Archive for the Vietnam Vets and Authors Category

The Good Old days? “It’s All Good!”

Posted in Nostalgia, Vetnam veteran Authors/musicians, Vietnam vet authors and musicians, Vietnam Vets, Vietnam Vets and Authors, Vietnam War on July 6, 2010 by eldorado90

               The Good Old Days?      “It’s All Good”!

 

As the years go by many of us old troopers long for days of old. Many a day I hear, overhear or engage in conversations of those days when we were young and in the military. A trying time for many of us for sure. Inevitably someone labels said days as the good old days. My question; why do we refer to those days as the good old days? Were they? Well, yes and no. I’ll offer a suggestion as to why we believe they were and why they may not have been all that they’ve been cracked up to be.

Do we really long for the days of basic training where we got up at ungodly hours of the AM only to be harassed? Well, not me. Do we really long for the days we left the comfy confines of our bedrooms at home in order to sleep in an uncomfortable bunk bed in an old dilapidated wooden firetrap with forty or fifty other guy. Well once again, not me. Do you long for mystery meals that were passed off as breakfast, lunch and dinner in the mess halls? I hate to be repetitive, but you know, not me. Wait! How could I have forgotten? KP. Good God almighty! Literally peeling potatoes, cleaning grease traps and washing dishes, pots and pans in the wee hours of the morning, all the while being given the evil eye by an overweight E-5 or E-6. I mean these mess hall NCOs never met a mystery meal they didn’t eat. Ya, they were the good old days all right.

But hey, think back, it only got better. How about the barracks latrine? Need I say more? I didn’t think so. Depending on your training posts and time of year, there just wasn’t anything better than standing in formation as you waited and waited, braving the elements for times that seemed to have no end. Ya, the good old days.

Sleep, you know, that pleasure of life experienced as a child, an adolescent or a teen. Who knew that according to the Unpublished Military Doctrine of Sleep, that one of the most important aspect of a teen’s life, sleep, was overrated? Don’t need no stinking sleep. It’s good to walk around in a daze for the first thirty to forty minutes of the early morn. Builds character, right? Ya, those were the good old days.

Now, the PT, that’s physical conditioning for you civilian types. I’m all for it. At the time of my induction I happened to be in shape. Obviously I was young and somewhat athletic. As a result of my conditioning I had no trouble with PT and it certainly enhanced my ability to navigate difficult terrain as an Army “paratrooper/grunt” both in Vietnam and stateside. On the other hand if one was overweight, non-athletic or in just plain lousy shape, PT proved to be difficult and cadre made life absolutely miserable for them no matter how noble the reasoning. I would be willing to wager that few of these unconditioned souls at most, if any, remember those days as the good old days.

Once you completed your basic training you were presented with the opportunity to travel this great nation of ours en route to yet another training facility. If you were of a certain skin complexion, in the South of our country where numerous military installations were and are, while in-transit you could legally be relegated to specified restrooms, water fountains and lunch areas. I mean can you imagine being on your way to or coming home from a new assignment, Vietnam, or anywhere for that matter and having to deal with that nonsense? So I ask, were those the good old days? I don’t think so and I can damn well guarantee that anyone who dealt with such situations has a different take on this subject.

No, in many respects those weren’t really the good old days. Those were the young days of our lives, our youth. That in large part helped make them good. The days when our bodies and minds were ripe for any and all stimuli be it good or bad. I believe that when we long for the good old days what we really are longing for is our youth and subconsciously the innocence that was stolen from us in those days and since. I mean look at the popularity of “oldies but goodies” radio stations or “retro” Camaros. These are but two examples of good things that come to mind. It goes without saying that many days and many things were good but there were also plenty of bad things in the, you know, good old days.

If you really think about it, the good days are the days we are alive. The days we see our spouses, kids, grandkids and friends. The days both present and past that aren’t filled with strife, conflict or Heaven forbid, tragedy. We miss fond thoughts of a time in our lives when we were in our formative years. We are nostalgic. Most people are and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s romanticism with the past. A time in our lives when we had not yet become so troubled with financial woes, politics, relationships or life in general.

