50,000 Hits

During the years I have been writing this blog, I have had 50,040 hits and am glad to say that I appreciate your visits.  I hope to continue my gawking, walking and talking about things I encounter on the path of life.  I hope to continue to meet non-sexual tricycle riders, metro sexual unicycle riders, Heterosexual Bike riders and recumbent over the hill sexual riders.  I hope you will stop and leave a comment or two when you have the time but be assured that I write these words of wit for me.  Bonus for you if you read them and enjoy.


Govt Health Care Part 2

I for one really don't mind sitting in a waiting room surrounded with a bunch of old guys that love to talk about their time in the service.  If you are qualified for VA services you probably don't mind too much.  Here is a short example of the headaches of Government Health Care.

I think I ended yesterday bu sharing with you that I had Malaria in 1968 and was put in the VA Hospital for three weeks or so.  Whatever they did cured me of the current symptoms and prevented any recurrences.  For that I am grateful.   Near the end of my Hospital stay, I mentioned that I had a high frequency hearing loss and wondered how bad it really was.   They scheduled me for a hearing test and as I supposed, I did in fact not hear much at the top end of the hearing scale.  The guy there told me that I would eventually need hearing aids and later on in life I should have my ears tested.  About three weeks I got a report from the VA saying that my claim for compensation was denied because there was no clear cause that the partial hearing loss was service connected.  No big deal at that time.

A couple of months ago, my wife who had been patient all these years started to mumble.  Her patience wore thin when my response was typically , "HUH?" She encouraged me to go to the VA and have it checked.  I went there and found that there was no way to have a simple hearing test, I had to enroll for their services.  I am now a category 6 patient.  That means that if a girl scout in Des Moines  stubs her toe, she is a higher priority.  They will treat me but charge my health care provider.   In August, I will carry only Medicare and TriCare and the VA cannot charge those government agencies for services provided.   

This round of enrollment with the VA required that I go over to have a physical and each year I will have a follow up visit.  I am not sure I care to do that but I have a year to think about it.

Let me say that I am currently cared for by a great Doctor and the hospitals here in Topeka are the greatest. I hope to live a long life and continue to have excellent health care.  I am concerned that budget cuts in the future will inhibit the health care I get just when I am at an age to need more.  

But the good news is that I don't mind sitting around in a waiting room full of old guys that like to tell war stories and have time to kill.



Government Health Care

This is not a rant against Obama care, it is simply a short report on the experiences of my exposure with the Government health Care as provided by the VA.  I have been informed that is kind of a view of what health care is headed for.

In 1966, I was drafted into the US Army and during my first months there, we were told that the VA would provide our health care for life.  Especially after we had fought in Vietnam.  I should have known from my experiences with the Army Health care system what I was in for.  About the first time it frosted that fall, most of us came down with that strange thing called Upper Respiratory Infection (URI).  back on the street it was known as a cold and a sore throat.  We were forced to stand outside the orderly room for about a half an hour waiting for the clerk to fill out a sick slip to let us go over to the local dispensary.  When we got there, there was a line clear outside and again we were forced to stand in line outside for well over an hour.  Without taking out temperature, we were asked what the problem was and if it was a cough and a sore throat, they gave us a small paper bag that had URI written on the outside with a marker.  Inside was a small bottle of cough medicine and a small bottle of ACP's.  We were told that it was a combination of Aspirin and  Phenacetin which is a fever reducer that is not used much anymore because of the adverse effects.   Come to think of it, there were also some throat lozenges that tasted wintergreen just enough to cover the bad taste they had.   It was only when you really were sick that you got to see the doctor.  There were several cases of Spinal Meningitis on base and we were made to change our beds so you didn't have your head right over the guy sleeping in the bunk below you. 

The only other time I saw any health care in Basic Training was when they sent me over to the hospital for a Pre-Induction Physical as I applied for OCS.   I had to report in early and did not get to eat breakfast.  They drew blood in several small vials and I was made to wait to see the Doctor the next day.  I managed to fool around at the hospital long enough to get to eat a big greasy hamburger in the cafeteria.  The next day I got to see a doctor after waiting for over an hour for my 9:00 AM scheduled appointment.  He had the results of my blood work and basically asked me if ther was anything wrong.  No, approved.  

My next encounter with the Medical system in the Military was the result of an accident.  We were just finishing the last day of our "3 Day War" and as we hooked up a howitzer on the back of a gun truck, we missed the lunette and it was dropped instead of being hooked up on the truck.  The guy to my right fell down and the trail would drop on his leg.  I held on and held it just long enough to let him get the hell out of the way.  A normal size 10 boot would have been out of the way.  A size 12 was just too long.  They didn't even take my boot off, they rushed me to the hospital.  In the emergency room, they had me take the boot off and soak my foot in a pan of warm water.  I am not sure if that was treatment of because my feet were dirty from three days in the field without bathing.  It was pretty clear that the toenails were going to come off on my right foot and I would be using a crutch for a week or so.  They sent me back to my unit and I was told that if it got infected to come back in a few days.  They didn't X-ray the foot or anything.  I probably could have seen a Doctor later on but only if it hurt so bad I couldn't walk.  I was allowed to wear a tennis shoe on the right foot and not to walk in formation where it might have gotten stepped on or kicked.

Somewhere in either 1967 or 68, we were told that the only way we would get health care from the VA was to have a service connected illness or injury.  Any thought of having health care for free for life was over. 

When I came home from Vietnam, They gave us a 90 day supply of the little white tablets and a strip of the big orange tablets to continue our anti Malarial treatment.  On the 3rd of July 1968, I was discharged from the Army at Fort Carson, Colorado and went home to Wichita.  I went back to work in construction to earn enough money to return to school that fall.  In less than 2 weeks, I was sick every other day for a week and in the a civilian hospital for three or four days to run tests.  Nothing and the day after I was discharged I was one sick puppy again.  This  time my dad said to take me to the VA.  Yep, malaria.  They were running some kind of a test and I was put in a clinical trial to no only bring me back to good health, but to get rid of the Malaria parasites in my body.  For three weeks straight, i would get up in the morning, take a shower, put on clean PJ's and take a pill that I am sure horses couldn't swallow.  By about 10 AM, I would be so weak I couldn't get out of bed.  All day I would sweat and the odor that came out of me was so strange.  I could not eat lunch and very little for supper.  By evening, I was just so worn out that i would sleep like a baby for at least 8 hours.  When i would wake up I felt great.  That cycle went on for three weeks and one day they told me i was through getting the pills.  They wanted to keep me for a couple of weeks to run some more tests.  Wednesday of the next week, I had to go enroll at Wichita State and I checked out and didn't go back.  For a year I had a 10% disability.  It got me about $20.00 a month.  

