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.



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