Once upon a time a long long time ago in a far away land called South Vietnam, I served a tour of duty as a U.S. Army Artillery Fire Direction Control Specialist at a beautiful forward firebase called LZ Stinson (I Corps). We shot the pea shooters (102 MM Howitzers) in close support of infantry, and we were sooo good at what we did that the hostile forces (sometimes called much less pleasant things) absolutely did not like us. In fact, they tried to get us at least weekly!Tom W. (real name but abbreviated for anonymity) was a new guy in our unit who was a big scrapping trash collector from Milwaukee. It seems all he wanted to do was get into combat and get a souvenir (preferably an ear) from a hostile combatant. He didn't realize that we only had U.S. Army Infantry and Artillery along with a few South Vietnamese to defend ourselves. We were most certainly prime targets without the Marines to protect us!! (I had to get you guys in here to get this sad but true tale published)!

This drove Tom absolutely crazy ... as we were using almost every type of fireworks you can imagine

Well anyway, we came under a withering attack his first night at the LZ, and as usual, it started with a mortar barrage. Unfortunately for Tom, one of the rounds hit right outside of his bunker when he was in the doorway headed out, and he received a small shrapnel wound in the face. The new medic covered half his head with a field dressing and ordered him to stay in the command bunker until the hostilities ceased. This drove Tom absolutely crazy (he was using more descriptive words), as we were using almost every type of fireworks you can imagine - rifles, machine guns, claymore mines, grenades, mortars, secret stuff I can't talk about, and even direct fire with beehive rounds (lots and lots of darts) by our howitzers. - and he couldn't be a part of it. I think his feelings were genuinely hurt.

The fire fight went from about 10:00 PM (I never professed to be a good soldier) until about 4:00 AM when Puff the Magic Dragon (fixed wing aircraft with a gaggle of mini-guns) chased the bad guys out of Camelot. It took another hour to secure the area because we had been fired upon with delayed fuse mortars (where the hell did they come from?). When we finally got the all clear sign, we let Tom make the 100 yard walk to the outhouse first so he at least could be on the field of honor while it still had the aroma of battle. It was the least we could do for him.

He had been gone about 5 minutes when there was a loud explosion from the direction of the outhouse. It couldn't have been more that 5 seconds and Tom was standing back in our bunker ghostly white and with his pants still down around his ankles!! I'm laughing so hard just thinking about the sight I have to pause before the next thought! All we could do was laugh and laugh and laugh...Tom was finally acclimated to South Vietnam.

Maybe next time I'll tell y'all about when we went rat hunting with crossbows, had an arrow ricochet, and hit our Battery Commander. We were using bows because we got into trouble for using soap bullets in our M-16s, but that is yet another story from those defining times. Gotta go now and listen to some more Creedence - see y'all later!

Semper Fi!