This is a long story about a long story. Many years ago I was advise to call it a novel
Pat poured another glass from the pitcher and asked, “What exactly do you do for a living John?” “These days, you might say I’m a grief consular.” “Grief consular?” “Yeah, I kind of counsel people on how to avoid causing other people grief.” What do you do for a living Pat?” ”I work for a large corporation.” “Doing what?” Pat just smiled, “That’s my business. I didn’t come here to tell anybody my life’s story; I’m just listening to yours. So why don’t get on with it?” “Fair enough. “
Let’s see; when we got to the end of the road, there was our unit, trucks and all. Lt. Barnes approached us as we parked. He had been on the ground for only an hour or two longer then we had. However, he looked like he just came out of the jungles of Bataan. His shirt was soaked with sweat, his lips were dried and parched, plus he needed a shave.
“Where the hell have you been, he screamed in his high pitched voice. Keep in mind the lieutenant looked like Pee Herman with glasses. So it was pretty hard to take him seriously. So I smiled, “We were looking for a motel sir.” He just sneered and squeaked, “Pull your jeeps around in line, we’re moving out.”
We heard some small arms fire off in the distance as we approached The Dominican 27th of February Tank Battalion post. But for the most part the trip was pretty uneventful.
Now since there weren’t a lot of nuclear chemical or biological attacks taking place in Bragg, two weeks before we left, they started training me to take over Willard’s job as company clerk. He was getting short, but they were pretty sure he’d re enlist, so I guess it was just to be on the safe side.
Willard remained back at Bragg with the rest of the unit, thus being the only troop in the company who knew how type and do morning reports, they decided to make me acting company clerk in the field. So I spent the first day setting up the CP tent on a small hill overlooking a ravine and putting the office together. At the same time the rest of the guys were setting up their shelter half’s in the ravine below.
Now being tight with Torres, Rivera and Vargas had its definite advantages. They were three Puerto Rican kids from Brooklyn and naturally fluent in Spanish. The only thing I learned in High School Spanish classes was that I didn’t speak the language.
I had given Torres my shelter half, so he could put up our tent in the ravine. A half hour later he came back up to the CP. “Moran, he said, I’ve been chatting with some of the Dominican troops and they said were setting up our tents in a lake.” “What do mean?” They told me when it starts to rain again we’re going to be under five feet of water.” “Okay, I smiled; I’ll bring it to the Captain’s attention.” A few minute later the captain walked in and I filled him in on what Torres had told me. He just grunted, “You want me to take advice from a bunch of Wets Backs, Moran? The troops stay where I put them, and that’s it.” “Very well sir, I smiled, I just thought I’d mention it.” Immediately thereafter, I went down to my tent, picked up all on my gear, and brought it back to the CP tent.
At in the morning the rains came…and they came and they came. It woke me up and I looked out of the doorway of the CP tent. There were flashlights and groans everywhere down in the ravine. I shone my light down there and it was obvious the first two feet of the lake had already arrived and the rest was on its way.
When the sun came up there was nothing but bone drenched GIs everywhere. It was quite a sight as the guys mixed and matched the only dry pieces of uniform they had. Some had Khaki shirts with fatigue pants, some had on fatigue shirts with Khaki pants. The outfit looked like a bunch of banditos. Of course the captain finally decided to move the tents to where they should have been in the first place, it took all day but once more we looked like The United States Army.
The next day, I had to drive the captain into downtown Santo Domingo; it was about thirteen miles away. We were about three miles from town, when all of a sudden this horrible smell came over us. I never smelled anything like that before, but strangely I knew immediately what it was. You see, The Dominicans were fighting for a week before we got there. They just hadn't gotten around to burying the bodies. But strangely, you got use to it quickly.
The grunts had cut a corridor between the rebels and the junta and you could drive right through the middle of town. There was kind of an unofficial cease fire, but you couldn’t really count on it. We of course were on the junta’s side; Fidel liked the rebels. I didn’t know what this secret mission was or exactly where we were going, but I figured it must be real important for the captain to risk being shot.
He directed me as I drove and we finally arrived at our destination. It was a damn dry cleaner. The SOB risked getting me killed so he could have his fatigues dry cleaned. Yup, Captain Taylor was an idiot okay, and a dangerous one at that.
Back in The States Willard was handling all of the real paperwork. So all I did was the morning reports, which I sent to him anyway. So there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do after , except hang out in the CP with the first sergeant, Charlie Ryan.
I really like Charlie; he was a hell of a soldier. He enlisted in 42 and fought in Europe. He actually received a battlefield commission and made Major there. Somehow they didn’t get around to letting him out until 1947. They told him he could keep his reserve rank as major, but if he wanted to stay on active duty, his regular army rank would be E-8. He said by then he had too much time in to leave, so he decided to stay.
When Korea broke out, they gave him his rank back for awhile. He saw combat there with the 187th Airborne Battle Group.
I liked Charlie mostly because he was a decent guy. Back in the states, the captain had a habit of inviting himself over for Sunday dinner at some poor NCO’s house. His routine went something like, “Sergeant Plummer, me and the wife will be stopping over for Sunday dinner, what will you be serving?” The poor NCO would stutter “a..a.Chicken sir.” Then to put the icing on the cake, he'd reply, “Oh, me and the wife would prefer roast beef, sergeant.” Then the lifer would murmur, “Sure, sir, what time?”
