(Written May 2, 2004) I’ve not paid much attention to veteran’s stuff. In fact I had never even read a Viet Nam book until a guy in grad school called me a “boonie rat” - a term I hadn’t heard for a long time. I learned he had gotten it from a book he was reading, which became the first of many that I eventually read. I finally got around to joining a vet group for my unit maybe 15 years ago, mainly to get the newsletter and membership list, and have very sporadically made contact with a couple of guys over the years. But mostly I figured I had “moved on”. Vet groups were fine for those who had not been able to move on and needed the support - but what did that have to do with me.
Scanning my old photos and wanting to share them became part of what got me to more actively looking up some of the guys. When I got the announcement, last fall, for the reunion of my Recondo platoon - it got my attention. That was probably the best chance I would ever have for seeing some of the guys I had been with. Even so I almost blew it off. But, because of the photos, I had been in recent contact, and I knew at least two or three of the guys would be there. And Jean really encouraged me to check it out. I’ve got so many things I want to do with my time - but OK, it’s only a weekend - it might even be fun.
I knew for sure the guy I wrote about earlier (he helped me do some remodeling this past fall) - Tom “Beetle” Bailey - was going.
I had recently (a few years ago) made contact with another guy in my squad, Terry “Dirtball” Stanosheck. In retrospect, I have no idea how he was any more of a “dirtball” than the rest of us - we were all filthy. And I’m sure he stood in the rain and took Bayonet Baths (scraping off the dirt with the edge on a bayonet) as often as the rest of us. But somehow, at that age, you get a name and it sticks. He carried the machine gun, although on days when he was not in the field, or not able, I would carry it (I didn’t care for the extra weight, but I liked its reliability - something the M16 didn’t have). The guy I “found” a few years ago impressed me from our first conversation on the phone. His wife was in the terminal stages of a fatal disease, and he was caring for her at home. There was no self-pity on his part, nor would he accept any from anyone else, although it was clear that what he was doing was extremely difficult. He faced it with a sort of matter-of-fact calm serenity that I’m sure was tested anew every day. One conversation we were having ended abruptly when he heard her calling him and he had to go help her. She died within the last year or so, and he was starting to find his own life again. He said he was definitely coming and I was really looking forward to meeting who this guy had become.