Bob Hope ChristA mini-skirted Ann Margaret next to Bob Hope. mas Show!!!

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Let the party begin! If I wasn't on the brink of recuperation by then, that did the trick. I was walking, I was talking, I was eating, I was drinking and I was gaining my weight back again. There were many in the same situation as I. I befriended a guy from Detroit, Michigan. Together we snuck out of the bathroom window of the restroom on our ward and took the Bullet Train to Tokyo. (What could they do to us, "send us to VietNam?") I had a taste of what Japan had to offer and I loved it. The Bob Hope Christmas Show was an unbelievably great entertainment event. And Bob Hope played a big part in saving my life because I did not return to VietNam as I will explain later. We were treated to a great show by a great man. We were also invited to the U.S. Embassy in Japan. I only wish that every single person who went to VietNam or served in the U.S. Army would have been able to do the same. The day after The Bob Hope Christmas Show — yes — the day after The Bob Hope Christmas Show — no time was wasted — all the patients who were up for discharge from the hospital were released.

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e were transferred as a group to an army barracks near a dispensary. We had to participate in roll call after we were processed. We then had to go to see a doctor at the dispensary who would give us a profile and determine when we would be ready for reassignment. In this ever-revolving group of soldiers there were over 1,000 soldiers. Since there were so many, the morning roll call had to start at 4 in the morning. After the roll call, we would go to eat breakfast. After breakfast, another roll call and then a call to those whose profiles were expired to require them to be reviewed by a doctor. Since I had just arrived, I was called as one to see the doctor for the first time and to be assigned a profile. I was about to meet two of the most interesting people that I had met while in the army. We waited and waited and waited... while serving in the military you experience the miliary’s version of what it is to wait and you really never get over it. Time does not really seem to move at its normal pace in the military. The only time period that is of importance to you is the time you need to get out of the military. Finally, it was my turn to see the doctor. He gave me a checkup and determined that I should have a profile of 21 days. This would entail the morning roll call, breakfast, roll call again and then a march to the huge gymnasium for exercise. That would be followed by another roll call, lunch, roll call again and then another march to the gymnasium for afternoon exercise and then a final roll call prior to dismissal for the day... a full day of 10-12 hours. I carried the doctor's recommendations to the desk of the processing area. There I was greeted by the man in charge of running the dispensary, Sergeant Freddie Barnes. He looked at my records and immediately commented on my military occupation — I was a medic. He asked me if I could type. (I was a very good typist, as I had taken a typing class in high school. High school... how far away that seemed.) When I said taht I could type, he asked me if I wanted to work in the dispensary. My immediate thoughts were no, no, no — don't volunteer. This is the army and you do not want to volunteer for anything. But, before I could say no, he said

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that dispensary workers were not required to stand roll call in the morning!!! I found myself almost yelling: "Yes, yes, yes"!!! He sent word to the sergeant in charge of the roll call and everything was set. I never did like to get up early in the morning, but 4 a.m. is even earlier than early. I would soon learn that there were other benefits, as well.

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was introduced to Bray. Bray was a very well-known character amongst the transient soldiers who were waiting for reassignment or new assignment upon discharge from the hospital. I say character, and you will know why. Bray had arranged for all the transient medics to have a room together. This was unbelievable. This meant that we would also not be subjected to any kind of inspections. There were five guys who were in the same situation as I: medics who served in VietNam, were injured or sick and were medivaced to the hospital in Japan, and were now on an extended profile. Bray filled me in on all the arrangements. After talking for some time, I asked him how long he had been there in this capacity. He told me that he had been there for almost a year. A year!!! How in the world did that come about? He explained that he was under what was referred to as internal investigation. He was suspected of selling contraband to the local Japanese. As such, he received no pay, but more importantly, the time that he spent while under investigation did not count as time served in the military. He was on what was referred to as CID hold. My god, he could still be there for all I know. We all had our own separate areas with a locker. We had to be at the dispensary by 8 a.m. in order to help processing the transient patients who were scheduled to see the doctor. My job was to keep a record of when the patients were due to see the doctor again in order to determine whether they would receive an extended profile, or if they would be considered fit for duty. There were hundreds of patients' records to handle. I could see that if someone was not efficient, they would be inundated with paperwork and the whole system would collapse. I could understand why the people assigned to the dispensary appreciated the volunteer medics so much. These "volunteers" certainly made their jobs much easier. The first thing I did was to compare all of the index cards which were used as a check for appointments and made certain