He tried to pull that routine once with Charlie and I was there. Charlie just replied, “You won’t be stopping at my house captain, you are not welcomed there. It’s bad enough that I have work with you, but I’ll be damn if I let you anywhere near my family. Let me make this clear captain, I personally do not like you and the less I see of you the better.” Taylor’s mouth dropped in shock and all he could babble was “I’m sorry you feel that way first sergeant.” Yup, Charlie was a stand up guy all right.
One night me and Charlie were in the CP tent with flaps rolled up, when I suddenly heard this zap sound whiz past my nose. Charlie stared for a second and knew exactly what it was. He killed the light and dragged me to the floor by my collar. “It’s a sniper, he whispered. Get your rifle and crawl out of here.” “Then what?” “Go find yourself a bush and crawl into it. If you have to do something, you’ll know what it is.” Ten minutes later Charlie came over and said, “He’s gone, go back in the tent and get some sleep and leave the lights off.” Charlie taught me something that night.
Reed smiled, “What was that?” “When the shooting starts get down and don’t do anything until you think it out,” “I learned that in Nam myself, John. We’d always to tell the new guys to drop when the shooting starts, but there was always one them that just stood there looking to see where the fire was coming from, looking for his body bag and finding it. Did they get the sniper?” “Must have, Reed, I had a peaceful sleep that night. “
Part of my job as acting company clerk down there, was to drive to division HQ each morning to drop off the morning report and pick up the daily paperwork.
One day the clerk handed me and envelope stamped Secret. “Here he smiled; you have to sign for this one.” When I got back to the CP, I handed it to Charlie. He read it and handed it back to me, “What do I do with this Top?” “He said, Log it and file it” “How do I do that?” “Well as company clerk, you're also curator of classified documents and you’re suppose to keep a log. Don’t you have a security clearance?” “I smiled, “I don’t think so?” Charlie smiled back, “Then I’ll give you a temporary Secret clearance myself.” He stared me in the eye and asked, “Are you a spy?” “No Top.” Then he smiled, “Good, you now have a temporary clearance. Tell Willard to put you through for a permanent one next time you talk to him on the phone.” Then he filled me in on the classifications. ” There’s confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret Crypto, Top Secret Eyes Only, Top Secret Cubed. I use to get a lot of super hush- hush stuff when I was in Germany after the war. Most of them had a Burn after Reading designation. Then one day a got super hot secret document.” “What was in it about Top?” “He smiled, I don’t know it was stamped Burn before Reading.”
A couple weeks passed and Charlie went back to the States. Just my luck they made my platoon sergeant acting first sergeant in his place. Now we didn’t get along too well when he was my platoon sergeant, but as first sergeant, he was unbearable.
Bowen wasn’t too bright and that was putting mildly. One day I got another one of those secret letters. I opened it and read it; it wasn’t anything earth shaking that James Bond might have been interested in. But I figured I better hand it over to the captain first. I left it on my desk for a minute while I went to the head. When I came back, I couldn’t find the darn thing and Bowen was gone. So I figured he probably took over to the old man.
Benson came back five minutes later and the whole thing kind of slipped my mind for a minute. A few minutes later, Master Sergeant Wilcox walked in and barked, “Who is the hell is the curator of classified documents here?” I raise my hand and said, “That would be me, sergeant.” He slapped the missing memo on my desk and growled, “Do you know where the f..k I found this?” “No sergeant, I’ve been looking for that.” “I found it thumb tacked on the bulletin board and three Dominicans where trying to read it. How the f..k did it get there Moran?” Bowen cut in, “I put it there Wilcox, I thought it was something the men ought to know.” Me and Wilcox just stared at each other in disbelief for a second. Then he growled at me, “Do you have a secret clearance, Moran?” “Not yet sergeant.” Then he turned to Bowen, “What kind of clearance do you have?” “I think I might have a confidential clearance, but I’m not sure.” “Well then tell the captain Taylor. I’m taking charge of all classified documents for this company until you get you’re clearance Moran.”
Two weeks later, Wilcox brought the strong box back. “Your clearance came through, Moran. This is yours now and no more f…g bulletin boards, understood?
A week later things finally came to a head between me and Bowen. It started outside of the CP when I was washing my drawers and tee shirts in my Helmet. He just walked over to me and dropped a water proof bag and smiled, “Here Moran, wash these too.” I said, “What? Wash your own f..g underwear.” “Boy, he barked, you’re not going to make E-4 with that kind of attitude.” I kind of loss my cool and replied, “Ghee, sarg, you must of washed a hell of a lot of dirty drawers to all them stripes you’re wearing.” Needless to say he was not pleased with my comment.
Later in the day, Bowen called Private Dade in to reprimand him for some petty thing or other. Dade was a mean scary looking black dude who looked like he’d be at home in Attica. He gave Bowen two minutes of ear. Then he got a little insubordinate. He ended up calling Bowen a fat head dick brained cracker and walked out. To me the description fit, but Bowen didn’t think so. He turned to me and said, “I wish I could court martial that son of a bitch.” I don’t what the hell I thinking and slipped, “I could do the paperwork.” Bowen’s eyes lit up, “You can, then lets court martial the son of a bitch.” By end of the day he was court marshaling every guy in the company. Charges ranged from sneezing with out permission to laughing at an NCO. I had had it, so I quit.
He ended up appointing his brown nosing slave Gutridge as my replacement. Gutridge washed his drawers for him all right, but he never did make E-4. Me, I got sent back to my platoon.
Pat asked, “What do mean you quit.” “Well, you got remember Pat; I was running around down there with M14 with 18 rounds in the magazine. He remembered that fact, so he was more than accommodating about my departure from the CP tent.”