Tomorrow I'll continue with the current day activities with the VA.




Why Write?

For the past few days, I have tried to write a story that I could combine what I knew about Vietnam and some personal facts, most of them from the Internet.  I have been writing while avoiding doing my taxes for 2011 and while watching the NCAA Men's Playoff's.  OK, there has been a nap or two thrown in for good measure.

I have been blessed to not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my periods in the war.  For the most part, when I came home to the arms of my wife, I was able to forget the really bad times and now, 40 years later have to concentrate to bring even the good times to the fore front of my memory.   I think I wrote the saga about Jesse James to see if I could put a coherent story together and if people would read it.I have been averaging about 100 hits a day on my blog so some of you are out there.

One of these days I will launch into another story but I need to think about what I really want to write about.   

The weather in Kansas is just strange this year.  We are having May weather here in March and it is raining again today.   The grass is green and you can hear it grow.  

Do you have a good opening line for a book?  Perhaps what I need is that start to get my juices flowing again.



Final Episode of LT Jesse james.

This is a fictional Story - The People herein do not exist except in my fertile mind.  I know it is fertile because it has been fertilized by the passage of time and distance.

 Under normal circumstances, I would have been MEDIVACED out of the jungle and taken back to one of the clearing stations.  I probably would have from there been taken to Pleiku and the hospital there.  I doubt that I would have been taken out of country.  Japan sounded good but really not in my lifetime. I just stayed there in the mud the blood and the beer with the boys.  For some reason I did not understand, a patrol from Headquarters had made it to our position and leading that patrol was a Captain in brand new jungle fatigues.  His gear was so new that it looked almost fake.  To add insult to injury (mostly mine) he had one of those new CAR-15's that really did look like it was made by Mattel.  It was shorter than our M-16's and had some kind of collapsible stock that would shorten the whole rifle up to about 12 to 18 inches.  The Captain was my replacement and the first thing he asked me was what we should do next.  Ain't that like any organization, hire a new boss and you have to train him.

We called what was left of the NCO's over to our position and held a short briefing.  The NCO's came with a bunch of gripes about the shortages of ammo, food, water and men.   By the time I broke up the bitch session, we had spent almost an hour trying to figure out where to go and how to get there.  The guys in the Battalion Tactical Operations Center(TOC) were real antsy for us to start pushing on up that damned hill.  They didn't want us to lose contact with the flank of our sister Company.  We had been leading the push up that hill and if we really were worried about them, we would have had to stop several times to keep out lines even.  The only advantage we had at all was the new guys had all of the ammo they needed and brought some water cans. 

The rest of the morning, we pushed forward with the same results as the day before.  We would shoot either Artillery or mortars until the enemy had their heads down and move up a little before they popped back up and started shooting back.  There had been one instance where an errant gunship had shot up one of the units in the area of the headquarters but we had been lucky.  I told out FO that he was to make sure that every mission he sent back was danger close.  That meant that the guns were extra careful and used their gunners quadrants on every round.  We were so close to where the rounds hit that every once in a while some one of the guys would pick up a piece of shrapnel and you could hear them shout, "Damn That's Hot!"  The sounds of the AK47 rounds passing overhead had a strange popping noise if they were real close.  I imagine it was the round breaking the sound barrier.  For the most part, the NVA had used up most of their mortar rounds and hand grenades and we were facing mostly   Automatic Rifle fire from those AK-47's. 
As the day progressed, the lack of trees on the hill just made our positions brutally hot.  It was like a sauna under the canopy and without the green cover you couldn't drink enough water.  We had a few of the guys starting to show signs of heat stroke.  The Medic would come into a new position and pinch the back of our hands.  If the skin went back to normal, you were OK.  If the skin stayed kind of pinched up, he would tell you to drink more water.  The Medic stayed pretty close to the front of our position by late afternoon and was busy putting dressing on wounds and directing evacuation of the wounded to a collection point.  Battalion had some of the Medics from the support battalion carrying the wounded to the Battalion aide station and from there the seriously wounded would be evacuated by helicopter.  One of the medics told me that there was a mini graves registration point there by the aide station and they were doing their best to identify the bodies.  They were having trouble getting a Chinook to come in to sling load out the bodies.  The Dust Off Huey's were all going out fully loaded with wounded.   I was pretty sure that many of those were the men in our company and i didn't want to think about how many were dead.

As we pushed up our side of the mountain, the enemy almost stopped shooting at us.  In my mind, there wasn't any way they wanted that damned hill as bad as we did and I thought they were just slipping away in the jungle.   I found out that an ARVN unit was approaching the top of the hill from the far side and unless the NVA had good escape tunnels, we were just killing them faster than they were killing us.  

For some reason I will never understand, we were ordered to move up the hill as fast as we could and be "King of the Mountain" ahead of the Vietnamese unit.  We closed on the top and those silly bastards were shooting at us until we threatened to start shooting artillery back at them.

As soon as we were in a fairly secure position, I was told by the Medic that I needed to get my wounded butt back down the hill to the Battalion evacuation point.  He was concerned that the smell of my wound was starting to get pretty bad and that's not a good sign. Personally I couldn't tell if it was the fact that my butt was hanging out our the start of a bad infection. I was soon in the hospital in Pleiku and spent the next couple of weeks getting more antibiotics than I could stand.  It killed all the bacteria and I soon had the GI's so bad that I could not get out of bed and I would just have to have my bed linen changed every hour or so.   They would let me go down to the shower and bathe with antibacterial soap and I got all the ice cream I could eat.  One curious thing was that my teeth were in terrible shape out in the jungle and as soon as that medicine kicked in, my teeth stopped feeling fuzzy.  All of the sores and ring worm cleared up in that short two weeks. 

When I got back to my Company, I was met by a new Captain.  Most of the NCO's were gone and there were two new Platoon leaders.  What do you think the Army did when they captured Hamburger Hill?  Two weeks after the battle, we just left it there all blown to hell and we went elsewhere.  The final report was that we traded over 200 soldiers for 600 of the NVA dead.  I have no idea how many wounded were sent out of the country.  For weeks after the battle, we were back to small unit maneuvers and the wounded soldiers started showing back up healed of their wounds.  