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that they were filed properly and that they were in sync with their medical records. Towards the end of each day I typed up a list of patients who were scheduled to see the doctor the next morning. There were two doctors assigned to our dispensary. I found out later that there were several more dispensaries which also did the same thing as the one to which I was now working. It was a lot of tedious work, but I was tremendously happy that I did not have to take part in the daily roll calls. In the evenings, I would go to the non-commissioned officers (NCO) club. I had plenty of money from my winnings in the poker games in the hospital. Also, my records had caught up with me and I received my monthly pay as well. I still received combat pay because we were, theoretically, still assigned to our units in VietNam. The NCO club, as well as all the buildings which the army had in Camp Zama were actually what were considered to be luxury buildings by Japanese standards. The U.S. military had taken over these buildings after WWII. This also meant that the gymnasium that was on the base had all the luxuries available at that time: basketball court, handball court, weight room, wet and dry saunas and nice showers. Since there were so many soldiers assigned to Camp Zama, the mess hall served meals throughout the day. Besides the regular meals for that day, they had a quick grill where you could ask for hamburgers and fries... the staples of all Americans. I would skip breakfast... I valued the time to sleep an extra couple hours rather than battle the line for the grub. I would grab a burger at lunch time with a fellow medic. The camaraderie that we all had was something that we all valued tremendously. We all had gone through the same experiences. We very seldom related any stories of our experiences, but we all knew what each other had gone through. We were all so young. 19- and 20-year-old kids who had been thrown into a terrible experience. When we had flashbacks or just a normal (for us) nightmare, we were there for each other to help each of us to deal with those terrible memories. More is

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known about these feelings because of the Gulf War. They are now referred to as symptoms of combat related post-traumatic stress disorders... we just called them nightmares. After the work at the dispensary was finished for the day and I had delivered my list of appointments to the barracks where the roll call would be held, my army day was over. I didn't go to the mess hall for the evening meal. I went straight back to my area and took a shower and put on my civilian clothes and walked over to the NCO club for a good steak dinner with all the trimmings. Happy Hour was in effect from 5 til 8 p.m. All drinks were 10 cents. What a deal!!! The meals were also very inexpensive. All the food was the same as what was served in the mess hall, but the difference was the way in which things were prepared. The chefs in the NCO club were quite good and I can not recall ever receiving a bad meal. Perhaps the 10 cent bourbons and branch were the appetizers which added to the flavor? We had quite a good time in the NCO Club. We would stay for the entertainment after we ate dinner. The band was local and they were good. There was an all girl band and they could mimic any and all popular western music. I was falling into a routine which I found very comfortable. One Friday night soon after falling into my routine and getting ready to head on over to the club, Bray was also getting ready to go out. I looked over at Bray as he was getting ready. Then, right as we were leaving our room, he put on his coat. I had never seen a coat like this. And, this is a guy who is in the army. It was a beautiful light tan, full-length houndstooth overcoat. This coat was worth hundreds of dollars. I couldn't hold back my praise for how great the coat looked and how great he looked in that coat. I asked him where he was going and he said he was going to Tokyo. He asked me if I wanted to join him. I immediately agreed and so we were on our way to Tokyo. I would soon get the explanation of why Bray was on CID hold. While walking to the taxi stand where we would get a ride to the train, Bray said that if I wanted to join, I would just have to stop

