What was farming in Viet Nam like? Today, I don’t know but in 1968 it was a shocker. Going there and seeing how they lived was a surprise even to a poor country boy from the south. Thatched roof huts for housing. Dirt floors. No paved roads. A paved road are you kidding me? The village shared a common well for drinking water and maybe a village bicycle for long distance transportation. When the farmer headed out to the field in the morning the family “honey pot” went with him to be added to the rice patty and the power source for the farming, the family Water Buffalo! We, the soldiers, could not understand then why they were so upset when one was killed but to them it meant was that they and their family may not have anything to eat.
A 200 year step back in farming history would be my guess. Honey pot? Think about it, you’ll figure it out, all natural soil additives! Also I need to be honest here; I did not study their farming practices very much during the 13 months I was there. I did not even see the first hobby farm. Military matters kept getting in the way. You might even say I had other more urgent matters on my mind.
But that is not the experience I want to share today anyway.
It is rainy here this morning much like it was there a lot of the time and maybe because of this I was just reminiscing about a life that has gone before. I had revisited some old military memories a few weeks back in the form of old photos. There is not a lot of them and I couldn’t even find all of the ones I know I do have but thankfully the memories are still there.
I say thankfully because, you know I am older now, but the memory still works. Regardless of the rumors you have no doubt heard to the contrary. Most of the time, a smile is in order here. But also because my memories of my time there are not all bad ones. In fact most of the ones most often visited are of the goods times. Yes there are those that are not good but I choose to not think or dwell on those. There are enough of the ones where friends I had then were doing something that still brings a smile to my face and wonderings of where they are today.
Like a time not long before I rotated out. We, the company, had moved onto a high flat topped promontory somewhere in the southern mountain area. I had no idea where we were then and still don’t today. We had to clear an LZ, (that is military talk for landing zone) so we could be resupplied, hopefully before dark. The C-Rats we carried were getting slim and maybe this time the ones we got would not be at least twice as old as we were. We ate rats from the 30s. Also the possibility of need for emergency medivac so they could get in and out with the choppers. Now why would we think we might need emergency medical assistance in the middle of the night in a combat zone do you suppose? I’m sorry that was a police action. YEAH!
Come to think of it This may well have been the night I went to check my squad’s part of the lines and found another friend on watch, weapon in hand as he should and crying and shaking uncontrollably at the same time. I asked what was wrong of course and he said he was scared and could not stop shaking. He was medevacked the next day. Never saw him again. His name? It doesn’t matter. I may relate other stories with him in it and this is not something any of us would want to be remembered for. We are not all equipped to handle all things. Be that as it may. He gave all he had to serve his country.
We were almost guests in that country right? Advisors, helping to build bridges and highways. That is what the news release in my local hometown paper said I was doing.
Engineers had blown down the trees that needed to be removed but they still had to be carried from the LZ. By hand! These were big trees. All in one piece. So they gave us tools to cut them up with. Two axes! Hey we were in the boondocks. Deep in them. Somehow it wound up that me and a friend named Melvin Peters from Roswell, GA had the pleasure of starting to cut up the same tree trunk. How it happened exactly I don’t remember but somehow it turned into a contest to see who would get through first. Imagine that! Two nineteen year old jarheads with nothing else to do competing with each other.
I don’t have a picture of that, except in my mind, but I can still see us standing on that tree trunk swinging away and grinning at each other. Like the idiots that we no doubt were, to see who was going to be the first to cut thru. It was Melvin by the way. I think he had the smaller section.
As I sit here putting this to paper, so to speak, I find myself smiling much the same as we were then. Yes there were good times. Times when life was much the same as it would have been were we State Side. Good times to remember.
I have been fortunate enough to see Melvin a couple of times since then but it has been about 15 years and we have lost contact. If you read this Melvin drop me a note so we can touch base again. Or should anyone that knows him read this please let one or the other of us know how to reach the other. My email is in our personal info or here. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is to you Mel, Thanks for the good memories. And anyone else that shared their time with me feel free to let me know! I look forward to it!!!! Or others that just shared their time there also.
Malaria earned me a trip to Subic Bay, Philippines. Of course they wouldn’t let me off the hospital ship of course. FUN NOT ALLOWED
I’m the good looking one of course
See, Mel even thought he needed the bigger weapon
Bob (1st Battalion 3rd Marines Delta Company H&S) all of 1968