Most of us could tell you how many days they had left on our tours and when you got under 100 days, you were a double digit midget.  When you got within 10 days you were so short that you would have to repel down out of your boots.  By the time my departure date arrived, I had no thought of getting anything out of the Army except ME!   The Army paid me travel all the way back to Wichita but I had no plans on doing anything but finding a fast car and driving anywhere else. 

End Of Story


Jesse james Part VII

This is a fictional Story - The people do not exist.  

R&R Center Cameron bay
Soldiers in Vietnam were granted an R&R to many different places.  The Commands were given quotas and weekly many of the soldiers would be transported to Cameron Bay to be sent elsewhere.  Most of the Married soldiers went to Hawaii to meet with their wives .   Many of the single men went to Thailand and spent the week with women of varied costs and skills.  I had always wanted to travel to Australia and that's where I signed up to go.  

After a six hour flight, the planes arrived in Sidney.  Most of the Soldiers checked into one of the hotels and spent the first hours or so just letting the warm water try to take the red tint out of the skin on their hands.  Most would then go somewhere to see if they could eat the biggest steak on that continent.  Follow that up with a bunch of Fosters Beer and a good night's sleep.  I was no exception to that rule.
After a great meal, Larry, one of the Lieutenants from a Leg unit, and I went to a local bar to check out the lay of the land.  When we went into the bar, the entire edge of the bar was just full of young women.  It was as if someone had lined them up just for us.  Their guys were gathered around the bar and  no one seemed to be paying any attention to the girls.  We just walked around in the bar and talked to many of the young women.  It was clear that the guys just didn't care or were too drunk to notice. In addition to needing to hear the voices of a young women, we  were curious about what was happening in Sydney and what to do.  We singled out a couple of young women that were pretty and very warm to have men spend time talking to them.  We asked the girls if they would like to go with us the next day and see Sydney.  They gathered up 

Sydney Harbor

their purses and without saying farewell to their boyfriends walked out arm and arm with us.   I was sure that we would get followed outside and there would be a fight. It was like we said, the boy friends were either non caring or drunk. We walked them back to their apartment and were invited in for a few beers. Much to our surprise, we were invited to spend the night. The next day, we had a wonderful day seeing the sights and eating as much and as often as we could. Sometime in the late afternoon, someone saw that there was a concert that evening.  The guys asked the girls if they wanted to go and a time was set for us  to pick up the two girls.  After changing at our Hotel room, we set out on our way over to the girls apartment.  We saw a florist shop and picked up flowers for the girls.  When we showed up for the date and presented the flowers, the girls just broke down crying.  It seems that they had never been brought flowers and thought the Yanks were sweet for doing so. 
After the concert, the girls insisted we come back to their apartment.  The fridge was full of Fosters and the girls were just thankful to have the guys there. Again we were invited to spend the night. The next morning the girls told the guys that they were going to go to their hotels and check out.  We were welcome to spend the rest of our R&R right there with them.  It was as if we had hit the lottery.  Two beautiful young women were just smitten with the manners of those two GI's.  They fell into a rhythm of waking late and eating breakfast. We would walk around Sydney until noon and then eat a lunch.  Back to the apartment for an afternoon nap and/or  more great sex than we could imagine.   A great afternoon nap was followed by a long bath and out for the evening.  Fine dinners were fairly cheap and the girls were thrilled with the attention.  By the time to report back to the R&R Center for the trip back to Vietnam, I was in love with Martha.  I had thoughts that I might even take my discharge in Australia when his time in the Army was up.   Larry was not interested in a long term relationship but he exploited the hell out of his week in Australia.  All the way back to Vietnam, we slept like babies.
In his dream, he was on the Plane on the way back to Vietnam when the ants started biting his butt. he woke up with a medic telling him that he was OK but would not be able to sit down for a while.  It was kind of funny that I was told I should keep the wound clean.  I had the butt ripped out of my fatigues and no spare set of pants.  




Jesse james Part VI

I know you are getting tired of reading this part, but this is a work of fiction and not intended to report facts.  If you think you are mentioned in it, get a life and just be glad you weren't there.

The  night before, the NVA left us alone and we rested as much as we could.  With a mandatory 50% on alert, it was only a half ration of sleep and the mortar fire told us that tonight 's sleep was over.  When the mortar rounds stopped, the darkness was almost complete.  Then flash, a trip flare on their perimeter went off.  That was the start of a mad minute of firing and more excitement that there was adrenalin to handle. There was a combination of AK-47 and M-16 fire that a no shit attack was in progress.  The platoons had put out Claymore mines and many of them were set off.  They sprayed a wide path of small steel ball bearings about the size of 00 Buckshot.  That helped the unit stave off a ground attack that was at least a company sized unit.  They also fired their rifles and machine guns while the Forward Observer fired the defensive Concentrations just beyond their perimeter.  The Mortar FO's had the Battalion Mortars working over the perimeter and it was almost like a concert for the Infantry.  No one knew how the lead man in the lead element tripped that flare, but it put everybody on alert and the NVA unit paid a dear price for that attack.  Normally a sapper would lead the way in and they were good at not tripping flares or booby traps. 

In every other attack Jessie had read about, the NVA had almost the same size unit to carry off the dead and wounded at the end of an attack.  You would normally find blood trails and discarded equipment but no dead enemy soldiers.   The attacking unit had been mostly wiped out by the Company and the backup unit was wiped out by the Artillery and Mortars.    The estimate was that Jessie's unit had killed about 200 of the enemy and had lost only 10.  Damn fine work.  Jesse was just also made aware that his Company Commander was one of the Dead.  He found himself in command of the Company.   he also found that he was told in that in the morning they were continue the attack. On his visit to the Platoons NCO's,  his men told him that they were about out of rations.  A helicopter hovered above his unit long enough to drop in cases of ammo and a few cases of C-Rations.  Just enough to keep them fed for about 24 hours.  The Battalion had moved their forward resupply position a little forward and it took them a few hours that morning to carry the dead back to an area where the choppers could land long enough to hook up a sling load of the dead.  I was just damn glad that my guys could not see that.  It just doesn't feel right that the dead soldiers should have to ride underneath a helicopter instead of in it. Back at base camp, I had seen the mortuary services unloading sling loads of dead soldiers but they hadn't been my soldiers. 