In reality, the good old days can be yesterday or today. Sure we have problems, but most of us have a pretty decent life in spite of the onset of ailments. Nowadays some of us have bad knees, feet, backs, arthritis or other health issue. In the good old days those ailments were for older folks like our parents, relatives and their friends. Not us, we were young and tough and could lick anything they threw at us. How the hell did we become them?

 We complained a lot about lack of sleep, KP, harassment and all other aspects of that, dare I overstate, traumatic experience? Okay, I overstated it. Anyways, that’s how we survived it. Complaining has its place. The American Soldier, Sailor Airman and Marine are natural complainers. I know I am. I still complain, ask my wife.

 When I look in the mirror I see a weathered and worn face with the absence of hair follicles on the top of my head, gray stubble on my chin and face and the telling eyes of one who has seen things that prove not all days of old were good. Let’s hope that the life changing experiences we’ve seen and done in the good old days, to include the Vietnam experience, were educational, built character and helped to make us a better person. I sure hope so. Having said that I would only be kidding myself if I truly believed that all of those days were good. It’s kind of like making lemonade out of lemons, or whatever that analogy is.

As I sit here and rant, the arthritis in my hands and right foot are a bit of a nuisance. I watch what I eat so as not to raise my cholesterol and blood pressure. I wrestle everyday and have for many a year with a temper that occasionally flies out of control. At present I’m ahead on points. I’m also nostalgic for my younger mind and body but wouldn’t trade my wife, kids and grandkids to get either.  One more thing, I sleep less than I used to. Hey, maybe the Army was right. Sleep is overrated.

In today’s jargon “It’s all good!” is a frequently used response to the question of “ how you doing?”  I like that answer and find it to be quite descriptive. In my mind it more or less qualifies the good with the bad.  I believe it’s fair to say that these are good days, certainly not all that good, but you know, not all that bad. If you were to ask me “how am I  doing?”  I’d have to say, “It’s all good!”

.

Memories of my Induction

Posted in Vetnam veteran Authors/musicians, Vietnam Vets, Vietnam Vets and Authors, Vietnam War with tags , , on June 25, 2010 by eldorado90

 

In the spring of 1965 rumor had it that the draft was going to get all of us no-account punks who roamed the streets, off of the streets of the factory town I grew up in, Kenosha, Wisconsin. Well they weren’t just whistling Dixie. The good old US of A went and got itself  militarily involved in some God forsaken place in Southeast Asia known as Vietnam, and needed bodies, young male bodies, and I qualified. I received my “Greetings” (draft notice) letter from Uncle Sam in April of 1965  and was instructed to report at 6:00 AM, June 17th, 1965, to the local draft board at the KYF buliding, also known as the Kenosh Youth Foundation, downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin. Being quite familiar with the location, I had no problem finding it since I was once a member of the Kenosha Evening News Golden Gloves Boxing team in 1962 and 1964 and our training facilities were in the basement of the KYF.

            So after a series of goodbye parties, hugs and kisses from my family and a thought to be romantic farewell from my fiancé, myself and a host of other conscripts who’d been rounded up off the streets of Kenosha, reluctantly reported in the early AM to the KYF for the purpose of induction into the armed forces of the United States. On that morning of the seventeenth of June, 1965 we boarded a Milwaukee bound bus that would take us to the official Southern Wisconsin Induction Center for our physical, and if healthy, our formal induction ceremony. Well as luck would have it, I was fit as a horse, a small horse but nonetheless fit. They wanted me; they really, really wanted me.

 Nothing terribly remarkable had yet happened that day and before I knew it, I had been sworn in as a Private in the U.S. Army. Terrific! Shortly after the swearing in all volunteers and draftees were bussed to the train station in downtown Milwaukee where we caught a train that took us Southbound to Louisville, Kentucky, twenty miles from our final destination of Fort Knox, Kentucky. Talk about whistling Dixie.

