Sunday, April 17, 2016

Coming home

I was reading in Archaic Revival: “The experience must move one’s heart, and it will not move the heart unless it deals with issues of life and death. If it deals with life and death it will move one to fear, it will move one to tears, it will move one to laughter…” Earlier, my friend Jean sent this message: “Magical it all is. Is it life or is it death that is a mystery? Perhaps both?” Yes, and everything in between.
So fine to find one of these little temples. Dry, strong walls.
What else could you want? Photo Kim Ki Sam 

Coming home

Near Lang Vei, where I slept with rats. Photo R. Merron
There was a last formation somewhere near Danang – 30-something Marines standing together where there had once been 180. The ones who were not there had been killed or wounded too badly to return to combat or wounded three times (it was a three and you’re out deal) or been too sick to fight (with malaria, etc.). All of us in that formation had been wounded at least once. We were what was left of C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division. We had all gone together as a landing force, first been truly blooded at the DMZ in Operation Deckhouse (Prairie), fought for months at Dodge City, fought on Highway 1, and ended up at Khe Sanh. I had also gone on TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty) with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and several other units in the Hill Fights, the “First Battle of Khe Sanh,” Gio Linh, Con Tien, etc.
Resuscitation failing. Henri Huet

And now here we were, 30-something of us – sallow, skinny, nervous… real warriors – no muscled up or tanned or beer-bellied or tough guy REMFs (rear echelon mother-fuckers) in this formation.

They flew us first to Okinawa where we did what we always did when we could – got drunk and so on. I had a moment of glory in a brothel when I hit some old REMF lifer (actually he was probably all of 30 or 35 years old) hard enough that he literally went through the wall and then somehow, I and my mate, Carver, got away from the Shore Patrol (military police). It was the perfect end to my tour of duty.
Cigarette! Photo Oliver Noonan

From Oki, they flew us to Camp Pendleton, where I drank endless glasses of cold, cold milk, ate chocolate cake, and those sorts of things. The mess hall for returnees actually had a juke box that was playing over and over again,

Groovin’
down a crowded avenue
Doin’
Anything we’d like to do

We’re gonna talk and laugh our time away…

Peace. Photo Associated Press
We were given the opportunity to re-up (no takers on that deal!) and processed out of the Corps. Adios mother-fuckers.

I flew to Dallas. There was none of the airport harassment one heard about. In my mind I was scary looking, but probably I just looked like a nervous, skinny guy who wouldn’t look anyone in the eye – because, in my mind, I didn’t want to frighten anyone.

Welcome home. 

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