I did what every Gung Ho Infantry Officer would do and I ordered my men to continue the attack.  They did and during that day made enough forward progress to not have to be with the rotting carcasses of  200 dead enemy soldiers.  I was also glad that there was no helicopter landing zone there or he would have been up to his butt cheeks in VIP's wanting to see what 200 dead enemy looked like. There is also kind of an unwritten rule that Majors, Light Colonels and Colonels could be written up for going to such places to pad their awards and decorations.  I had no use for such antics. We lost another 10 men that day and by that evening we were down to about 50% of the size of a normal unit.  I begged the Battalion Commander to let us stop where we were  and for some chow to be sent up.  We got to spend the night there on the side of that damned mountain even though we like the hill was chopped up like hamburger.  The hill was just a bare mound of earth that had the green stripped off it.  There were smoldering fires everywhere and dead enemy strewn about like the Civil war Battlefields I had read about .  The ground was slick with mud and blood and for every step forward, you might slide back two or three.  It was strange that the rifle fire would almost stop at night and after getting their clock cleaned, the NVA didn't try to overrun us again.   Our sister Company didn't have the same luck.  They were hit about mid night and the only thing that saved them was a C-130 with cannons mounted in the side that worked the perimeter over for at least an hour.  The stream of red tracers drawing a circle around their perimeter was pretty in a strange and perverse way.  Somewhere in one of my briefings, I had been told that the sound of the mini guns and 40mm cannons sounded like the wail of a banshee and the NVA were terrified of the sound.  I was just glad it was on our side and to me it sounded sweet.

I had read a report that for every casualty they caused, the US troops fired at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition.  This attack had to be at least that wasteful.  The sad part of his situation was that there was just no way to really know how many soldiers for the North Vietnamese would be buried in the tunnels or carried off to be buried in the jungle.   To die there without anyone knowing where you were was just something the US Troops did their best to keep from happening.  In the fog of battle, there just had to be one or two bodies blown apart and not recovered.  At least here there were no tigers marauding through the positions to find something to eat.  No self respecting tiger would be within miles of our gunfire
On the morning of the fifth day, I was moving around shaking the guys out  of their holes for an attack on that damned hill when a grenade rolled into his position.  According to the official report, it was an NVA grenade but to me, it looked a lot like a US fragmentation Grenade or a Frag.  It wouldn't have been the first combat units had tried to take out their commander.  I had tried  to jump out of that hole but my hindmost part didn't quite get out of the hole.  When I hit the ground on the downhill side, my buttocks were full of many very small pieces of metal and the big pieces had missed anything important.   The medic came over to help me and decided that a shot of morphine would be needed to dig out the small stuff and bandage the rest. One shot of morphine and I just went to sleep and dreamed of my R&R to Australia.




Off The Air

I am going to be off the air for a couple of days.  Doing some tractor shopping and a small thing like the sweet 16 games.    See Ya' Monday.

We found a nice used 4WD AGCO (Allis) tractor in Winfield.  It is a 50 HP diesel and it will be delivered first part of next week.  We couldn't get the dealer to come down on the price but he did throw in the delivery.   I will need to buy some attachments this week and get to work on the driveways.  I also have a ball game or two left to watch today.  Our lady Jayhawks bot beat but the men are still in the hunt. 


Jesse James part V

This is just a story and does not contain anything but what I have made up in my mind.  

When I fell asleep, my mind drifted back to the simple times right after I graduated from High School.  I thought I was  too short for Sports and too dumb to qualify for an educational or sports scholarship.  During that summer, I kinda fell into a good construction job and managed to save enough to go to Junior College in Eldorado for the first Semester.   I spent the weekends and a few evenings sacking groceries at Safeway trying to save enough for second semester.  I worked three winters in Kansas on the driveway of a Gas Station and darn near froze my butt off.  I had almost all of the tuition for second semester in the bank when my dumb car broke down right after Thanksgiving.  If it had been summertime, I am sure that I could have just pick up a used motor and with the help of a few friends put it in. There were a lot of used Chevy 283 CI engines out there as most of my buddies wanted to go bigger to the 327.   I compared the engine work with the cost of tuition and saw pretty clearly that Junior College was out for a semester.  A new motor and  a boss that let me work full time and I soon had enough money to go to summer school.  Dumb rules say you can go only about 9 hours in summer school and that wasn't considered full time to the Draft Board. Miss a couple of semesters of eligibility and I was not reported to the Draft Board for a student deferment.  Local 69 out of Wichita had a fairly high quota each month and if you turn 19 and aren't in school, your letter gets written and soon it is Greetings...    I made it for one more semesters at Butler County Junior College (BCJC) and no amount of talking to the draft board would keep me home.  I really didn't want to continue the fight to go to school anyway. 

 My High School girl friend had gone on to College at KU and we had pretty much stopped writing or talking.   I'm sure that she had moved on to other guys in her life.  I really was blown away by her in High School, but I was pretty sure that she wasn't the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  She was pretty and I was fascinated by the breasts but we really didn't talk about the future.  She was kind of like porn.  It turned me on in short doses but a life of that just wasn't something I really wanted.  Oddly enough, by the time I was in OCS, I had started to be a pen pal with her sister.   
In July of the year I turned 19, I went to the Induction Station in Kansas City for one of those "Pre-Induction Physicals"  As soon as the paperwork cleared, I found myself drafted and sent directly to Fort Leonard Wood, MO.  I soon found that all the competition I was in as a kid just got me ready for whatever the Army sent my way.  Something clicked in my mind and I thought he had found my home for now and the future.  No amount of harassment was needed for me to perform at the top of my Basic training Company during each step of the way.  I must have shot a million BB's as a Kid and at least a thousand .22s.  That just translated to whatever weapon I chose and I was a dead eye shot with the M-14.  I had always had 20/10 vision and I could see the far targets with no sweat. I felt like I had the eyes of an eagle.  I performed all the Physical training tests at the maximum level and ran the mile in just over 6 minutes in Army Combat Boots.  There was one event called the overhead ladders and I was just a monkey on them.  The lane grader would always say, "OK Jesse, you have done the maximum."  Must have been the bars on that playground back home.   I was selected by my Company Commander to be soldier of the quarter and then the Training Brigade Commander selected me for Trainee for the entire Training cycle in the Brigade.  I probably would have gone on to be the top soldier of the year for the post but a little thing like orders for his Advanced Individual Training AIT got in the way.  

