This is fiction, not reality. Like reading HG Wells, or Dickens, or even Homer and no I don't mean Simpson, I mean Homer as in the Iliad, so suspend credulity, because if this was a library you would be in the FICTION section.
How to start this? My parents were just killed in an auto accident and I was upset. So I joined that Army. Pretty straight forward shit so far.
On May 1, 1970, as part of Operation Menu, elements of the 3rd Brigade, First Cavalry Division decided it was a beautiful day to go fishing, so we went fishing. Ok we were involved in Operation Fishhook where we did a little work in Cambodia. Now the operation was going great and we were doing our thing against a very tough NVA division. These were regulars, tough, disciplined and not afraid to fight. They were battle hardened and most of us were not, but it does not take long to get that way in the Nam.
While we were "airmobile" it also means that we were in the middle of the shit and no way out except by air; so we fought. We ended up in some shit hole they called a village and civilians were everywhere and well I did something really stupid, I got my picture taken with a little kid, about four or five. It was the height of stupidity but I did it anyway, I jumped up in the middle of a fucking firefight and grabbed her and got her out of the area. I mean I was in the middle of one hell of a gun fight and I was ready to piss and shit all over myself I was so scared, except I was carrying this kid that ended up in the middle of the shit and trying to shoot as I ran toward my lines, if you could call a squad a line. Someone got a picture of me with this ball of fire behind me, it looked a lot closer than it really was, and a 7.62 mm tracer round from an AK47 came ripping through my side. Yes we know it was an AK because by then we were using the .223's and the NVA used green tracers and we used red. So in the picture you saw this green light passing through my side, a red ball of fire behind me and I got this kid in my arms. It was one hell of a picture and this little kid was looking at me with this "you saved me puppy dog look." It was lucky it was a tracer, and it only grazed me, I still have a scar from the burn, but it was a cool picture.
You know how kids don't understand shit. I got the kid to safety and she stayed with me during the entire firefight, I even put my vest on her and gave her my steel pot to wear. She did look cute and there is a picture of that too. Her sitting in my lap as I look up over a damn log in a hole and doing my best to play Audie Murphy until we got enough help so I could give her to the medics who took her to a Catholic Hospital for the locals and gave me a quick patch job, and because my shift was not yet over so I did not get to go home. [We call that black humor.] Damn, it would be my second Purple Heart. That is one decoration no one fucking wants. What I did not think about until later was who the fuck was the photographer, why didn't I see him and when did he fucking take the pictures?
We kept fighting for the next eight hours until the gun ships came in and Puff the Magic Dragon came in to raining smoke and fire on the NVA. You really had to see Puff to believe it. They did not have the 105 cannon on it yet, but this lumbering C130 that flew only counter clockwise and in a slow arc was like it was a real dragon. As it opened up with those two 20 mm Vulcan 6 barrel Gatling canons that shot 6,000 rounds a minute, all you saw was the smoke and the red tracers forming a line you could almost walk on. If you have ever seen a .50 caliber machine gun round, well add another 10 to it because you are talking a .60 caliber for this bad boy. It was pared with one Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft autocannon that was not used to shoot at aircraft, but some dumb assholes on the ground that made the mistake of being under it and not being American. The 40 mm projectile was a 2 pound exploding messenger of death, and it was pumping out shells at the rate of 120 of them a minute. It was smoke and fire and it rained death on everything below it. It was a true weapons platform and it could fly around up there for five or six hours on end. And when Puff was firing everything at once you had all this hot brass raining down on you too. It had no defenses, unless you consider that the best defense is a good offense. When Puff showed up you had mixed feelings. The first was you were damn glad it was your gun ship but the second was, damn we are in some deep shit, they sent Puff out for us. In our case it was both.
Well the picture ended up in a few magazines and people saw it. Now I was in trouble, big trouble. I wanted a career in the Army, maybe getting a commission and spending the rest of my life being taken care of, or getting killed. But as of now the best I got was getting into the Instant NCO program and I became a Staff Sergeant pretty damn quick; it was usually a ticket to a body bag, instant NCO's were the first to die in combat. Not going to happen to me boys and girls; famous last words.
