Home » A Wasted Life » Murder Mysteries » Ole’ Tin-tin -Chapter Four

Ole’ Tin-tin -Chapter Four

“We started our training,” grandpa said.  “Most of us had never even seen the kind of weapons we were given, much less fired one.  We were given gear that we didn’t really know what to do with, and there wasn’t much help from the other guys, because they were just as green as we were.  There were the usual physicals and jumping jacks, getting used to very little sleep, eating horrible food and getting yelled at like we were less than vermin, but we muddled through.  Before we knew it, the six weeks were over and we were loaded onto a C-123, headed to Vietnam.”

“When we landed, we jumped out of that plane and like so many others, were ready to do our part.  We were going to save the world by wiping out the bad guys.  We were going to make ripples.  God, we were so naïve.”

“One of the first things we saw were the other platoons, coming back from a search and destroy mission.”  Grandpa looked down for what seemed to be several minutes before he continued.  His voice almost broke when he said “back then, I couldn’t speak to the horrors of war.  I could only speak to the emptiness in the eyes of those who fought and by some miracle, survived physically, but would remain forever changed.”

“They didn’t speak to us.  Hell, they didn’t even look at us.  They just walked by like they were in a daze.  We didn’t really know what to make of them.”

“We were told to go find our platoon leader, Staff Sargent Weston.  While wandering around like a pack of lost puppies, we heard the other guys saying things like, ‘they’re idiots, don’t know where to go when they’re walking around, don’t know what to take with them, don’t know how to wear their gear or carry their weapons properly, can’t respond to basic commands, waste their ammo, and flake out.  Hell, they even cry and start calling for their mamas, because they’re homesick.  They’re liabilities, boys, so watch your sixes.  They kind of saw us as a dangerous handicap, and figured we’d get snuffed out the first time we were sent ‘in country’.”

“George and I weren’t too bothered by what they said.  Neither of us had a clue what lay ahead…and when I think back, it was probably a blessing.”

“We finally found Weston.  He had been in country for a while and I remember that he had this blank look on his face.  When we walked up, he looked at George and said, ‘goddamn boy.  You look like a tree.  These boys are going to have to dig a trench for you to walk in.  Otherwise, you’re going to be a moving target.  Now, everybody get your shit together.  We’re heading out tomorrow at first light’.”

“When morning came, we were ready and our emotions ranged from being excited to anxious to worried to being scared shitless.  Sargent Weston was a man of few words and gave us the most basic instructions about what to do and what not to do.  ‘Never salute an officer, keep your powder dry, and if you get lost,’ he said, ‘whatever you do, don’t call out.  Just stay put, keep your head down and we’ll find you…eventually…and tree…keep that goddamned harmonica stowed in your pants’.  Apparently, along with the rest of the camp, Sargent Weston had heard George playing ole tin-tin.”

Grandpa looked down and said, “waiting on our helicopter, we saw soldiers unloading bodies from another one, laying them in a row, and covering them with tarps.  Then we watched as they threw huge buckets of water in the cargo hold to wash away all the blood.  Sargent Weston looked at the pilot and asked, ‘how many’?  The pilot said, ’38’.”

“I think, not yet able to grasp the concept of what war really was, I imagined he was asking about soldiers who had been wounded.  I remember when we took off, the wind from the helicopter blades blew off all those tarps, and we were looking at dead soldiers.  Things started to become a little more real for me after seeing that.  I was looking at ripples.”

I asked Grandpa if he would like to take a break.  I laughed when he said, “yep.  Let’s go get us another Dr. Pepper.  Nowadays, there’s not much an ice cold Dr. Pepper can’t cure, don’t you think?”

He took a sip and started talking in an almost monotone voice, like he was reading from a script.  I think maybe it was the only way he could cope with the sadness and regret he felt as he began to open old wounds that had never really healed.

 

To be continued___________________

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