During Basic Training, one of the "Career Counselors" told me that the Army was running low on Combat Infantrymen and unless I signed up for an additional year, I would probably get sent to Fort Benning and Infantry AIT.   Didn't  scare me for a second.  In fact, I dared that NCO to send him there as I was one of the best damned fighters ever to leave Kansas.  During that same time, I  had taken the OCS Test and was told that I could appear before a Board to get selected for OCS if I desired.   There was a Board held on a Saturday and I just told them that I wanted to be an Infantry Officer and go to Vietnam.  Stamp that file and send that guy to Fort Benning.  The thought that War is a damn good way to get killed was just not in my mind.  After all, my dad had made the D-day landing and was on the outskirts of Berlin when the war ended and he didn't get killed.  I completed Basic Training and the next day was on my first Commercial Airplane ride to Georgia.  At least it wasn't one of those Midnight trains or a bus.

 Fort Benning was 8 weeks of day and night training showing us how to close with the enemy and kill him.  I was the honor graduate of my training cycle and went almost directly to Officer Candidate School there at Fort Benning.  I was a natural and outperformed most of my peers in the classes.  I wasn't sure where it came from, but I just loved everything blue and Infantry.  On my weekends there, I toured the museum and read everything I could find out about my profession of arms.  When I found out that if I was in the top 10% of his graduating class, I could select his training and unit of assignment.  That motto "Follow Me" just stuck in my heart.
The no shit Screaming Eagles and Airborne  was my  selection.  I did not realize that I could have gone to Ranger Training if I had wanted. I probably could have gone to Flight School but the application said Rotary Wing Aircraft training and helicopters just didn't appeal to me.  The only thing that would keep me away from a Regular Army Commission would be my lack of a degree.  I figured that if I went to Vietnam and performed well, I could perhaps qualify for the Boot Strap program and let the Army pay for my degree.  If my record was great and I had a good combat tour, it could do wonders for a young Infantry Officer.  

There is an old saying that only bird shit and dead airplanes fall out of the sky.  Generally it is said by those without jump wings on their chest.  I just loved the challenge of becoming jump qualified and even the old guys were impressed how hard I worked to be the best at whatever I did.  No amount of harassment or physical training could cause me to give one percent less that 100% in everything.  By the completion of Jump School, I found myself assigned to Fort Campbell,  KY and to wait there for an assignment to the 3rd Bn 187th Inf in Vietnam.  

I was assigned to a unit there at Campbell and did everything I could do to be the best I could be.  I also about wore the Post Adjutant's office Staff out trying to get someone to cut orders on me and send me to Vietnam.  I only had a guaranteed two years to get in that one year tour and I was dead set to get over there before I made 1st Lieutenant.   

In my dream, I was making one of my last jumps Stateside, I was falling and falling and falling and his chute wasn't opening.  I awoke to the sound of mortars firing nearby and then impacting on our position.




Jesse James Part IV

This story is faction - Bones are facts but the meat is fiction.  

I was brought back to the real world of the Au Shau valley by the thump of an outgoing Artillery round.  I know that the marines were pushing up the far end of the valley and into Cambodia and the ARVN's were working from the bottom of the valley and making a road to the new LZ we named Little Screaming Eagle after our shoulder patch.  Camp eagle is almost always the 101st Main Fire Base in every war. As the first Company of the 3rd Battalion had started pushing towards the Mountain, their Forward Observer called in a fire mission because his unit had made contact with a unit of unknown size. 

In those days, it was very common for the NVA to set up small ambushes and traps and then withdraw before the US troops could engage all their firepower.  Between the mortars, the Artillery, the Jets or fast Movers and the gunships, we could pretty much over whelm most forces in a fair fight on flat and level ground.  Oh shit, Oh Dear, I thought as I saw that the rounds were advancing towards the Mountain.  When our unit all got on the ground, there was a meeting to give us a new mission for the next day.  His Company unit and the other unit on the ground would both start moving up the mountain to see what was there.  Yep'er, there be gooks in them there hills and only a bunch of grunts can go there and flush 'em out.  That night we dug in at the edge of the landing zone and you can bet no one had to tell them to make overhead cover on their fighting positions. 

Bright and early the next morning, the Point man started into the brush and found the trail criss crossed with booby traps.   Most of the traps were not the stupid punji stakes but real live grenades and a few mines.  Did I mention that you go real slow when you start finding things that can kill ya' .  It took almost all morning to get halfway to the edge of the mountain.  The other unit had gone about twice as fast and had lost three or four men already.  I was proud that our guys were maintaining their composure and keeping everyone well.  All of a sudden, a boom went off in the front of the element and everyone listened for more fire or the sounds of an AK 47.  All you had to do was hear an AK 47 go off once and you never forgot it.  A quick radio check told us that the point man had run into a Cobra on the trail and had dispatched it with a 40mm canister round from his grenade launcher. That damned snake was at least 8 feet long and as big around as my arm. It was a reminder that an armed enemy isn't the only thing that can kill you.   I don't think there was any element of surprise left in that damned valley.  We had an idea where they were and they knew we were coming to get them.  

