This is a long story about a long story. Many years ago I was advised to call it a novel
Illegally Sane 11
I lit another cigarette and a strange look came over Pat’s face. “Did you ever find out who that guy was, you know the one with the jacket?” Nah up until this day I’ve never saw that guy again.” Then Cody asked, “What happened when you got back to Bragg?”
It was tough going back to Bragg, but that’s what I was doing for a living in those days. Charlie Ryan retired the week after I got back and we got us a new Top Kick. His name was First Sergeant Brown. He was tough, but deep down inside, like Charlie; he was a really decent guy.
Most of the unit was still in the DOMREP and believe it or not, I mailed the old lady down there a four dollar money order. Willard was really getting short now and the panic was starting to set in. So I ended up being his replacement trainee again.
As I said, Brown was a good guy, but he really couldn’t stand my free spirited attitude and I could tell. After about three weeks, Willard finally reenlisted and the first sergeant asked me, “How would you like to go back to The DOMREP, Moran?” I smiled, “Sure Top, my calendar is clear for the next two years.” He seemed kind of relieved and smiled, “Good, we’ll get you on a plane Friday.”
Reed asked, “Why would he be relieved?” “Well, I think he actually liked me and figured this would save him the heart break of having to put in jail sooner or later if I stuck around.”
Well anyway, when I got back to San Isidro the place looked much improved. Charlie Warner, our supply sergeant had weaseled some lumber and a tin roof and we now had our own cantina. It was beer only though.
My second day back, I was sitting in my tent when a couple of shots rang out. Every body grabbed their weapons and raced up the hill to take up their positions. When we got to the top, we saw two Dominican soldiers standing over a dead steer. They waved at us and shouted, “No Problemo es la cena” So everybody just lowered their weapons and when back to what they were doing.
Yup, The 27th Of February Tank Battalion was a pretty interesting outfit okay. The post was filled with livestock that belonged to their Colonel. He just let them roam the post freely. In fact when I was down there the first time, I shot one of his goats.
The night before someone lobbed a grenade over the fence, so I was a little more cautious then usual. I heard it rustling in the bushes and challenged the damn thing twice, but only got silence. So when it moved the third time, I busted three caps into bushes and it was dead. It almost became international incident. But it was resolved quickly with an explanation, an apology and probably a couple of bucks for the Colonel.
Vargas, Torres and Rivera were still there, so pretty soon I started going out on shower point missions again. The routine was the same, but now Vargas was engaged to a Dominican girl who lived under the bridge. So we were in pretty tight with the locals and made a lot of friends'
Then one day the Captain finally started wondering what the hell we were doing all day. You see our missions came directly from a Colonel at special troops in the Hotel Juaraqua, through the Sergeant Major there. Foolishly, the captain decided to take charge of the situation and put us on a detail just as we were getting ready to leave and report in. I told him we were under orders from a full bird colonel and had to report in for an assignment. He blustered, “I’m countermanding those orders Moran, and you people will paint rocks today.”
We spent about hour white washing the rocks along the pathways of the company area when the call I was expecting came in. Gutridge came running over to me and told me I had to go to report to the CP pronto.
When I got there Bowen just handed me the field phone and said, “Some sergeant major wants to talk to you, Moran, where would you like me to send the flowers to?” I grabbed the phone and said, “This is PFC Moran, Sergeant Major.” “Moran, he screamed, what the f..k are you doing, and why ain’t you here?” I knew this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed, so I played it to hilt. “My CO put us on a detail, Sergeant Major.” “Put you on a detail? Didn’t you tell him you were under orders to report to me this morning?” “As a matter of fact, I did Sergeant Major, but he told me he was countermanding the Colonels orders and that it was more important for us to white wash some rocks.” That set off an explosion of What? What? What? Then he blared, “What is your CO’s name?” “Captain Taylor, Sergeant Major.” “Stay right where you are.” Then a loud slam down ended the phone call.
