Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vietnam -- Bates comes back to haunt me

When I went through Advanced Individual Training (AIT) before heading to Vietnam, I found a familiar face in the crowd. 

I was an older kid I knew from my home town by the name of Charles Bates.

He lived at 250 S.Washington Avenue which was literally one block over and he taught me a lot about how to play baseball. And more importantly, how to win at grabbing the bat.

The way kids used to play ball, we'd throw the bat up into the air and either one on the opponent catches it or you do and then there's the race up the bat handle to the top.

He taught me how to grab the knob with your fingers to win the rights to be first at bat.

He also made me get a glove for a lefty and how to purchase glove oil for it so I could get it loosened up.

Obviously, we had a past that Bates could count on.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"Trying to pass this darn class. I washed out the first time."

"Oh," I said.  "Well let me know if I can help."

Well the end result is he did pass with my help and somehow managed to get my red and black pencil which caused me to lose out on being a SP4 out of AIT. And to add insult to injury, he went to Germany and I went to Vietnam.

At least, that's the way our paths went after AIT.

You can pretty much imagine my surprise when I saw Bates walk out of the building where they court martial ed soldiers with two armed guards.  A civilian was taking pictures of Bates.

Clearly, Bates was getting court martial ed. 

But for what?

My journalist mind just had to know.

So I walked up as close as I could and said, "Okay, what did you do?"

"Honestly, I don't remember. But from what they tell me it was bad, really bad."

"Did you kill someone?"

"No. But you'll read about it."

The guard got uncomfortable so I stopped questioning. I said goodbye and walked away.

As it turns out, the night the 122mm rocket blew me backwards, Bates had been mixing liquor with LSD and his mind saw all the officers in the unit as little yellow men wanting to kill him.

So, he put an M-79 grenade launcher to the head of his CO and threatened to kill him and any other gook ass muther fucker who got in his way.

Of course, no one died except Bates' career.

Sometimes helping people, even with good intentions, can backfire in ways you never dreamed possible.

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