Sunday, October 19, 2008
Love American VS Korean Style #9
*About the photo...rendition of a Buffalo Soldier, rank- First Sergeant. I met such a man in 1975 and will never forget him. I changed his name in this story (of course). He was and I hope is still around and teaching the Real Deal. This part of my story I dedicate to the Senior NCO's of the US Army. They are Army Strong! HOOAH!
To recap...met future wife in Army snack bar sitting with friends. Made best friend out of friends to get at future wife (KIM). Tried to hook it up. No can do. Made anybody who were remotely Kim's friends, friends 'O mine. Set up a birthday party to have Kim attend. She got barfed on. I am no where near 1st base and Kim goes home from the party before I can set up an official date. I want to cry. Korean Local Union of Grannie Witches#13 takes pity on me and we (all 11 of us) hop in a tiny taxi and go to Kim's to make everything okie-dokie and hook me up with a date with Kim. The witches/grandma's tell me they will fix all and to RTB (return to base) before curfew in about 30-35 minutes. I am penniless and a little too far from base to make it there on foot. In desperation, I jump on the back of a bus and hold on for dear life. Bus hits a pot-hole and I get dumped at 40MPH. Shit. I limp towards base after I regain consciousness. It's now after nation-wide curfew in Pusan, R.O.K., March 1975. I am on the run (limp really) with Korean National Policemen Bert & Ernie on my tail, giving chase. I run into a low hanging roof awning. Concussion #2. I come too and I lose the KNP's by climbing up a telephone pole, like my Dad used to do. I gave the cops the slip. They leave the area and I come down the pole to find a bicycle with one wheel (the rear one). I pop a wheelie and continue my trek towards the Army Camp doing a wheel-stand. I am AWESOME! Things are definitely looking up...well, almost...until I crash about 5 feet down into an open banjo ditch (kind of a sewer, really) full of nasty things. Concussion#3. When I come too, I use an orange colored Samyang Ramen bag to staunch the bleeding from my 3rd or 4th head wound. I look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, except for the orange ramen bag stuck to my forehead. I continued on until I was literally "lit up" by a ROK Army tank, M-60 series with mounted spotlight. I am held by the ROK Army who are friendly, once they put down their M-16's, and are laughing their asses off at me. Ahhh, the things we do for love. Within 30 minutes a US Army M.P. jeep from my company rolls up with it's red light on to take my filthy and battered butt back to base. It's about 0130AM.The Military Police Sergeant in the jeep knows me and is laughing his ass off as I relay my love story to him. When we enter my camp's main gate we are stopped and there is my Platoon Leader, a new-in-country 2nd Lieutenant, who can only gawk at me as I salute him with the Samyang ramen bag still stuck to my head. He mumbles, "Very good". My pass is pulled and I have to see my 1st Sergeant later in the morning. On to medical..... I limp/drag my way out of the jeep to the small Evac Hospital/Dispensary. The medics got the word of my somewhat "funkfied condition" and were waiting for me...outside. Outside? Thus began "Operation Market Garden Hose".
*For those of you familiar with WWII you will know about Operation Market Garden from the book "A Bridge Too Far".
OPERATION MARKET GARDEN HOSE
Just as I am about to say "You're not going to use that hose on me, are you?" I get sprayed with ice cold water. Off comes the crud, the Samyang Ramen bag, and my clothes...boots too. I am given a hospital gown and slippers. In I go, with my ass hanging out of the back of the gown for further cleaning, scrubbing, a few stitches, and X rays. As the Doc was stitching me up I told him of my big night out and my quest for Kim's love. Never again will I tell anyone, with a sharp object in hand, something even remotely funny. The Doctor... who I'm sure was kinda pissed for waking him up at 0130 hours to check out a stupid soldier that fell off the back of a bus at 40MPH, ran into a low hanging roof, crashed a one wheeled bicycle into a banjo-ditch, and who had one hell of a night out on the town...could hardly control his laughter, let alone the needle. I thought he was going to stitch my right eye closed. An AM radio is tuned to Armed Forces Korea Network Radio (AFKN) and the song playing in the background is the Temptations singing "I Can't get Next to You". Somehow he (the Doc) and I, survived it all. I ended up with three stitches, bruised ribs, road rash, a sprained ankle, and one hell of a story to tell my First Sergeant in the morning. I go back to my barracks with my hosed-down clothes and cowboy boots in a plastic bag. I hit the rack. I sleep a deep sleep. A sleep of the dead asses. Believe me, I think mine was the deadest of asses the world has ever seen. It's 3AM... or zero three hundred hours, military time. Soon, I will see my First Sergeant....zzzzzzzZZZZZZZ.
