Some Had It Better Than Others

I considered myself very lucky for the brief time I was in the Army in the early 70s. On the “Dream Sheet” I said that I wanted to be a photographer, and stationed in Japan.

I guess that’s why they call it the “dream sheet” because I ended up as a radar operator in Germany who communicated with missile batteries.

That assignment was the best of the best because the Army would go by alphabetized names on the roster when filling positions around the world.

I was in Army Air Defense, a part of the Army few outside the Army even know exists, but the Army is responsible for all ground to air defense.

Out of my graduating class at Ft Bliss, TX all the “E”s to the “Z”s were sent to the South Korea, along the DMZ, I would suspect. Vietnam was winding down and few were being sent there.

There were 5 of us in “bureaucratic limbo” at Ft Bliss with no assignments on the horizon. Three of us thought we should be doing something besides emptying ash trays or showing training movies for the next few years, so we kept bugging this civilian bureaucrat making the assignments.

On the 3rd visit he said to stop bugging him and he’d send us to Germany.

The remaining 2, you guessed it, showed training movies and emptied ashtrays in El Paso.

The reason I am writing this is because my past 2 neighbors, were both veterans with very different stories. The previous neighbor was a Marine veteran during WW2. Lied about his age when he enlisted (16) and had some stories to tell.

He survived Tarawa, Saipan and later in Korea, the Chosin Reservoir. He had a good sense of humor as I suspect you’d need to maintain your sanity.

My current neighbor is an Army veteran from Vietnam. For some years I thought his story was just a bit humorous, as those who know the Army might.

He was a Huey mechanic, repairing and servicing the venerable UH-1 “Huey” during the day. Only the Army was short of door gunners, so after he serviced the machines he was frequently up with his M-60 by the door in the evenings.

Anyway that’s what I thought he did all those years, and I’m sure that was the case.

However, I just found out from his girl friend he also had a duty nobody would want – collecting body parts at crash sites and battlefields. I was talking to him today, and he told me of a time when he volunteered to walk across a mine field and extricate a soldier who was horribly burned in his Duece and a Half – 3rd degree burns.

The truck had hit a mine and the explosion was such that the engine was literally blown out. He said as they were treading back across the mine field, the guy was conscience and talking to him.

Told me today of some crash sites and who he had to recover.

When he returned, he said he spent 2 years going to classes at the VA learning how to deal with this.

My memories of the Army, aside from some funny stories at basic training and Ft Bliss, involved traveling around Europe when I wasn’t in the bunker.

I hope that my neighbor and others then and now can find the peace that they need.

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One response to “Some Had It Better Than Others

  1. It was usually “luck of the draw” when talking about assignments in the military. Once met a Huey pilot who’s sole job, after flight school, was to pick up brand new Hueys, right off the assembly line, and put 1000 hours on the engine and air-frame. This was by regulation and had to be done before the aircraft could be deployed overseas. The army gave him several credit and fuel cards and he flew the new birds anywhere he wanted to inside CONUS. He went camping and fishing in the Rockies, saw ball games in LA and SF, went to N’Orleans for Mardi Gras, etc. Some assignments were just better than others.

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