We were only up on Firebase Ripcord for about a week,before we were given orders to pack up and get ready to move out.
We were taken off that hill slick by slick to go out on what would be my first actual mission in the boonies.
I had no idea at the time where we were or where we were going.As it turned out(as close as I can tell),we were a part of the guys assigned to try locate and make contact with the NVA or VC that were working in the area in the general area around the location of this firebase.We were there to keep 'em from moving in any further towards where they knew they shouldn't be.
This was heavily jungled-up mountains.Hard travelling terrain. Our rucksacks contained the better part of a case of C-Rations,At least one claymore mine(or two).Five or more quarts of water(sometimes 7),at least 4-6 grenades(or more).As many LRRP rations as you could get...much lighter than "C's" and better stuff in 'em.A carton of Cigs or so.
A LAW(M-72),an entrenching tool.
And me,the M-60,200 rounds of ammo,plus the "starter belt".A Knife,Poncho,Poncho Liner,Steel Pot,Web-gear,"D-Rings",Towel,extra socks & Ammo Box holding your personal stuff like your MPC,foot powder,letters and writing stuff.And whatever else you wanted to be weighted down with.My favorite thing I ever had issued was a Jungle Sweater.Now this thing was made from some kind of super material.If it was wet,you felt dry.If it was hot,it held the sweat and cooled you off.If it was cold,it kept you warm.Out LT...George Of The Jungle,always gave me a ration of shit,because I'd cut the sleeves off.Well,hey...this was no fashion show out here,and I can't stand suff around my arms.It got to where after a while when they'd ask us what re-supplies we needed,and I listed a new Jungle Sweater...he told me they didn't have 'em anymore.What the hell was that?
This was roughly the full amount of equipment you'd have with you on the day you started out on your mission.Day by day your stuff would start to lighten up as you'd use it,but you'd be one more day of being tired & beat up,so you wouldn't really notice the difference too much.All this was packed just as neat and tight as you could possibly make it be.Your poncho was the final thing you topped off your ruck with,just draped it over the whole mess and tied it down.
Struggling through the thick jungle,you'd get snagged on thorns and vines in those mountains.If it was the rainy season,you didn't want to be the last guy in the line climbing up the side of a mountain.All you'd have is slick mud to try to climb up most of the time,with all the little roots and other hand-holds already gone.I can remember having to actually pound my fists into the side of hills just in order to make a small indentation to where I'd be able to have a hand grip to pull myself a few more inches up.And we must not forget those beautiful areas we called The Lowlands.You'd get stuck in mud,and cut up on Elephant Grass in these Lowlands.Rice paddies,and old blown away former banana farms or whatever they were.Your feet'd get so wet and they'd stay that way.You could change those socks and hook 'em onto your ruck to dry.Powder your feet too,but somehow I still wound up having those rotten soaked feet most of the time.The skin would just turn pure white on the bottoms and have loads of tiny little pin-prick holes all over them.You could take your fingers and scatch down through the skin,and it'd just peel away in your finger tips.Then as your feet would slowly begin to dry out,all the bottom of your feet would crack and bleed.Very special as I recall.
Getting tangled up in those vines and tropical trees was real fun too in 100 degree plus weather in the most humid climate on God's planet.It didn't take long at all before every scratch all up and down your arms would fester up and look like nasty infected puss filled sores.Jungle Rot.That's what it was called.A very medical definition,right...Jungle Rot.Tell somebody that nowadays and they'd think you were simple.Well,my good pal,Doc Zepp would pass out the Penicillin (Vicillian-K or Ampicillan) like M&M's.Most of our drinking water to refill our canteens in the mountains came from the streams.We had iodine pills to put in the canteens to purify the water.Mmmm,mighty tasty that was.The one thing I always asked for from home was Pre-Sweetened Kool-Aid.This was saved to use in the nastier water especially,like bomb crater water...or from streams that were full of misc. debris.The best part if there was a best part about the monsoon season,was that you didn't have to worry 'bout where your next drink of water was coming from.Just notch a tree and hang your canteen cup under the notch and it'd fill up in no time.Sometimes all you had to do was just hold your canteen cup under a leaf where the water was running off.After being wet for so long,one good trick I learned from a scout we had,was to take the wrapper off the LRRPs and burn it.When it was raining so hard,there was less chance of smoke being seen by the enemy,so we'd string up a poncho,and take our socks and hold them over this little fire we'd get burning from the LRRP meal bag.It was like an alluminum foil lined canvas bag.Believe it or not,it would burn good enough to dry 'em out most of the time.If not...most of the time we'd have an extra claymore that we would pry the back off of,and dig out a little hunk of C-4.Talk about something that'd burn!I'd take a small can from my C-rations,usually a B-2 Unit(crackers & cheese),and cut the top off with my P-38 handy-dandy little can-opener.Then taking the same P-38,I'd cut along the top of the can sideways below the rim,and do the same at the bottom.Once you got it most of the way around,you'd push the sides in together,and you've just made yourself neat little stove.You could cook C's on it,heat up some water for coffee.It worked.And we all did it,remember?
Now do you remember around our steel pots there was a cammo cover,held in place by an elastic band which held your bug juice(insect repellant) and LSA(I think it was called) to clean your weapon with.Everybody's cammo cover was as unique as they were.Different sayings were written on them,names, pictures,"Short-Timer's Calenders",etc.I was often asked by my fellow grunts to do them a favor and draw them something unique on their helmet covers.After Firebase Ripcord,I put a Bulls-Eye on the one side of mine with large letters that said,"AIM HERE",and on the other side it had a picture of the "Zig-Zag Man"Me and the Zig-Zag man were good friends in the rear.But never in the field.It just wasn't about to happen! Too much at stake! And that my friend you better believe!
There were many missions from the first until I left that part of the world.Some I can easily recall with great clarity.Others may take a little nudge.We set up ambush patrols at night.We humped the boonies all the stinkin' time.Every night we would dig a foxhole to duck into if needed.We flew into LZ's by helicopter time and again...sometimes "HOT"...sometimes NOT.Things happen to people who are under this kind of stress day in and day out.Some guys can just take it in stride,like it was just another day.Some have a little bit harder time of it.Me,I guess I fall into the 2nd category.But maybe that's just me.Or maybe.I'm just willing to admit it.Either way,I made it home.Even thought sometimes I wonder why.Why was I one of the ones to make it home,when some of my brothers are now names on a black wall in Washington.I guess God has his reasons for what he does.I suppose he looked down and saw what those guys were doing and figured,hey he's had enough of that crap...now its time for me to bring him on home!
And I guess with me,he just ain't done yet.Whatever it is...I still have more to do.I don't know what it is,ain't got a clue.But I'm here and ready for whatever comes my way.Hopefully it won't be so darn evil as those days of my youth.I hope I can find peace within myself and find a place where I can relax.If there really is such a place here on Earth.
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Here's where to go to find the 3rd page of my 'Nam memories.Rat HereNow please forgive me if for any reason I left out some of the folks who were really key people in a lot of this.But its just that sometimes the names won't always come to me...time has a way of blurring some of my memories,especially some names and faces.Also the order in which these events took place.But hopefully one of these days I'll piece it all together,make some kind of sense out of it all.
I truly thank you for stopping by and ...Take care and God Bless you my friend!