Now the Hotel Juaraqua was about 19 miles away, but it seemed like it was only two minutes later when the Colonel’s jeep pulled up to the CP, with the Colonel and one seriously angry looking Sergeant Major Clark. He jumped out of the jeep and grabbed Benson by the shoulders and screamed as he shook him, “Get Captain Taylor here immediately, now! Move, move, move!’
Now there something you have to know about Sergeant Majors and First Sergeants back then. You could make E-6 or E-7 like Benson in a support unit by eating cheese and kissing ass. But first sergeants and sergeant majors had line unit experience and you didn’t get there unless you had something between your legs.
First Sergeants had two names, First Sergeant or Top. Sergeant Majors had only one name, Sergeant Major. Now as far as rank was concerned, officers didn’t command their respect unless they had eagles or stars on their shoulders. In fact, I had seen a Lt Colonel learn that lesson the hard way myself.
Anyway, when Taylor arrived he put the icing on the cake. He saluted the Colonel, then turned to the Sergeant Major and said, “Hi Sarg.” Clark just put his hands on his hips and stared Taylor in the eye. “What did you call me Cap tee Wap tee?” “I said Hi sarg.” That started the explosion right in front of the tent. “Do you have a f…g vision problem Captain? Do you see that star on my sleeve? Now get in the f…g tent now!”
We all backed off a couple of yards, but the words kept tearing through the tent for five minutes straight. Words like Dickhead, Asshole, Court Martial and kick you’re f…g ass rang out loud and clear. The one sided conversation finally toned down a bit. But just before it completely ended, I heard the Sergeant Major yell. “And Moran too.” There was another moment of silence and then the tent flap blew open and out stormed Clark and The Colonel. A minute later they were in their jeep on the way back to the Hotel.
The captain was visibly shaken, when he reappeared from the tent. He told me to get Burger, Richardson, Torres, Vargas and Rivera and report back to him at the CP right away.
When we got back, Taylor told us to pack up our gear and take our trucks and jeeps over to the Hotel Juaraqua. “You’ll be staying there until further notice, Gentleman.” Then in an almost pleading voice he said, “Please, please do not screw around. Go directly there and report directly to Sergeant Major Clark personally. Dismissed.” I thought it was pretty strange at the time that the Sergeant Major would mention my name, but I just chalked it up to words spouted in the heat of battle.
Now The Hotel was headquarters for Special Troops. Reed cut in. “You mean Special Forces?” “No Reed, Special Troops, although there were some Sneaky Petes there too. Personnel there encompassed everything from guys who set up shower points to spies.”
After we reported in to Clark, they assigned us two to a room. Unfortunately, the beds,furniture and TV we were gone from the room and we just got cots to sleep on and a closet to stow our gear. Maid service was also suspended and the pool was drained. However, breakfast was served in the main dinning room from to . We also had a three hour lunch range and dinner was from to basically it was a pretty informal atmosphere and you came and went as you pleased. Of course there were sandbagged guard post outside and occasional gunfire, but all in all, for us it was a resort.
Now getting away from the captain was an inspiration for us. We actually started taking a serious interest in what we were doing. In fact, we even told the Sergeant Major, that we felt with an extra hour a day we could probably squeeze in a second unit instead of just one. He really appreciated it, and that counted for something. But we still managed to find the time to hang out under the bridge and party with the locals.
Most of the people that lived under the bridge were dirt poor, but they were all honest as hell and always smiling. Some of them literally lived in cardboard boxes, but they did they're damnedest to keep clean.
Cigarettes were sold individually at 3 for a quarter which was a lot of money for them. But if they had one, they’d give it to you if you asked and worry about it later. So when we had a couple of extra packs, there was no sense in being cheap. We gave, they never asked, they were a proud people.
I remember one night they threw a street party. Poor as they were, there was free rum, free food and dancing in the street. We had a hell of good time and kicked in what we could.
This was also the neighborhood where the old lady lived. The one I sent the four bucks to. When I got back and she first saw me, she hugged me and said I was her number one guy. We became good friends and for some reason I really trusted her. The funny thing was that I learned that she was Caamano’s favorite aunt and had a lot of clout in the community.
