Posted by Lex, on August 9, 2006
He woke up with a start. A giant floor fan stood roaring in the doorway. As he gathered his thoughts, he remembered the night before. After eating at Mariposa, he had gone with Rocky to one of the clubs, trying to continue the discussion they had begun. San Miguel intervened. Some of the other guys from the shop were there and the party had begun in earnest. A mix of girls, dancing and beer. Sometime around 2300, he had walked back over the river and taken a taxi back the mountain to the modified Baker buildings that served as enlisted barracks for visiting squadrons.
He rolled off the rack, and stood, bracing for the hangover. Not too bad. He hadn’t tried to keep up, and quit before the tipping point had been reached. Grabbing his ditty bag, he wrapped a towel around his waist and headed for the showers. They stood on open concrete platforms between the barracks, without any barricades, and he idly wondered about the point of the towel as he walked.
It was a beautiful morning, bright blue sky showing between the trees where roads and buildings had created openings in the canopy. He showered quickly, dressed, and hiked down the road to mainside. Mainside at Cubi Point consisted of the primary barracks buildings, PX, theater, and chowhall. It sat on a hillside overlooking Subic Bay. There was enough shade and landscaping to keep the temperature bearable. A beautiful place, well maintained, an outpost of American civilization that spoke quietly of power and empire.
Saturday morning chow was still open, and he breezed through the empty line. Filipino servers offered a mix of options, including eggs to order and all the breakfast trimmings. He loaded his tray and looked around for a friendly face. A PFC from one of the other shops, Metal, maybe, or Hydraulics, waved, so he went over and sat down. He recognized him, but drew a blank on the kid’s name. Funny, this trip he hadn’t tried to know everyone, and the replacements in the other shops were just faces.
Trying for an opening, Tom asked, “What’s your first name?”
“William, well, Bill, Bill Browder. How’s it going, Sergeant?”
“Tom, just call me Tom, if we’re eating together, we can have real names.”
“Ok, Tom. What are you doing on base? Just about everyone is gone.”
“I could ask you the same question, couldn’t I, Bill?” Tom repeated the name trying to fix it in his mind.
“I came in last night, I need to make a phone call.”
“To my wife back in the States. Do you know how to do that?”
“Yea, I know. It’s expensive, and a pain. You have to get an appointment during the day, it a radio call, called a MARS station, and it only connects you to California, you have to pay for the call from there. Why do you want to call the States?”
He realized he knew the answer before the young kid spoke.
“I got to confess to her. I… I been out in town.”
Tom set down his fork, stopped and looked across the table at PFC William Browder. The thought of who this kid was, where he was from, and what would happen if he made that call passed through his mind.
“Bill, you have lost your mind. Look, if six weeks ago in Korea I had told you what Olongapo was like, would you have believed me? If you tell your wife, what will happen? Do you think you can make her understand, over the phone, in a ten minute call?
“But I have to…”
Tom cut him off, “Look, Bill, let me make this a little clearer. You don’t have the right to make that call. You did something here, fine, you live with it. Tell me, tell Top, tomorrow morning, go to church and tell the Chaplain. Vow not to do it again, if you think it’s wrong. Do some penance, whatever, but part of it has to be you live with it. I’m going to talk to Top, but I give you my word, if I find out you called your wife on this, I’ll beat you myself. Am I clear?
“Ok, I’ll see the Chaplain, but, but…”
“No buts, see the Chaplain, and come find me on Monday, tell me how things are going. Will you do that, too?”
They got up and left the trays. The girls came to clear the table, chattering in Tagalog about the exchange they had just overheard.
Editor’s Note 08-05-18 – I do not know the identity of the guest blogger, but remember somewhere in the Wayback Machine that he was a Marine Gunnery Sgt.