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off at the commissary and get a bottle of Jack Daniels. It was then that I heard Bray's story. Bray could not buy anything that was rationed at the commissary because his privileges were on CID hold. I discovered that, evidently, all the charges against Bray were true. I soon discovered, also, that he could care less — he was having the time of his life! The soldiers who purchased items at the commissary were given a card which was punched when they purchased items which were rationed, such as cigarettes and liquor. I bought a bottle of Jack Daniels and brought it with us. We caught a taxi which took us to the train station. On the way, Bray filled me in on his time when he was discharged from the hospital and then worked at the dispensary where he was still, after close to a full year, still working. He had gone to Tokyo several times and got to know some local Japanese that were very appreciative of the "gifts" that Bray was accustomed to bringing them. And now, I was about to be part of the loop. We got off the train and caught a taxi at the stand and drove to an area in Tokyo which looked a lot like Las Vegas, but had more lights and even more people. And that was hard to comprehend. We walked into a nightclub that seemed to be the area of a good-sized basketball court. A band was to the left of the entrance and was playing a Beatles tune. I could have sworn it was Paul McCartney and John Lennon themselves up there... but it couldn't have been... they were girls!!! Wow!!! Mini-skirts and guitars: what a combination. As we walked through the crowd, every once in awhile someone would call out to Bray. He was definitely a regular at this place. We kept walking. Bray said we should walk up to the bar. When we got up to the bar, Bray signalled to a Japanese man in a white shirt and bow tie. He came over and shook his hand. Bray had asked me to give him the bottle of Jack Daniels. I handed it to the Japanese guy as his grin widened. He spoke perfect English. He asked us what we wanted and from that moment on everything was on the house. Bray was in his element, and I was

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with him. And, you could definitely say that I was also in my new favorite element. I found out that besides the known differences between people throughout different cultures, in Tokyo there is also another distinction between people. There are day people and there are night people. Tokyo is a huge city of over 8 million people in the city itself. It is surrounded by another 4 million people or so. I don't know what the population of Tokyo was in 1968, but it was definitely crowded. So crowded that there is a need for businesses to be open all night long for the many people that are known as the night people. The club that we went to was also open all night long. Only one minor problem regarding transportation: the trains quit running at 1 a.m. People are then at the mercy of the taxi drivers, who keep the cab windows closed and won't even open them unless you wave a large bill at them, with dollars eliciting quicker responses. We were at the mercy of the taxi drivers. We finally got one to give us a ride back to the base. Tokyo was not a cheap place to get around.

A duo sings popular songs as if they were the original performers... but in mini-skirts.

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continued working in the dispensary. Sergeant Barnes, the man in charge of running the dispensary, marvelled at my efficiency. I organized all the information into a very orderly and easy-tofollow system. I interviewed the patients as they would enter the dispensary and I would check their documents after they saw the doctor. I would then enter the date that their profile was up for reevaluation and placed it in an index card box and constantly checked it to obtain the information needed to arrange all the daily appointments. My supervisor told me that the paperwork was organized in the most efficient manner that it was ever kept. I felt that I was not only doing my job, but I was also enabling me to stay under doctors care and subsequently keep my profile extended. And that is when I uncovered a very differently organized system: a system that allowed my predecessor to create an intricate moneymaking scheme. I don't even remember his name. I had only met him once for a short period of time as he explained to me what my duties, as the person in charge of the doctor appointments and patients’ profiles, would be. Not much time had passed when I started finding records of "lost" transient patients. The military records were all in the file cabinet. I cross checked them with appointments and found several records of patients who were not scheduled for appointments. It took me a while, but I discovered that my predecessor was selling profile extensions. They were not legitimate profile extensions. No one knew about them except him. He would "misplace" records or he would indicate incorrect appointment dates. All for a price. I don't know how much he charged, but I did run in to a guy that had paid him. He called me every name in the book when he had to report to the dispensary for his "delayed" appointment. It was obvious that I had uncovered the scheme because I was now in charge of making those appointments. I was just doing my job, but it did result in this guy being up for reasssignment and sent back to his unit in VietNam. I felt bad about that, but that was the way that the system worked, and I was now a part of that system.

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ergeant Freddie Barnes was a career soldier. He was a big black man with a golden heart. He was married to a Japanese woman and they had four children together. They lived in Japan since they were married and the children all grew up there and they are all probably still there. Sergeant Barnes owned three bars in the immediate area surrounding Camp Zama. They were all in his wife's name. [It is against U.S. military law for soldiers to own businesses where they are stationed (or something to that effect)]. Sergeant Barnes would tell us places to go to on the weekends. These places were places which were not on the tourist list of places to go to, so we would end up in places where some of the people had never seen a westerner. I saw some beautiful places and enjoyed my free time very much. The time was passing by. I had been at the dispensary for over a month and the time came for my profile to be updated. Sergeant Barnes took my records into the doctor's office and came back with a new extended profile. I was able to stay for another month!!! What a relief!!! I would have been sent back to VietNam and reassigned to my previous unit with the First Infantry Division. Everyone was happy with the situation. The dispensary received extra people to help the soldiers assigned to the dispensary, and the transient soldiers like myself were granted an extended profile to allow them to stay in Japan for a little while longer, but more importantly, to not have to be reassigned to their units in VietNam.

