In Vietnam, a lot of us away from home for the first time thought that a moustache would make us look older or at least more macho. In Aviation units, there was a plethora or handle-bar moustaches that were worn with pride. This is a short story about one of them. Let me start by telling you that I was a failure in 1968 in growing any type of facial hair. All it did was advertise my youth and not add to my age.
|Private Petty, 1966|
As I was headed to Hawaii for an R&R with my wife Barbara, we flew to Cameron Bay to gather up plane loads of people. One of the guys scheduled to go on the flight I was on was a Cobra Helicopter pilot. He was a cocky devil-may-care guy with a handle bar moustache that he actually waxed. I think it was about two inches beyond the corner of his mouth and because he twirled it from time to time seemed to stay where it needed to be.
As the time got closer to fly out, the subject of the acceptance of the moustache to a wife that had never seen this one. I think his words were "Screw That, either she likes it of not and I don't give a Damn" Your can dumb that down into Military Speak but those that know what he really said and the rest of you really don't need to have me add to the profanity in our world.
Well, you can imagine the laughter we all had when he showed up for the flight home without that proud 'stache. Seems like she didn't like it and she had something he wanted real bad. Seems like a fair trade to me. Besides, the moustache could grow back but the words he uttered were locked into my brain housing group.
The following story happened to me and may not be indicative of what other combat soldiers experienced. On the first night we were in the field in Vietnam our battalion took about 37 mortar rounds and lost a bunch of guys KIA and even a lot more wounded. I will forever have the sound of a mortar firing etched into my memory. The round fired from a distance makes a "thunk" sound. Next time you get you vacuum cleaner out, hit the hose attachment with the flat of your hand and it will make a pretty close sound to that. I have had people tell me that the round makes a whoosh sound when it arrives where you are but I tried to be as flat on the ground as I could.
Well, to make a long story even longer, the first night the wife and I were in a hotel in Hawaii, we were trying to sleep when in the middle of the night the person in the next room flushed one of those mechanical toilets. You know the kind, they have a metal handle sticking out of the side of the pipe
and probably flush 5 to 10 gallons when it flushes. It made a sound that pretty much replicated the sound of a Mortar from about 3 klicks out. To make it worse, the handle made a whoosh sound as it slowed down the water flow to stop flushing.
Put yourself in my place, and add the fact that I had just traveled half way around the world that day and was in a very deep sleep. The first move I made was to roll off the bed and onto the floor. The next move was to look for my rifle and helmet. There I was in my birthday suit and it was like one of those dreams where you go to school naked.
Imagine if you will, having the love of your life look over the edge of the bed and ask you why are you on the floor and tell you there are no rifles here.
OH well, that was the limit of my PTSD on that trip. I forgot all about Vietnam for a few days and nights. Now, 48 years later I hardly ever even notice except I am asleep on the couch and the AHC Channel has some battle scenes.