When we got to what was the base of the hill, there were bunkers everywhere.  Most of them were dug well with connecting trenches between them.  Much to my surprise, we found them not manned. One of the guys wanted to see if the Law rocket would take one out and CPT Sawyer let him fire just one.  Damn, there were secondary explosions as whatever the hell was in that bunker also exploded.  That was the first of many things that just wasn't right to a bunch of pretty experienced Infantrymen.  We bypassed those positions and pretty soon began to run into wire and traps everywhere.  Just a quick calculation told me that at least an NVA Regiment must have been there to make all the fortifications.
My Platoon stayed pretty tight with the company headquarters and we didn't get spread out very much.  The Forward Observer for the Artillery was with the Company CO and one of the mortar FO's was right there with me.  The Forward Observers talked and did their best to use only what was needed to keep a round nearby.  It is a hell of a lot faster to shift a fire from a target than call in a new mission.  I found out just how good it was to have all that firepower when our Point element moved into a ravine and led us right into an ambush.  If the ground had been level, the troops would just have moved out on line and flanked the machine gun.  Because the ravine had that avenue of attack channeled up, we had to use the artillery and mortars to cover our withdrawal.  It took me about 15 minutes to explain to the Company Commander what the hell had happened and to get Battalion to let us change that avenue of approach.  The only thing that kept Battalion from ordering us back into that ravine   was the fact that our sister company was fighting to stay alive and Battalion ordered us to prepare to move over to where there were a lot of wounded Sky soldiers.  By the time the battalion had any idea what to do, it was getting dark and it was decided that we would just dig in there and in the morning go sort things out.  Charlie Company had been deployed early and now there were two companies attacking what was a pretty fortified position. Battalion committed the third company to help our sister company and we  were directed to push forward and find a route up that damned hill.  That was the first day in my six months of combat that my skill and training just met their match.  It wasn't so much that we were using bad tactics, we were trying to face an enemy of at least the same size as our Company and they were in well fortified positions.  It mattered not how much artillery he would dump on a position, as soon as the rounds stopped falling, the enemy would appear from their tunnels. 

As we moved forward, we  were trading the lives of my men for every foot.  By the blood trails and body parts in the new trenches as they took them, it was pretty evident that he was making the enemy pay a high price also.  The conventional tactics told us that if we were to win this battle, we would need three times as many troops as those we were trying to throw out of their fortifications.  Even with the augmented firepower, it wasn't anywhere a fair fight.  What the Fuck did I say, there is no such thing as fair in fighting.

From my first day in country, I was overwhelmed by the smells.  Around the American units, the smell of burning shit and diesel fuel was everywhere.  If you were a lowly soldier and screwed up, you are likely to find yourself on the shit detail.  Not a detail that was the shits, but the job of burning the feces of the other guys.  Out in the field, you just dug a hole with your entrenching tool.   If you were near the Vietnamese villages, the smell of dried fish in the market just out smelled everything else.  If you add  the smells of a battle to the smell of decaying flesh you might understand how strong the smells were. The odd thing was that after a couple of days, the soldiers just became immune to their own smell.  They smelled like sweat socks stored in a vat of dog puke.  Tear open a body and it smells bad.  Let it rot in the jungle for a day or two and it would gaga a maggot.

The fight continued on for the rest of the day and just about dark, the enemy just pulled back and we could not move on.  The exhaustion and high number of wounded just was like some kind of glue that stuck us the ground where we stopped.  We got permission from battalion to start moving some of the wounded back down the hill and the rest of the Company dug in with at least 50% of the men awake at all times.  Do the math, half of half is about 25%.  

The Company Commander started to check with his Platoons and see what his combat effectiveness was.  Much to his horror, he found that the Company was almost out of water and ammo.  The only thing that saved them was that the guys carrying wounded back could bring up ammo and water cans. By morning, the Company was pretty much used up and tired.  The good news is that they now had water and ammo to try to regain the edge.  Almost as soon as the unit started back up that damned hill, the enemy began to pop up and fire at us.  All day that day it continued that my Forward Observers would fire and then the unit would gain a few feet.  More heads would pop up and more fire. Again this battle continued for the second straight day. From time to time, the dug in troops would roll a grenade down the hill at us. We would return the favor by throwing our grenades at them. The hill was so chewed up that a lot of the grenades rolled down the hill fell in holes and against blown down trees. I'm sure that a lot of our grenades did the same.  Again at nightfall, the strange eerie silence would fall over them.  We evaced more wounded and more water and ammo was brought up. 

I had pretty much been up for about 72 hours straight and just passed out asleep somewhere during  the night.



This is a Rant - Warning it might piss you off.

It is my understanding that there is a lot of consideration to have the Government pay off all the Student Loans to the tune of about a Trillion Dollars.  Here is why I am firmly against such a move.

First, this is an election year and the Government does stupid things to buy votes.  This is tops on that list. A Trillion here, a trillion there and pretty soon you are talking about big dollars. 

Second, The value of an education is that it teaches you things to prepare you for the real world.  There is no free lunch in the real world.  Get a degree in things that have no real world value and you get what you want with no measurable value, only debt.  That is a lesson in its self. 

Third, Barb and I worked hard to get our degrees and asked for no quarter from any one else.  We treasure our degrees and are proud that we chose to get degrees that paid us a wage so we could get out of debt and stay that way.  We borrowed $500 the semester Barb did her Student teaching because she could not work part time that semester.  We paid half of that off and Barb taught in a title 10 school to forgive about half.  I served almost three years in the Army and earned the GI Bill money I was paid.  Knowing Barbara, we would have continued without the GI Bill and it might have taken us another five years but we would have made our goal. In Wichita, there was a program that let you attend school during the evenings to complete a degree.  There are universities all over the place that have degree completion programs that will let you work and go to school.

Only when the Government takes control of what you get to study will I buy into having the Government pay for it.  There needs to be some people that are electricians, plumbers, carpenters and machinists. Only when you accept that the government knows best will I buy in  to a scheme to pay for your education.  By then, the country will be so far in debt and headed to a socialist utopia that it won't really matter.


Jesse James Part III

This story is faction.  Most of it is made up.  If you think you are the subject of the story, get a life. This is a continuation of my story that is entirely fiction about the people.  there is a little fact sprinkled in but mostly it is just a story.

As I looked out the door of the chopper flying into the Au Shau Valley, my mind wandered back to a time as I grew up on the East Side of Wichita on a block just full of kids.  My dad had been gone to the War and I was his welcome home present to my mom.  I didn't know of the term Baby Boomer until I was much older.  Mom had worked at Beech Aircraft during the war and she was glad to let Dad have his job back and for her to stay home and fill our home with the laughter of children. 

I wish I had a dollar for each hour I sat and watched as dad took things apart and fixed them. I don't think it was because we were so poor, mostly he wanted to know how to fix things.  There were a few things he took a apart and threw away because the parts to fix it were so expensive or it was broke beyond repair.  I think I got my love for tools from dad.  I loved to get his tool box out and see what nuts and bolts on one of the old bikes needed repaired.  I also learned the manly way of discussing and cussing tools from my dad.  "Bring me that little open ended mother fucker"  Shit, this is a box end, bring me an open end."  I knew he had mostly Craftsman wrenches and I was a little confused when he told me to bring that Crescent Wrench.  I did learn the hard way that if you took the tool box out, you had pretty damn sure put it back up especially if it was going to rain. If you think my dad hated to see me misuse tools, you ought to see how mad he got when he found his toolbox full of rain water and rusty tools.