A MEETING WITH BLACK THUNDER
Precisely at 0600 hours the C. Q. Runner, (basically an errand boy for the company at night and on the weekends) I shall call, Private Stupid Ass, wakes me up. "Hey Specialist Jihad Gene! Rise and shine, Dumb Ass! You got a meeting with 'Top' (the First Sergeant) at zero-seven-hundred! You up Gene"? Yeah, I'm up...well, sorta. Ten minutes later our barracks house boy, Mr Park, is pulling me outta my bunk, helping me get into the most heavily starched set of fatigues and the most highly shined pair of jump boots I had ever seen. I always paid him well and was very respectful to Mr Park, especially compared to some of the other American soldiers. It was now paying off 10 fold. House Boys were the best kept secret in the Army and found only in Korea. They took care of all your house cleaning, bed making, uniforms, and boots. Having a House Boy in the Army was heaven on earth! All I had to do was put my gear on and get to work. Where was I? Oh yeah, you see that in going before the First Shirt (1st Sgt) I have to not only look sharp, but I have to come as close to looking like the one and only "US Army Poster Boy of the Year 1975" as I possibly can. May God have mercy on your wretched soul should you set one foot in the office of B. T. (Black Thunder) JOHNSON, my company's First Sergeant, and not be squared away. Head. to. toe. This top NCO has more stripes of rank than I have abrasions, contusions, and concussions. A diamond is set in the middle of his stripes. He wears the patch of a former Drill Sergeant, Airborne Paratroopers Wings, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge for action in Vietnam. He wears the combat patch of the 101st Airborne on his right shoulder. He is no stranger to the bloody A Shau Valley, in the Thua Thien Province of Vietnam. On his left shoulder is the patch of my unit, Eighth Army. I tell you if God Almighty ever took a vacation, Black Thunder could fill in and you wouldn't even know that God had left the building. That was my First Sergeant. Anyone who ever met him just knew that Mohammed Ali and George Foreman were lucky to have never faced the US Army's First Sergeant B. T. Johnson in a fight. On his office wall, painted in Military Police green and gold colors, hung this plaque...
I AM A FIRST SERGEANT
My job is people -- Every One is My Business.
I dedicate my time and energy to their needs;
their health, morale, discipline, and welfare.
I grow in strength by strengthening my people.
My job is done in faith; my people build faith.
My job is people --
EVERY ONE IS MY BUSINESS.
Before I knock on the First Sergeant's door I hear AFKN radio playing the theme from The Good, Bad, and the Ugly....I swallow hard. I knock. A voice booms, "ENTER". I report to the First Sergeant and stand at parade rest. He looks at me closely from head to toe. I swear he still is a Drill Sergeant. I am told to have a seat. I sit up and I mean straight up. You dare not slouch in front of this professional soldier. He asked what happened last night. I tell him all. I hold nothing back... not even my feelings for the lovely Kim, who is my sole motivation/reason for this entire turn of curfew breaking, bus-bumper-ridin', pole-climbing, police-dodging, bicycle-stealing, banjo-ditch scuba-diving events! The big black man just sits behind his desk. He has his elbows on the desk and his huge fists are tucked under his chin, as if holding his head up. He is heavily muscled and I think he must have all his uniforms tailored to fit or he'd do an Incredible Hulk and bust right out of them. Professional athletes would wish they had his bulk...his build. Powerful. His nose is like a GE light bulb and I mean that in a kind way. Big and bulbous, it gives his face a kindness. He knows I've been here 7 months. A voluntary transfer from Hawaii's 25th Infantry Division with no disciplinary problems. No problems till today, anyway. He asks me if I know what an Ambassador is? Sort ah, I say. "Specialist Jihad", he says..."An ambassador is an official representative on the behalf of one country to another.I talk a lot with our Korean (KATUSA) First Sergeant, as you well know". Yes, I reply. "And he tells me you are a good Ambassador...that your rapport with the KATUSA M.P.'S and Korean workers is outstanding. I wish we had more good Ambassador's in Vietnam. It would be a different place but we can make amends right here and now. Are you with me, troop"? Yes, I say. "Jihad, a good Ambassador does not steal. Now get your bicycle larceny comitting butt over to the motor pool, draw a vehicle, get back here with it by 0900, and you... and I.... and the KATUSA First Sergeant, are going out to recover that bicycle, find the owner, and make it right. Make sure the jeep is dispatched for off-post with a trailer and bring a rope in case we need it. Your love is on hold and so is your pass as of right now. Get going, Soldier". I come to the position of attention and loudly reply Yes, First Sergeant! And as I was just leaving his office the First Sergeant said something I thought I'd never hear him ever say... "Hey Jihad", he yells, "Change into an old pair of boots and raggedy uniform". Top? I ask, confused. Top says "I don't want you to piss off your house boy when you go down into that banjo-ditch and screw up the shine on those jump boots and foul up that sharp looking uniform".Yes First Sergeant, I reply. The radio just finished playing Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", now it's playing Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin Care of Business". I burn rubber (with a slight limp) out of that Orderly Room. (To be Continued)