So we are still on the operation, the kid is gone, and we are someplace else in Cambodia, and I get hit hard, real hard, ticket home, third Purple Heart and I had actually extended my tour to say in Nam, because I am a real dumb ass. After all, the NVA know the ground, especially after all the years of war, and they sight us in pretty good. There is something inherently dumb about being someplace where no one looks like you and we get to wear uniforms that let the locals figure out we are not them. We might as well have been wearing bright red coats with white belts forming an X over our chests. I am wearing none of that, but round eyes and GI issue clothes mean: "Shoot at me." So I end up with lots of holes in me, and my blood in their mud; and I am in very deep shit. Don't believe what you read about morphine, it does not work all that well. A medic stabilizes me and a bunch more like me and then it is a nice flight in a chopper that is dodging ground fire, and sometimes not, to a field hospital; and then one in Saigon and from there, Germany. Back in the day all of us wounded ended up in Germany or the Philippines first then state side.
Now people are looking for me and they are pissed. The picture seems to be a problem, some relatives see me and reports are made, congressmen are contacted. I am talked at, not with, by people with more stripes than a Zebra. Keep my fucking mouth shut, were my orders and that is it in a nut shell. Don't die, hang in there, but keep my fucking mouth shut.
Four months later I was standing in front of the Secretary of Defense and someone was pinning the Distinguished Service Cross on me and I was promoted to Sergeant First Class, which is three stripes up and two rockers under. That pay grade is E-7; there are only nine enlisted pay grades. When that was over I was surrounded by a shit load of Command Sergeants Major, that would be E-9, three up and three down, a star in the middle with a wreath around each side of the star. A Sergeant Major is an enlisted man's general and they let you know it if you ever forget. They were all wearing CIB's and that would be Combat Infantryman's Badges but the part that was scary was they had two stars on the damn things. Shit these guys went through WW2, Korea and now the Nam; they were some fucking bad ass dudes. Each had a Purple Heart with stars on them, DSC's, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars with V devices [V means Valor as in got it in combat], and every other decoration you can imagine, and one wore a ribbon with stars on a field of blue. Shit the Medal of Honor, I came to attention and saluted when I saw it, as I was required to do; how the hell did I miss that when I was with the Secretary of Defense? I knew I was being ambushed, and by the best too, I was not sure when the shooting was going to start but there was no way to get out of this one, I was just along for the ride. I followed along as they led me from location to location in the Pentagon. I was still moving slow but they never let me stop.
I got a new picture and now I was given a Grey ID Card. It was not supposed to be grey. They were all glad handing me until we got into this one special little room. I called it the attitude readjustment room.
"You are at attention Sergeant. Listen you little fucking jerk, you fucked with our Army, you asshole. Yes you are a fucking hero, who the hell isn't, but god damn it you are out of here as of today. You are going to keep your fucking mouth shut forever. Do you read me young SFC?"
My only response was "Yes Sergeant Major!" in a very loud and clear voice as I now moved to and then stood at the ridged, but comfortable, position of attention; feet at a 45 degree angle, head and eyes forward, fingers slightly cupped and my thumbs alone the seam of my trousers. Hell I had so many people yelling at me I was not sure who I was agreeing with, but agree I would.
It was the picture, that damn picture. Yes it got me promoted to SFC, and it probably got me the DSC when what I did was hardly worth an Army Commendation Medal with a V device, and it got me recognized. You see, I was only sixteen years old at the time it was taken. I had used the birth certificate of an older brother that died shortly after birth to get into the Army and I was only fifteen then. Now it got me kicked out, but because of the photo and the publicity, and my wounds, I got a disability retirement and a 100% disability rating because I was shot up and I was gone. I was lucky I did not get a "void enlistment," but now I had a pension at sixteen. There was hell to pay and I was in hell. So the military followed the tried and true rule, "up and out," and that is what they did to me.
.... There is more of this story ...