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had been working in the dispensary for over one month by now. One day I got a letter from a real good friend of mine who was still in VietNam. During the late 60s it seemed like everyone was getting drafted. My friend, Don, who grew up with me in our small town and was now serving in VietNam was nop exception. Knowing that I was in a hospital in Japan, he had requested to spend his Rest and Relaxation (R&R) in Japan so we could hopefully meet. He didn’t know exactly what I had been up to, but he knew that I was in Japan. I will never forget his look when he asked for me by name. I was in the processing center at this time and was standing nearby when he walked in the room. I quickly came up to him and we both hugged and shook hands and not quite believing that we were actually together and alive. Don was going to be in Japan for one week. We made the best of that time together. We went to most of the places that Sergeant Barnes had told me to go. We would go out at night and hit the big bars and restaurants in Tokyo.

Don and I enjoying one of the super meals served at the NCO Club at Camp Zama, Japan. The 10 cent cocktails were great appetizers for the steak meal served on a hot plate.

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Don’s last night there was a really tough one for both of us. He knew he was going back to VietNam to finish up his tour of duty. I, on the other hand, was getting ready to be reassigned. It was a very strange situation for both of us, but we said our goodbyes and only hoped that it would not be too long that we would be toasting our return in our hometown in celebratory fashion. One of the first things that I did when I returned home was to visit with Don’s mother and show her some of the pictures that we had and to try to assure her that Don will be home in no time at all. It was a difficult meeting for both of us but as we both hoped that everything would turn out fine. And everything did turn out fine!

Don and I had the opportunity to visit some of the ancient pagodas in Japan. Sergeant Barnes told us of places where westerners did not even visit.

Looking up at the Tokyo Tower.

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Marty VonBokel

s life sometimes throws a curve our way, a big curve was tossed our way. The USS Pueblo was a U. S. Navy vessel sent on an intelligence mission off the coast of North Korea. On January 23, 1968, the USS PUEBLO was attacked by North Korean naval vessels and MiG jets. One man was killed and several were wounded. The Eighty-two surviving crew members were captured and held prisoner for 11 months. During the end of the incident, almost all of the soldiers up for new assignments were being sent to South Korea. Sergeant Barnes had received notice that he was being transferred to South Korea. This was not received well, to say the least, with the men whose lives were affected by a man who would obtain extended profiles for all of his transient workers. Sergeant Barnes decided to retire. Why not, he had already been in the military for over 20 years. He was very wealthy because of his savings and potential retirement and, also, he had the businesses which he and his wife owned. The events happening to Sergeant Barnes affected me directly because he would no longer be overseeing events at the dispensary. I was very concerned because my profile was up for reevaluation. The sergeant that was promoted to Sergeant Barnes' place took my records in to the doctor for a profile extension. I could hear the discussion between the two. It was in the late afternoon right before the doctor would be leaving. The sergeant placed the documents on the desk of the doctor and said that I needed an extension. This was not the way that Sergeant Barnes had handled the situation. I know that the doctor had reservations about doing it for this newly promoted sergeant. I was so very, very relieved when I heard the doctor say that this would be the last profile that he would extend to the transient medics. I was the last person to have an extended profile. This extension would put my time on profile to over 90 days and I would be up for a new assignment. I would not have to return to my unit in VietNam. Words can not describe my relief upon seeing that extension. It was now time for me to hold my breath and find out where I would be assigned.

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Marty VonBokel

The following days had me sitting on pins and needles. On the day that I knew my new orders were going to be posted, I participated in the roll call. My name was called and I learned that I was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. It seemed like a full circle was being drawn. I was going home.

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Marty VonBokel

Coming Soon...

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll... (featuring a new entry in Wikipedia redefining debauchery)

42

Stories  

Just some short stories of my experiences.

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