by Tony Flesh
I have forgotten most of my experiences from Viet Nam but there are some things I can't and shouldn't forget. Rather than getting into the hell of war, I thought I might just mention some of the silly simple things that for some reason stick in my mind today. Maybe these things will relate with some of you too?
I can remember being on a convoy one day heading to who knows where, and traveling through what I think was An Khe. As we drove through the town a bunch of kids were running along the trucks looking for handouts. The guys on the truck were passing out some of the c-rations we had with us. While I was doing the same I noticed along the road in front of some of the shops were glass display cases filled with what I guessed were souvenirs. Well, being young and dumb as I was at that time, I thought I would take the peanut butter c-rat can I had in my hand and take a shot at one of those cases. If anyone recalls, the can was a slim, small rounded one, just the right size for throwing a baseball style slider across home plate. Well I drew my hand back and let her fly. I think maybe I didn't consider the movement of the truck while lining up with my target because the can missed its mark. I instead hit some old mamma son who was doing her laundry in a puddle near the case. The straw hat flew off of her head as she keeled over and hit the ground, and several natives ran over to attend to her. The guys on the truck started laughing and of course the convoy kept moving on and I was never sure what happened to the old mamma son. Funny thing is, I can't remember if I felt any remorse. I hope I did.
We all were advised of the do's and don'ts of Nam when we landed there, and we all heard of the Bamboo Viper and what would happen if we were to cross paths with him. He was called two-step Charlie, step one he bites you and step two you are dead; he is that deadly. One day while humping the jungle we came to rest in a large area of bamboo. I don't remember who it was, but one of the guys was leaning up against a clump if it. He was stretched out there smoking a cigarette and I noticed a snake slithering out of the bamboo traveling along down side of his leg. I yelled over to him, "SNAKE!". I knew it was two-step Charlie from the color of the body and the size of his large head. Without getting up, the guy calmly picked a nearby stick and made a swipe at the snake striking it on the top of the head. It freaked me out when I saw him do that. The snake started squirming around as if he were in a hot skillet and the guy stood up and stomped him to death. I told him he was crazy. Had he missed the head or hit it in the back, he surely would have been bitten. He didn't seem to be shaken up about it though. Of course after we knew it was dead, we had to play around with it a few minutes. We got a knife out and forced its mouth open, reached in and unfolded his fangs to get a good look at them. Yea, I was sure I wanted nothing to do with those things.
We all know what it was like in Nam during the monsoon season. We were soaking wet all day long and when we set up at the end of the day and snapped our ponchos together with a buddy, we were able to mostly dry out during the night, only to wake up to pouring rains to start the new day. One other bothersome issue about the monsoons were the leaches, those nasty leaches. At the end of the day we would check our bodies to rid ourselves of those blood sucking creatures. We would mention to each other the number of leaches we would have peeled from our bodies. "I had five," one guy would say, another man would declare, "That's nothing I had seven," and so on. Well one fellow got the idea of everyone putting a pack of cigarettes in a pool and at the end of the day whoever had the most leaches on them would win the pile of smokes. I must proudly proclaim that I was once the unfortunate winner of that bounty of cancer sticks, with a total of fourteen slimy, ugly, blood filled parasites stuck to about every crevice and crack on my person. I doubt that fourteen was the world record but it was my personal best during my tour of Nam. YUCK!!!
When I arrived in Viet Nam I honestly had never smoked marijuana. When we were able to get back to a firebase for a day or two of rest, the guys who drank beer (The Juicers) and the guys who smoked pot (The Heads) kinda went their own way and did their thing. Even though we had our preference of which group we followed, we all were still a tight group of pals and comrades. I don't remember the name of the firebase, but I had been in country only a couple of months. While on the firebase we, including our platoon leader, still had an obligation to pull guard duty on a section of the perimeter. Being fairly new in country, I still had been carrying the radio at this time and I was doing so for our platoon leader Lt. Bailey. That evening I was to relieve LT. Bailey on guard duty, but before hand I had two or three beers and a little buzz going on. Then along comes a pot smoking pal of mine. He offered me a joint but I politely refused. He sat with me a little longer trying to tell me about the joys of smoking that stuff. Well after another beer or two and, to my own surprise, he convinced me to take a HIT. The next thing I knew, he had thrown a blanket over our heads and we began to fill that space under us with a cloud of smoke that Cheech and Chong would have been proud of. The next thing I realized was I was lying face up looking into a pitch black evening sky with a few stars to keep me company. I wasn't unconscious, I wasn't sick, I don't know what I was? I couldn't speak and I couldn't move either but I was aware of my surroundings. While lying there in a state of mind and body I had never felt before, I was about to experience another phase of this pot smoking trip. I started to hear a voice in the distance loudly whispering Flesch, Flesch, does anyone know where Flesch is? I knew right away it was the voice of Lt. Bailey looking for me to relieve him from guard duty. The weird thing is I was awake and aware that he was trying to find me, but I didn't have the ability to answer him. I was totally numb except for the brain being awake. I was also very scared, because I knew if I didn't respond to him the shit would hit the fan. After about a minute of his calling, I heard another voice tell the Lt., "Flesch can't pull guard duty sir, he is sick." The Lt. responded by saying in an even louder voice, "Where Is he?" It was so dark out there that I couldn't be seen, even being very close to him. No one answered and the Lt. was heard mumbling as he walked off, "I'll get his ass in the morning." Unfortunately for me the next morning did arrive as usual and knowing the Lt. had to pull my guard duty was something I knew was not going to work out well for me. When I had to face the music with him, I couldn't imagine what the worst punishment could possibly be in store for me. He did read me the riot act and told me how disappointed he was in me. The being drunk excuse didn't fall in my favor either, and then he told me I had KP duty the rest of that day. After he left me and I thought about the KP duty, I then realized that with my head pounding the way it was I was extremely happy that I wasn't out behind the latrines stirring and mixing diesel fuel with crap in a 55 gallon drum cut in half with smoke billowing in my face. I think after that day I swore off drinking beer and smoking pot! Well, at least not at the same time!!