Yesterday I met the man who puts a face on Veterans everywhere from my war. I might have mentioned that my best friend Paul owns a butcher shop. I drop by there frequently just to see what red meat looks like and drool. While I was there an older man who was bent over walked in on a cane. Paul promptly introduced us and mentioned that we had Vietnam in common. Well, Gordon and I looked each other up and down and we started talking. It felt good like draining an abscess relieves pressure on a wound. Gordon said he hasn’t talked to anyone about it all these years and I know why. Nobody understands it. Hell, to this day he and I both probably don’t understand it. 58,000 + is a lot of lives wasted teaching the art of combat and that was just our casualties. This will open your eyes about us.
I was watching a show on the 1968 Tet offensive a month ago and they mentioned that only 2.2 million men actually served in Vietnam. Total. That’s really not a lot considering we were there in one capacity or another from 1954 to 1975. In my post Vietnam travels, I have only come to know less than 25 who were really there or who would admit to it. I have met many more who professed to have been present after it became fashionable, but they show their ignorance of a map when questioned as to where they were in country. Gordon is the real McCoy. He has more stitches in him than Frankenstein, too.
Gordon enlisted in 67 and was chosen to be a land warrior (MOS 11B-infantry) and was so trained. He departed about six months after induction for the Cu Chi-Tay Ninh area where they were doing search and destroy missions. Gordon said all he remembers was the ping sound when the Bouncing Betty jumped up ahead of him. This is where God and miracles enter. The explosion evaporated the guy when he stepped off it as could be expected. It also got the 90 day wonder and the Point who succumbed a day later. The two gentlemen in front of him lost their legs to the knees and one to the right lost a leg and an arm. Gordon came home with almost all of himself. Guys behind him lost fingers, eyes and pieces of ears.
Gordon held on to consciousness just long enough to hear the dulcet thock, thock, thock of the Huey dustoff. He was actually short-he had 30 days to DEROS. What he was doing near the front of that column probably will haunt him for the rest of his life. He told me the Point was a FNG and nobody trusted him so he moved up to keep an eye on him.
At the Evac hospital at Bien Hoa, they took him in for triage assessment. He handed over a few grenades from his cargo pocket that they had missed and scared the bejesus out of the pecker checkers. The grenades were suspect as they had been damaged from the mine explosion. He tells me he woke up next in Yokosuka EVAC in the intensive care ward and lived there for four months. He must have come down with Hep. because he told me he was yellow as orange juice for several weeks. The doctors were busy picking shrapnel from his body for the first two months and trying to save his right leg. The compound fracture above the knee was messy and got infected right away.
The military police arrived a month into his vacation and wanted to know where his M-16 was. He remembered that the barrel was bent at a 90 degree angle when he opened his eyes after the blast. I do not know this from experience, but I know for a fact that once you are down, they relieve you of your weapons. I know because I had a long discussion with my pilot about who was going to babysit my S&W while I was at the hospital. Gordon was most definitely not loaded onto the dustoff with his rifle and he sure didn’t have it under his gurney at Yokosuka.
His next stop was Madigan Hospital at Fort Lewis, Washington. The Army continued to pursue him for his 16 and threatened to prosecute him or deduct it from his pay if he didn’t cough it up. He spent a year there for more corrective surgery and to get his brain unbent. He did extensive P/T and learned how to walk again. The doctors tried to ship him up to the VAMC in Seattle, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently that place had a bad reputation 40 years before I got there and found out for myself.
The scar that runs from above his left eyebrow, across his forehead and ends behind his right ear hides pretty well with a baseball hat. He pooh-poohs the idea that his was a unique experience.For this he got a Purple Heart, but it wasn’t his first one. He got dinged by B-40 shrapnel about 4 months before this incident and had received a PH for that as well.
Gordon must shit ice cream and walk on water. Either that or he is on a first name basis with God. By rights he should have lost his leg and his head or at a bare minimum, the majority of both. He said he now believes in God. He walks with a cane and is 100% P&T. They feel that he may have PTSD but he won’t go see a psychiatrist and confirm their contentions.
A decade ago, Gordon came out his back door to find a cop trying to shoot his Brittany Spaniel over the fence. Apparently a neighbor had a pit bull escape and Dick Tracy mistook his dog for it. Gordon didn’t cotton to this, retrieved his .45 ACP and came out and poked a couple of holes in the air near the deputy to get his undivided attention. Said deputy smartly retreated and called in reinforcements. They convicted him of assault, took all his guns away and told him they weren’t going to put him in jail. I’d say that was mighty big of them with him being a genuine war hero and all. Gordon is now a convicted felon. I bet that looks good on the old resume, huh?
Gordon lives near me and I will count him a close friend. We get along like peas and carrots because we live in another world few others will ever know. Some will say we’re war Vets-even Veterans of combat. Mostly, we are the brotherhood of survivors of that insane invention of politicians-war. And the AWOL M-16? Gordon’s First Shirt submitted a letter and said it was destroyed or lost in the Cu Chi area during combat. Mystery solved. Case closed. Welcome home, Gordon.
If you look closely, you can see the bullet hole through the handle on this RPG. The gentleman shooting it at me didn’t survive the impact of the 5.56mm.