I would like to take a moment and thank every veteran reading this blog for your service.
I know it is a part of your life you will never forget.
What does a 19 year old soldier in combat know about honor? Quite a bit, I think. He may not ever put it into words but he knows honor is doing his job well and defending his brothers even at the risk of his life. He knows while looking in the mirror to shave whether he met the challenge. Passing that test becomes what he likes most about himself. As he gets good at his job, at some point he realizes his brothers trust him to deliver, even under fire. He may never say it, but he is enormously proud of earning that trust, and he would do anything not to lose it.
Memories of another time and place.
Mind Pictures from Viet Nam.
[Not all of the pictures we brought back in Our Minds have faded and turned yellow with age. Some are as clear as the day they were taken -]
The sound of main rotor blades beating the sky into submission
The thump of outgoing mortar fire
The whistle, thump of incoming mortar fire
The smell of rice patties in the heat
The feel of rain so heavy you think you’re going to drown.
The taste of ice cold “33”
Or luke warm “33”
Heating C-Rats with C-4
The ever-present smell of hot JP-4
The scream of 30 turbo-shaft engines under load
The beautiful dark green of the mountains
The smell of burning diesel fuel and shit
Flying lazy circles at 10,000 ft to cool off the beer
The sight of unfamiliar constellations viewed from the top of a sandbagged bunker on a pitch-black night
The chatter of a M-60
The smell of hot gun oil, burning gun powder and overheated metal
The sight of green tracers reaching up
The feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look around and realize that all the civilian workers have disappeared into the bunkers for no apparent reason
R & R in Vung Tao – R & R any place
The whistle a main rotor blade makes when it has a bullet hole through it
The call of a “f***kyou” lizard in the middle of the night
The breath taking beauty of the country from 5000 ft.
Waking up in a panic in the middle of the night because the Artillery at the end of the field isn’t firing and it’s to quiet.
The scream of the scramble siren in the middle of the night
The feel of your M-14 on full automatic
Drinking Jim Beam straight up and chasing it with warm black cherry soda because that’s all you’ve got
A kidney busting full throttle run down Thunder Road in a sandbagged duce and a half
The feeling when fewer ships come home than left that morning
The mind numbing sight and sound when Puff lights up the night and saves your sorry ass
The absolute silence when Puff is done
Flying over the mountains and seeing a high valley still covered in the early morning fog.
And the fog spilling out of a high pass, like cream out of a cup.
Cloud skiing :-)) Get to the top of a puffy cumulus over the coast during the rainy season. Get right on top and dump collective. Try to keep just the skids in the cloud while following the contours.
Sliding down to the ridge lines in my Loach and pretending to do a recon while riding the updrafts like I was in a sail plane as the fog starts burning off. In my mind sailing a small “cat” in Cape Cod bay.
Cool night air at one mile high and one mile out over the coast.
High “pucker factor” while hovering up a road into 200 & ¼ with rain and fog.
The smell of human blood.
What a hard sideways flare feels like when started at 120 kts and 30 feet AGL.
Over the high plateau during the monsoon, cruising along a road in 200 & 1/4 (or less) and having to pull collective to miss a deuce truck coming at you and going IFR.
Sitting on the ground, looking up at a clear blue sky through whispers of ground fog; then flying over that same fog bank towards Dak To, finding only one FSB poking up through the fog. Then sitting on that FSB, drinking varnish removing coffee made in an aluminum pot over a Mo-gas powered squad stove, waiting for the fog to lift.
Foggy days at Bao Loc. Lining up, one by one, between the revetments and taking off into the fog at 30 sec intervals. Breaking out at 4000 msl, PZ was at 5000 msl and the LZ was still higher.
Running thru the rounds to get the team airborne when it was your turn on counter-mortar standby.
Insect repellant on your testicles…burns!
Blowing up a leaky air mattress!
The ‘rush’ of short final into a hot LZ!
A jammed M-16 during a “white” moment!
A howitzer firing over you in the middle of the night (during your two hours of sleep)!
Watching the ground come straight at you during a high overhead approach (in trail formation)
Realizing you’re lost and have crossed the border when you can’t see anymore of those little round yellow circles on the ground!