I was one of the shortest kids in my class but I wouldn't let those taller guys get away with anything.  I could out cuss, out fight, and damn sure outrun any of them that started anything.  I was also known as the little guy that would hit you in the face with his first punch if you started it.  I damn sure would kick you if you were down and wouldn't get your ass back up.

One of my most treasured things in life was my series of bicycles I had over the years.  There was always a little brother or sister to take over riding the old bike about every two years so I got a lot of new or newer ones.  Even the used bikes generally got a coat of new paint and new tires.  Heck, I had the first bike in the neighborhood that had a generator that powered the lights.  There was no back up battery so the lights would vary from very dim as I rode slow to way bright as I rode down the one hill near our house.  If you saw me on my bike, I'll bet you saw the smile on my face.  I loved to feel the wind and who ever heard of wearing a helmet on motorcycles let alone bikes? 'Cides, a helmet would just make my crew cut look stupid and i worked hard to keep that waxed front standing up.  None of that Brylcream shit for me.
My mother was a good cook but she had to feed a bunch of us.  I think she worked hard to make as many meals in one pan as she could.  One of my favorites was the pork chops fried in the electric skillet and then she would make Spanish rice on top of them.   I think my second favorite meal was Mom's ham and beans made in the pressure cooker.  She would also whip up a batch of cornbread that was so good it was as golden as its color.  About once a week, Mom would make a big batch of chili because it was Dad's favorite.  Mom would send me down to the local grocery store to get a six pack of Pepsi on those nights.  In spite of the gall bladder problems Mom had, I never heard her complain about heartburn after a Pepsi and chili night.

There was never a need for a swing in our yard.  We lived only a block from the local elementary school and we would spend hours down there playing on the bars, swings and slides.  They had one of those monkey bar setups and it was just on dirt.  None of that sissy sand or sawdust crap for us.  There was even one of those small merry go rounds and at least once a week someone would go round and round to the point they would throw up.  It was a double bonus thing as the little girls were grossed out by that. 
One of my most favorite things was Cub Scouts.  We had those cool blue shirts and golden kerchiefs that made us look like the US cavalry.  Not Calvary, cavalry.   We killed Indians not Christ.  Because I was named Jesse James, there were a lot of Bank Robberies and trains blown up  I think every kid on my block had at least one cap gun and BB Guns were the rifle of choice.  I think every mother in the neighborhood watched us to make sure that real BBs were not in our play.  One lady on our block told us that we were welcome to shoot sparrows  but we were to leave the song birds alone.  I think it was Danny Rex that shot a robin on her porch and she wrapped his Red Ryder BB gun around a tree.  Danny tearfully told her he was going to tell his mother.  She told him that he had better run home as she was going to call his mother and have them beat his butt for not obeying the rules. "You could put out an eye with those damn things." 
Because my dad worked at Beech, he belonged to the employees club.  They had a little league ball park built up by their lake.  It was only about three blocks from my house and I walked to most of my games. I did ride my bike a time or two but you had a lot further to go on a bike instead of just walking across a field.  I loved to play short stop but we didn't have a good catcher that first year.  We had a pretty good pitcher but our catcher stunk up the joint.  My team was the Meadowlarks and we had a pitiful green shirt with a picture of some damn bird on it.  It was black so it was hard to tell what the hell it was.  We all had a number but no names on the shirts.  As much as I hated to admit it, we didn't win a single game our first regular season.  It wasn't until the tournament that our coach tired a lineup that just worked. Denny had been in the outfield and hit well but didn't get a lot of business out there in the outfield.  Coach brought him in and made him the catcher.  Between him at catcher, me at short stop, Monty pitching and the only other kid that could catch playing first base, we darn near shut out every team we played.  It was a double elimination tournament and we got beat by one run early by the eventual winners.  In the final game, we were playing that team again and only by a lucky hit that cleared the infield did they again win by one run.  We scored more runs in the tournament than we did all year.  

I don't know why, but I seemed to make a lot of D's in school.  I just thought it was because I D was dumb. I was just sure that the teachers gave me D's so they wouldn't have me again the next year.  I would read every text book the first couple of weeks and then never read them again.  The only book I got out was that damned math book and that was because the teacher had us do daily work out of it.  Then, about half of that would just get rat holed in my desk and never get turned in.  

In the second grade, we got a new elementary school. the class rooms were all new and the desks didn't have carvings or names written on them.  It was the coat closets that was just funny.  the doors pivoted on a hinge in the middle and they all opened at one time or they were all closed.  There was a gap at the top and the bottom of the door so light and air could get in.  One of my teachers thought it was funny to put me in the closet.  That lasted about a week when one of the rich kids mothers complained that someone was eating parts of her son's lunch.  I found out that you could eat a whole apple, core and all if you had to hide the evidence.
My one passion above all else was reading.  I found the Biography section in the library and  read about every General in every war.  The teachers found out that I loved to read and if they made sure I had a book, I would sit there and read.  I probably was overactive except when I had a good book to carry my imagination to faraway places. 

Because we lived right near the Beech Aircraft plant, when the shift change happened at 3:30, you had better have your butt off the road.  Those guys would just rush down out sandy and gravel streets like there was no tomorrow.  We all laughed that there were no old stupid dogs in our neighborhood,  Get out in the road and Bam, you were dead in the ditch where you laid.  I'll bet every family there had lost at least one dog to that traffic.  One day my friend Denny came to school crying.  The teacher asked him what had happened.  He said, " One of those cars came down our street an hit my dog in the ass."  the teacher corrected him, "No Denny, hit him in the rectum"  Denny tearfully replied, "wrecked him hell, Killed him." 
I went to high School  but because I was supporting a car a girl friend and a full time job in a gas station I managed to graduate in the bottom 25% of my class.  I got lots of A's and lots of D's but not much in between.  I tried out for the football team my freshman year but got hit and hurt a lot because of my size.  When wrestling started, I went out my first year.  I was short but stocky and did well at 140 lbs.  I got my first job right after wrestling ended that first year and never went out for it again.  'Cides wrestling with my girl friend in the backseat of my car was a hell of a lot more fun.   Thank god she had a thing about her virginity.  Me, I would have just made babies right then and there but she didn't so we didn't.  

