Friday, March 22, 2013
I was once an Eagle
I was once an Eagle
There are many who serve their country. When I became an Eagle soldier, I found some were volunteers -RAs like myself - but many were drafted - USes. But all of us were put into a world way much different than any other division in the world.
They call us the Screaming Eagles. We were and will always be remembered as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Of course, back in Vietnam, it was the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile).
And, yes, in Vietnam, you spit shined your shoes and wore starched fatigues. You were always a soldier and always an Eagle. You always ate breakfast and took your malaria pill. And you always, always were ready to dive under tables or move like greased lightning into a bunker at the slightest vapor Charlie Con had death in the air and on its way.
Indeed, life at Camp Eagle was 17,000 stories that had never been written.
So, please forgive me if I romance in my memories of hell.
You tried finding others who were like yourself. A silent rule of pairs survive. Soloist were always loners and suspected. If you didn't drink, smoke or entertain yourself with some kind of illegal substance or drug, you had to be a narc (narcotics agent).
There wasn't a moment of silence. Even if it were just quiet enough to hear the crickets at night someone off in the distance was the scream of a gas run generator. And even further away, the numbing thunder of B52 dropped bombs.
Some of use got lucky and came home with only movie scenes more real than any producer could imagine.
The pictures of old women with black teeth smiles selling marijuana just outside the camp's gates, of kids who tried stealing your wrist watch, and of police who pulled guns on their own if their citizens didn't comply with their instructions.
The sounds of "GI Number One", of hundreds of choppers in the air, the hiss of rockets, the popping of flares and the screams of agony of our own wounded.
The smells of jet fuel, axle grease, hydraulic fluid, diesel exhaust and Agent Orange.
The stench of burning human waste.
The jungle had its own stories to tell. As did the fire bases and towns and cities between them.
Many of us live to forget. Those who never came home remind us to remember.
Over time, you realize if you stay in the military, you eventually come back to the nest.
I did three assignments with the Screaming Eagles. My first was Vietnam.
And I am very proud to have been there.
Part 2 and Part 3 will cover those two tours.