Cacti War Stories


Edited by Wiley "Tiny" Dodd
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Jan 3rd 1967

by Dave Crocker
1967

AIT Training begins, January 3, 1967


It boggles my mind to think that it has been 50 years ago today that I reported for Combat Training for the Vietnam war, yes war.
50 years and there I was, worrying about my two year hitch.

Unbeknownst to me at the time that so many Blessings were coming my way.

With Basic Training over and my 22 day leave behind me it was on to AIT.
For most AIT meant Advanced Individual Training but for those of us assigned to the Infantry in the 60's it meant Advanced Infantry Training at Tigerland USA, Fort Polk, Louisiana. Tigerland is where everybody in the Infantry was being sent to learn how to survive by killing or be killed, something that would be with me the rest of my life.

I was still a no fly guy, I always said I'd never fly. I had built radio and TV towers as high as anybody wanted it but I didnÕt have any desire to fly. It wasnÕt a height problem, it was an air problem. So we took the luxurious Pullman Train from Detroit to Louisiana.

This train ride was somewhat more enjoyable than my ride to Fort Knox for Basic even though I had left my soon to be former wife to grieve by herself. I knew by her actions before her dad had passed Christmas Night or early the morning after that the writing was on the wall and that it would be just a matter of time till I could find out for myself the truth that she was having a wild time while I was away.

When we arrived at Fort Polk the weather was warmer, much warmer than the cold and snow we left behind in Port Huron, Michigan, my home town. That warmth would soon fade as the evenings approached with the dampness and cold air.

On our first weekend pass I stopped by an engraving shop in Leesville, LA to have the prized Zippo lighter engraved that Howard Courtney had given me.

As a kid the only person who got away with calling me Davy was my aunt Ethel. I was David until the seventh grade at which time a friend, who has since passed, wrote Dave on the back of her poplin jacket. When I first got into CB radio CB Handles were in their infancy with many people were still going by their actual names. I thought a CB Handle was a cool thing and I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than Davy Crockett. I took that as my CB handle and almost overnight I became Davy Crockett. Many thought that was my real name and some to this day call me Davy and I answer to Davy Crockett as if it was my real name.

When Davy Crockett was the craze of the nation in the 50's I think I was the only kid that didn't have a Davy Crockett Coonskin Cap.

So anyway, the engraver handed me a piece of paper to write down exactly what I wanted engraved. I printed it out in large letters, Davy Crockett. When she handed the lighter back to me I read what she had engraved and had she not been a she I think I would have hit her upside the head. She engraved Dav (e) y instead of Davy and I was furious. This was a special gift and she messed it up. The lighter would later be lost or stolen before I graduated AIT two months later.

As the training progressed the forced marches got longer and longer and topped at around seventeen to twenty miles.

On one march we had marched all day from 4am till late in the afternoon. It was raining and cold and with the rain soaked poncho on the outside and the cold damp sweat on the inside it made for a miserable and long march.

By the time the chow truck showed up it was pouring down rain and it wasn't long before all the food was wet and soggy. It didn't matter, we were hungry and all of the main dishes disappeared but the soggy Peach Pie dessert remained intact. Not one piece of a dozen pies had been taken. Peach pie was one of only a couple things that I didn't like, in fact I hated it. I always liked peaches but definitely not Peach Pie. Everybody was yelling for more food but there was none to be had. I was starving like everyone else and knew that if I was going to quench my hunger I was just going to have to try that soggy Peach Pie. I figured we were headed to a place where we might have to eat worse if we wanted to survive so with that in mind I scooped out a piece of that soggy pie, then another, then another and before I knew it I had downed a whole pie and a half of another. I have eaten Peach Pie ever since but never soggy again but would if I had too. I love it!

It wasn't long and a whole month had passed and it was pay day, big deal I thought. The pay was hardly enough to send back home. Well it was a big deal to somebody because my wallet with my pay in it was stolen the next day. I never was sure about how they stole it but somebody did. This would be the second of three times that I have had my wallet stolen. The last was while I was at Fort Campbell, KY., my duty station after I returned from Vietnam. The first was when I was a teenager which is a story for another day.

I located a phone booth and called my parents back home to see if they could send me a few dollars till the next pay day when I'd be able to pay them back.

While on the phone talking to my mother I started to laugh and got to laughing so hard I couldn't talk. My mother says