When it was time to go to college, I started over at the Junior College in Eldorado.  It was about a 45 minute drive on the Turnpike or just over an hour on the highway.  I made straight C's my first semester and my car broke down about the time it was to start second semester.  It was a tough decision, I needed to spend the tuition money on the motor or pay tuition.  The car won and I spent the second semester working to save up enough to pay the tuition for the next year. I did go to summer school and had managed to just pay my tuition that fall.   The one thing i wasn't prepared for was the fact that the Junior College had reported me as not enrolled for the second semester and the Draft Board put me on their list to get a Pre-Induction physical on my 19th Birthday.  It didn't matter that I was going to school or not by then.  One semester of not going and I was going!  I got the letter from Draft Board 69 about the time I got home from the Pre-Induction Physical.  I soon found out what all those 1's and A's meant on the physical.   About the time I was going to sleep on the bus headed to Kansas City, Bamn, a sound woke me up to the fact that I was again in Vietnam.




Jesse James Part II

 This is a work of Faction - Parts of it are facts and the rest is just made up from my memories, war stories and stuff I read.  - 

When the briefing was over, I called my Platoon together and told them basically the same story we had been told with slightly less detail as the guys really didn't care about the order of the insertion.  they knew they would be first.   That afternoon, I paid particular attention to what the men were doing.  The Army had developed the M-16 for the infantry to replace the M-14. The M-16 ammo was subject to not work well if the rifle or the ammo was dirty.  My guys will spread out their ponchos and take every bullet out of their magazines and make sure they were dry and clean. We do have the new M-16 A-1 with the extra charging handle on the side to help close the bolt, but we cleaned those damn rifles a lot better than we did our own selves. We were all given one of those funny toothbrushes and a package of pipe cleaners.  One of the NCO's said it looked like his kids in a kindergarten art class but It took only once for your rifle to jam in a fire fight and you too became a cleanliness addict.  Your butt could grow mold in the jungle but your ammo was clean and shiny if you wanted to live. The Army had also developed an oil that was a cleaner,  a lubricant and a preservative. Guess what we called it?  CLP, was one of those acronyms that became the name kind of like the word jeep.  Over time, as men came and went from the Platoon, extra ammo magazines were collected up.  Almost to a man they had two bandoleers of magazines each and many had three.  That was 20 rounds per magazine and 10 mags per bandoleer.  Many of the magazines had those plastic bags on them and they were clean and dry. In the rainy season you had to be careful that the bags didn't sweat and get the ammo wet.  Another thing I will have NCO's check is the unit's basic load of ammunition other than just bullets.  They had somewhere around 15 Claymore mines and everyone had a smoke grenades and probably three or four fragmentation grenades.   There was at least two guys designated as ammo bearers for the M60 Machine guns and contrary to what you saw in the movies, I made them carry all the ammo in ammo cans.  Carry the rounds on the outside of your uniform and it would get dirty and sometimes not work in the heat of a fire fight.  It was also a whole hell of a lot easier to carry a can than have to stop and unhook an ammo belt from a body.
Triple Canopy Jungle in Central Highlands

The normal resupply for units out in the jungle was to have a resupply every third day.  If you were likely to use it, you had to carry it with you.  The part we hated was normally we would have to stop and cut down an area so a Helicopter could land.  They could fly over and put a sling load of stuff on the ground and sometimes if the shit was deep they would just fly over and throw stuff out. That meant that every guy would be given 9  C-Ration boxes and they would have to sort it down to what they wanted and that was offset by what they could carry.  I was told that the real reason the Army put the ring on the end of the barrel on the M-16A1 was to keep guys from using that little forked end to open C- ration cases. Twist that puny little barrel and the accuracy went right out of the window.  There was a lot of crap in those little boxes and no one wanted to carry 9 plastic spoons.  I found that he could survive on the beef Steak and Potatoes if I didn't run out of Tabasco and pepper.  They were heavy but few of the guys wanted to carry the extra weight A soldier could trade his pound cake of a can of potatoes and fruit was almost two for.  the only exception to the fruit trade was the fruit cocktail.  Someone had started a rumor that fruit cocktail was bad luck and almost no one carried any of it. There was also a meal that was Ham and Lima beans that were just good for the ham and everyone poured out the Lima beans.  They were hard and seldom cooked soft enough.  Eat them on Monday, the day we took our big malaria Pill and the beans would create gas and that was no nice thing when the diarrhea from the pill set in.  At least once a week you could almost guarantee a good crap from the pill alone. 

Let me not forget to mention water.  In the heat and humidity of the jungle, you could drink a couple of gallons of water and still be thirsty.  Each squad had at least one poor guy that would carry a five gallon can of water.   Sometimes there were two of the poor bastards.  I found 2, two quart canteens and carried them on the outside of my pack.  Each platoon had a radio man and because he carried the radio, there were at least two other guys that had to carry a spare battery.  As Platoon leader, I always carried a battery and the last one used right before re-supply was mine. I have no clue what it all weighed.  I carried a poncho liner and a poncho along with a couple of pairs of dry socks but little else. OK, I carried all the pipe tobacco i could get out of those SP Packs they sent us.  No one else could smoke pipe tobacco in their dope pipes that were ubiquitous.  Don't feel bad, I had to look that word up and I wanted to use it at least once before  I died. 

Early the next morning, we were down near the helipad waiting for a signal that it was their turn to get on the helicopters.  By the third lift, it was our turn.  the door gunner on the chopper me told me that  things were quiet and they were going to be inserted in a big area near the base of a big hill.  I remembered that it was called Dung Ap Bia mountain and called hill 937 after the elevation in meters marked on the top of the mountain on the map.  Jesse knew that his men would probably get a part of the mission to clear that damned hill if there were any enemy forces up there.  It was the only hill in that damned valley and was just a natural place for at least a Command and Control team to watch the valley.   Did I mention that I was from Kansas and hated mountains?  Crawl up two or three of those bastards and you too would hate them. The doors on the slicks were pushed back and many of the soldiers sat with their legs out of the door. On an LZ where there were enemy, being able to jump directly off the helicopter was worth its weight in gold.  On our ride out today, I just thought the cool air was a treat.  and my mind traveled back to my childhood... 

From the base of the hill - looking up