It's What I Remember
by David J. Markham
I have been posting stories on this site since it’s birth, some of them take me back to things better left forgotten, but others remind me of times that make me smile and remember people that, all though names sometimes allude me, made me proud to have serve with them.
I always wanted to join the army as a small boy, but wow, being a part of the 101st Airborne Division, but I never would have thought that I would be a part of them. Well, here’s how that happened, a friend of mine asked me to join the Army with him on the “Buddy Plan”, and said that he wanted to go Airborne.
OK, what is the Buddy plan I asked? My friend Terry said, “It’s a plan that the Army offers that will allow us to join together and remain together throughout our entire training period”. And that would be how long I asked? Well Terry said, there is Basic Training, 8 weeks, and then A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training) 9 weeks and Jump School, that’s 3 weeks. I thought, great! Terry was my best friend, and if anyone could get me through all that training it would be him.
We signed-up almost immediately, well, the Marines down the hall tried like hell to get us two fine specimens of young male he-men to enlist with them, but because Terry wanted to go Airborne, and not really knowing the Marines can also send you to Jump School we stuck with our Army Recruiter. My next question to Terry was, “hey, Terry, can you drink legally in Buffalo, cuz that’s where we have to go for our induction”? Oh yeah, and “Terry, what the hell does going Airborne mean”?
After the short explanation about what he knew about the Airborne thing, I decided that even if it isn’t legal to drink at 18 in Buffalo, (it was then) I was going to get hammered. For the record, I did get hammered, it only took three drinks, at least that’s all I remembered.
The next day when they were testing and probing and all the things they do to new young recruits, they asked me “what I would like to go to, what school would I like to go to? I said, well I don’t know, what school are open for me to attend? Can you tell how naive I was yet? The Sergeant looked at my paperwork and said, “well looks like you want Airborne, and the only thing open in Airborne is Infantry. Really, OK, sounds all right with me, that’s must be where Terry will be going too.
That being said, the following is how I have handled my memories since coming home, which is in a humorous vain and are not presented from my serious dark side that I keep locked up and private.
I remember walking down the ramp of the airplane that brought us to this far away country called Vietnam, thinking, “will they shoot at us before we reach the bottom?” It wasn’t like I was afraid that they might, just wondering. I didn’t wake up till much later about what being shot at really meant. At least it seemed much later because every day seemed an eternity in Vietnam. I did reach the ground safely, and was met by, I guess, the 101st liaison person who directed everyone assigned to the 101st to a bus with screened windows, must have been to keep the bugs out. Someone said it was to keep people from throwing hand grenades in, but why would anyone want to do that?
My P-Training thoughts
Wow, more training, but what about all those months of training we had stateside, oh yeah, it wasn’t jungle warfare, which is what we would be needing very soon. (Please remember all you Ranger, Special Force types, I am talking about enlistment to Nam in 5-6 months types). Anyway, I don’t remember a whole lot about this training except that I can burn crap with the best of you. Maybe it was just that I wasn’t ready to apply myself yet, it seems I walked around with my head in my ass a lot. I know this because there was always a helpful Sgt. telling me to “pull your head out of your arse troop, if your aiming on surviving your year in Nam”.
Anyone remember the Sgt. in Phan Rang that had us go out on a snake hunt for some snake zoo he had, oh yeah I was look for snakes looking under rocks, “nothing here sarge”. Must have said that a couple dozen times, funny I can’t seem to remember turning over any rocks though.
First trip to the Field
After learning all the things I would need to know on how to survive Vietnam, I was send to my new place of operation, the jungle. Not only was this my first time in a helicopter, first time in a jungle, first time meeting men from “Cobra” third platoon, they were preparing for an all night march, another first. Now I don’t like to second guess those in command, but here I am, the most the greenest, cherry 18 year old ever to set foot in a jungle.