Reed kicked in. Who was Caamano?” The leader of the rebels, Reed.”
Well, any way she turned out to be a good friend and ended up pulling me out of two tight fixes.
The first one took place one night in the cantina she owned. It was occupied by the locals, but I was comfortable there. We kind of had this agreement that we would leave our rifles behind the bar so as not to accidentally shoot any of her patrons. One night I was alone when two guys walked in with Fidel Castro hats. One had a 45 in his belt and the other one was holding an old Thompson. The guy with the pistol stared at me right away as his buddy raised the Thompson in my direction. I knew I had a real problem alright. I trusted the old lady, but I always forgot to hand over the 32 Browning I kept in right hand pants pocket, just in case.
I smiled at him and put a cigarette in my mouth. Then I purposely couldn’t find a light in shirt pocket and stuck my hand into my right pants pocket. I figured the best chance I had was to gut shoot the guy with the Thompson and take it from there. Luckily, the old lady came out from behind the bar and pushed the Thompson down with her hand. Then she brought them over and introduced them to me. This time we both smiled and they handed their weapons over to her. I bought em a couple of drinks and it turned out the guy with the 45 had worked as a conductor on the BMT in Brooklyn for a couple or years. He knew all of the stops and recited them for me. Small world huh.
Yup, the old lady liked me all right; In fact, she was trying to set me up with her niece Gloria. Gloria was a looker and of course spoke very little English. My Spanish had only improved slightly since high school, but somehow we understood each other. You might say me and Gloria had kind of a traditional Spanish courtship. Every where we went, her aunt was right there with us.
One day we were sitting on the porch and her aunt was inside cooking. I always left my rifle in the corner of the porch about four feet from where we were sitting. This day, for some stupid reason, I decided to leave my 32 in my duffle bag back at the hotel.
The old lady’s house was two blocks from the rebel zone, so it wasn’t unusual to see young men walking by, who you knew were rebels. But it wasn’t a problem because they were always unarmed. I was day dreaming when all of a sudden the words” Yankee Imperialist” rang out. I looked up and there were three guys in dirty white shirts standing on the sidewalk right in front of us. They were armed and one of them un-slung and old Mauser off his shoulder. Then they took turns uttering phrases with Modicum, Conyo and other assorted niceties. I knew enough Spanish to catch their drift. Gloria quickly got up and went into the house.
I just kept grinning at them as I ran scenarios though my head. First I’d hit ground, roll over, grab my rifle, lock and load, the shoot the guy with the Mauser first.The problem was I kept seeing myself getting blown to pieces before it got the bolt back. It was serious okay and I didn’t think I’d win this one. Time was quickly running out as they were talking up their courage. So I decided I’d make my move at the slightest distraction. Then suddenly the Calvary arrived, as Gloria’s aunt stormed out of the front door with her broom at port arms. She then proceeded down the steps in a bayonet charge and let out a verbal blast that nearly knocked their guns out their hands. That gave me enough time to grab my rifle and slam a round into the receiver. Immediately an older looking guy came running over with a gun in his belt. A conversation ensued and they we’re soon apologizing to Gloria’s aunt as they backed away. Then she looked at me and swept the part of the sidewalk which they had been standing on. When she came back up the steps she just rolled her eyes at me and shook her head. Then she calmly went back in to the house to finish cooking dinner.
I didn’t know at the time, but our activities under the bridge and my friendship with Gloria’s aunt had come to Clark’s attention. He finally sent for me and we had a long conversation. When he told me all that he knew, I thought it was over, jail for sure. Then he told he had a new job for me. “Are you sending me back to my unit Sergeant Major?” “Hell no. I want you to keep on doing exactly what you are doing. The new job is you will report to me every night, what you did, what you've seen, what you’ve heard and what you think. Now this is between me and you Moran. You don’t say anything about this to your buddies or anybody else on this planet, you got that?” “Yes, Sergeant Major.” “Good, now get out of here, Moran and I’ll see you back here tomorrow night.”