Realizing you’re in the wrong place when the arty response is “Sorry sir. Those coords are out of range.”!
The silence when the “whop-whop” and “whine” stops!
The realization when the “whop-whop” and “whine” stops that the only place you can see the ground is the nearby sewer called a “rice-paddy”!
Dry season integration (everybody is red)!
The joy of a ride home!
Hearing, “Move your tail left, sir.” and “Move your tail right, sir.”, at the same time in a hover hole!
Hearing, “What the hell was that!”, “Awww shit!”, and noticing little yellow rectangular lights out of corner of your eye all at the same time!
You notice how small trees look when you had a blade strike at 2000 feet.
You notice how many lights are not lit up on a master control panel.<zero>
The beautiful curving red lines of tracers at midnight.
The look of rice in the rocket pods.
The look of blood on the windshield.
The horrifying basketball size green tracers going upward in slow motion at
The eerie light of a parachute flare.
The true beauty of a mini-gun when you are down in the rice, and your wing ship is above covering your sorry ass.
The surrealistic sight of Nui Ba Den as dawn breaks the horizon.
The mosquitoes that carry harpoons
The sting of a rocket cap hitting your shins.
The taste of crushed cookies.
Pinto Beans cooked on a popcorn popper.
Measuring the grease in C-rat beef stew.
Finding a use for powdered eggs.
The thought of watching momma son pop the heads off those big roaches in the mess hall and eat them.
The whistle of a 122mm rocket inbound…right in the middle of The Good The Bad & The Ugly
Taking a shower at the edge of the roof during monsoon season.
Missing the submerged boardwalk during the monsoon on the way to the club and finding the 6′ deep ditch instead.
Naming all the rats.
Roach races as a sporting event.
Scrounging missions just for the hell of it.
The white cranes that are bullet proof
The humidity in August.
Finding the true meaning of rocket city.
Plugging hydraulic leaks with bubble gum just to get home
The smell of Napalm.
The smell of rocket fuel
The cherry glow of a red hot M-60 barrel.
The pop of a .51 as it flys by too close
The incessant dust of Cu Chi
The sucking mud
Honolulu looks clean enough to eat off the street from the air.
The ring of the telephone that sends you to action station.
The ring of the phone at 2 am in Hawaii that almost sent you off the 17th floor balcony.
The backfire of a car .. the embarrassment of being face down in a ditch.
The joy of DEROS Day
The loneliness the days after Travis.. and ETS
Wondering why the grunts don’t shoot your hook after it blows the air mattress out of their poncho tent and onto the concertina wire at LZ Leslie
Watching the rotor wash of your hook dismantle a hooch and not even care
Watching the water buffalo drag the farmer and plow across several dikes cause the boo doesn’t like hooks
St Elmo’s fire on the rotor blades
Wondering why the marines at Phu Bai don’t have counter mortar anything
Listening to 2/20 ARA birds salvo doing counter mortar in Cav. controlled area
Swimming with sea snakes at Wonder beach
Watching how high a blivet can bounce when punched off at 50 feet
Being damn glad to be in Hooks when the last flight of the day you sling back a dead Huey and you can see the pilots helmet rolling around in there. Knowing he wouldn’t have left it if he was okay…………
Flying through the Mang Yang pass from Pleiku to An Ke and seeing the French graves from Groupe Mobile 100 on the hilltop
The smell of RVN
Flying out of Evans, over the mountains and low level over the rice paddies early in the morning. Looked like jewels sparkling in the morning sun
The sound of Armed Forces Radio at 0600…Goooooood Morining Viet Naaaaaammm!
The click as a round went past…
The sounds of the Mama’s and the Papa’s “Monday, Monday…” and you start another day, another one down and ??? to go.
The quite voice of the FDC…”On the way, wait….” and you wait for the bright flash of the parachute flare to see if you can see Charlie…and you can’t.
The voice from the GCA controller, Hey are you hovering up there???
The whispers of the FO…”The Fu..are close, be careful”…
Y’all OK down there?…”click, click”….sigh of relief
The crew chief…”I think we took some on that last pass!”
Thanks to those who added their “mind pictures”. . .