            Within a short time I came to realize my life had changed, and not for the better. Chaperoned by MP’s, we weren’t afforded many liberties, and as a free spirit I found this aspect troubling. As we passed through the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana, it became apparent from our assigned seating arrangements that we’d only be afforded a passing glance of what the cities had to offer its visitors. It had also become apparent to me that we weren’t visitors who were passing through, but instead, cargo. That’s right, just United States Military cargo, in assigned seating, passing through. Apparently the possibility of conscripts going AWOL was a concern for those in charge. The MP’s kept a tight leash on us.

            At approximately 9:00 PM that evening, our group of soldiers to be arrived at the train station in Louisville, Kentucky, where we were met by a few surly and burly NCOs  from the Fort Knox training center, our destination. An astute observer, hell, even a moron could tell immediately that these guys weren’t all that friendly. The welcoming staff of non-coms unsmilingly guided us toward awaiting Greyhound busses for transfer to Fort Knox. In the late PM of the seventeenth, we finally arrived at our destination, the infamous army basic training center. Terrific.  Up to that point, all in all, things had proven to be a bit unpleasant, but uneventful.

It was at the moment of arrival at Fort Knox for us new guys that our lives were changed forever. Not to be left to wonder, we were greeted by a handful of informative but snarling, screaming DI’s who excitedly fell into character the moment the busses arrived. The DI’s paced back and forth, like hungry lions in a cage, in wait at the bus stop, so all on board could see. Anxious as any thespian whoever longed for the curtain to rise, these anxious DI’s couldn’t wait to perform their tough guy, tough love role and cherished every moment of their performance. I’d like to say the same, but can’t.

Once we disembarked our more than comfortable mode of transportation, the Greyhound, unaware it was to be our last comfortable moment for some time, the DI’s started to scream at the top of their lungs. Without seeming to care they abused their vocal cords and voice box to the point of hoarseness.  Bulging veins in their necks testified to the damage being done by expanding thrice their normal size. Smokey the Bear DI hats were fully tilted to a point where the brims balanced on their noses, only enhancing the intimidation effect.

Intimidation ruled. Proverbial chickens with their heads cut off came to mind as the intimidated green recruits tripped and stumbled, try as they may to obey the command of the screaming heads, to make a straight-line formation. The voluminous, vocally enhanced cadre bestowed thought to be humorous names upon the new recruits, like “f*^*-up,” “s**^-head,” “s_*^ for brains,” “lard-ass,” “maggot” and “faggot,” to name some of the not so clever monikers used by the intimidators. It became clear as a bell to those with half a brain why these guys were in the military and not writing for the “Tonight Show.”

With order attained and the tripping brought to an acceptable level, we marched off to supply where we were issued brand new army threads, also known as fatigues. No military themed wardrobe would’ve been complete without matching hats, socks, underwear and boots, and to top off this smart new ensemble, a matching duffle bag to put the crap in. Clothed to the teeth, we were then marched off to our new housing facilities, also known as barracks, where we were assigned sleeping quarters. In the Vietnam-era, army barracks were state of the art facilities, nineteenth century state of the art that is. Long, narrow, yellow wooden firetraps with two lines of double bunk beds covered by extremely thin mattresses.

  It was now a little after midnight; in fact it was now June 18th. Thinking to myself, wow, what a long day a long day! Time sure does fly. Funky and unappealing as the sleeping arrangements were they looked awfully good to a weary bunch of conscripts and volunteers. Following a little more harassment from the cadre, we were finally allowed to get some much-needed sleep. Around 12:30 am on the eighteenth, we put those weary bodies to bed. No sooner did my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. Bad analogy. It couldn’t have been but 3:15 am, less than three hours since I laid my weary but fit army body down, only to be rudely awakened by a blinking, unshaded 100-watt light bulb directly over my head. That, coupled with the annoyingly loud voice of one of our DI’s, screaming for us to, “rise and shine, ladies,” caused me to think, oh-my-God!

 The humor was killing me. Well, that and the fact that I’d only slept about two hours and forty-five minutes. It wasn’t the longest day of my life, but the shortest night of my life. Come to think of it, I guess you could say it was the first of many to come of the “longest” days and “shortest” nights of my life.