“Write drunk; edit sober.” – Ernest Hemingway
~ Preface ~
February 15, 1968 – Being the Chef, bartender and janitor at the off-post Officer and NCO club near the North Point, Germany home of the 619th Ordinance unit, I was cleaning up the club after the monthly combined wives club luncheon, when Holroyd informed me that I had a call from Division Headquarters which I needed to take. It was Frank (our former Company clerk) telling me that my tour of duty was nearly at an end, and asked how many days leave I wanted to take in the States. I told him that I had no desire to return home, “What’s up?” The answer was the one, which most of us dreaded at that time. TET had taken its toll that month in Viet Nam, and I was being called up. “Oh shit,” I thought to myself, but, what the hell? – I was ready for a new adventure anyway. After all – it was easy in the movies, wasn’t it, John Wayne and all? I told Frank that I would take 45 days and began to make my preparations.
I landed in Philly and called my Mother and (step father) Frank and asked them to pick me up at the airport. Frank said, “In Philadelphia?” “Hell no,” I responded, “I’ll be at O’Hare in about 3 hours.” He and Mom brought my brothers Mark and Cliff – the best welcome home I could have had – Dr. Denton’s and all. Here I am – recently turned 20 and I am more excited to see my two brothers, fifteen and sixteen years younger than I – than just about anyone else – and they just stood on the back seat of that damned Plymouth wagon with these big, wide, shit-eating grins on their faces. All was well in the world. By the next day, I was itching to see Jane and Carole – and that juicy farm girl just over the border in Wisconsin – but the family had to come first. My youthful libido would just have to wait a day or so.
Great-grandmothers Maude and Gretchen would have to come first, along with my maternal grandmother Katherine (Nana). The cousins and my Aunt and Uncles would have to wait, but the dreaded meeting with my grandfather could not be put off.
I called Jane as soon as I was able and she invited me over to a party at her folk’s house and said that a few of folks that I knew would be there. I went and it was good to see some of them, but the feelings against the war were already beginning to heat up and some looked at me as a FBKFA – future baby killer from America. I was beginning to learn that you can’t go home again. But Jane was still one of the most beautiful girls I had ever had the pleasure of calling a friend – both inside and out. I still have the photograph I took of her in ’65, that became her likeness in the Glenbrook North High School yearbook. Some years ago, I asked my cousin Peg, what had ever become of Jane. She married well and spent many years living in France, but is now living back in the family home of her parents in Northbrook, Illinois.
Other than Jane and a few others, I have never had any real curiosity as to what has happened to the others I had grown up with and knew – although many years later, I found Bill Werhane through (Sit-on-My) Facebook. We exchanged pleasantries and some history, and have quietly gone back to our lives. (A football jock became a revered teacher?) We come across each other once in awhile and exchange pleasantries
So I called Carole – nice Italiana that she was. Carole and I had gone to the Prom together and I was quite close with her parents and grandparents, Ted and Carole (for who she was named) as I had been the filmographer at their 50th wedding anniversary. Carole and I spent the next few weeks rekindling our relationship, including my making a trip to Michigan State, where she was going to school. As I headed out of Chicago to go see her – riots were taking place in every major city in America, as it was the day following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The natives were restless, and if you were white, your car was a target – moving or not. The bricks and stones were flying off the bridges going through the city, but my car escaped unscathed that day. I made it to Michigan where, while enjoying a steamy evening in my car with Carole, LBJ announced that “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” The hooting and hollering on that campus was loud that night. But it was time to return to Chicago and move on – after all, I had a date with Ho Chi Minh and I couldn’t keep him waiting, but beforehand – a rendezvous with my father, who I had not seen in 13 years, and then a visit to the city of “flowers in their hair” – San Francisco to see my Aunt Muffin, her husband and the kid – along with Pat Paulson – the kid’s godfather.
My strongest memory of the trip to Frisco, was my Uncle telling me to stick a piece of Ivory soap up my ass so that I would get a fever – and to make sure that I did it every morning, so that the doctors would give me a deferment from Nam. Apparently – the cause of that kind of fever could not be detected, and they would have to let you off the hook. I passed and got on a flight to Ft. Lewis, where a red-headed nurse was awaiting my arrival – unbeknownst to her.
Standing in line for my final physical before embarking on my whirlwind tour of the jungle, I passed out. Was it fear? I was too dumb and young to know what fear was. They picked me up off the ground, and decided that I need to go to the hospital. Bang! Mononucleosis and Hepatitis. You see – in Germany, each night when I pulled up to a string of bars at 10:30 each night (from where I would party and drink – and other things – until four in the morning), I wasn’t eating enough. I survived on liquid nutrition. I mean after all, each bottle contained natural ingredients such as, what, barley and hopps. Das vas der gut Deutcher shiza! What the hell could go wrong? They checked me into the hospital at Fort Lewis for a two week stay, after which the doctor suggested an additional two week rest and relaxation (R & R) trip to a warm and dry climate. Back to Phoenix to my Dad’s place. After all – we were still getting to know each other. But back to the red-head – well – maybe we shouldn’t. After all – this is a family book…
To make a long story short (although this is very therapeutically rewarding), my planned trip to Viet Nam and Cam Ranh Bay was delayed from its original arrival of April until June 5, ‘68, the day after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles. It was not until shortly after leaving the tarmac in Washington, that I sent a note to the pilot asking of the condition of Kennedy, only at that point learning that he had died. Damn – were the deaths of King and Kennedy an omen of my future ‘in country’? Only time would tell.
My position had already been filled in the Bay area, so I was reassigned to Ahn Khe. I was flown up there, only to learn that the company I was supposed to join had (for the most part) been wiped out in a fire-fight the day before, and they had no need for my services as a ‘spoon.’ I hung around for several days waiting for reassignment, which finally arrived.
June 6, 1968: “Climb on the Huey boy – you goin’ to Qui Nhon, where you will learn your fate.”
The fate came in the guise of one Warrant Officer, Christopher Lucci…
To be continued…
~ the Author ~
A veteran of Viet Nam, student of history (both American and film), Jeffrey Bennett has been broadcasting for over two decades as host of various radio-satellite and internet based programs and has been considered the voice of reason on the alternative media – providing a unique and distinctive broadcast style, including topics such as your Financial, Physical, and Spiritual well-being, education, news, Federal and local legislative issues, which will affect our future, political satire (with a twist), and editorial commentary on current events through the teaching of history. Through The Book Shelf, Bennett has published numerous books on American History – TRUE history – not re-worked, altered history. The Book Shelf has also published books for unknown authors, whose dedication to truth – stands alone.
Jeffrey is the founder and CEO of Kettle Moraine, Ltd. Publications, which is the host and developer of numerous websites, including the Metropolis Café, Dr. Kelley’s Victory Over Cancer, The Book Shelf, Kettle Moraine Precious Metals and The Federal Observer – a daily on-line publication, which co-authored and spear-headed a petition, which ultimately caused new legislation to be signed by President Bush within 450 days of the events that rocked our world on September 11, 2001. In addition, Kettle Moraine, Ltd., continues to produce Life, Liberty & All That Jazz, a daily broadcast for The Micro Effect Network.