Very First Article I Wrote

I wrote a column for my hometown newspaper called VIET NAM MONTAGE , during my first tour in country. What follows is the very first article I wrote. It was just before I deployed, and I wrote this from Fort Riley, Kansas. The date of this article is February of 1966.
first medal
THE PAINS OF WAR ARE WELL KNOWN. There has been much written, filmed, recorded, and documented about the tragedies of the war. But sometimes in the overall scope of things, the small, inconsequential hurts that one suffers can we easily overlooked, and the world will continue to turn, totally oblivious to the sorrow of one of God’s creatures. I became aware of a pain and sorrow, infinitesimally small in the scope of things, but somehow apropos to the whole of this war.
Our company, the 605th Trans, is one that was formed for the express purpose of going to war. There were a few months of preparation involved while we drew equipment, packaged it for shipment, trained personnel, and actually loaded all the equipment aboard the train to begin the long journey to its destination.
A dog, underfed and collarless, wandered into the company area one day soon after the company was formed. One of the GIs, perhaps remembering a dog that he had so recently shared his childhood with, befriended this stray animal. Soon others were making overtures to the dog, and the 605th acquired a mascot.
He went by many names. Some, no doubt reminded the soldiers
of their own family pets, while others reflected the time known originality of the American G.I. Names like Pal, Spot, First Sgt., Col., Hey You, Mutt, KP, AWOL, and many others. There was however, genuine affection and all the names, and the dog responded happily to all of them.
Soon Mutt’s coat began to glisten, and he took on the well fed look of a cherished member of the family. It was an association that was mutually beneficial, because even the lowest ranking soldier in the company always knew there was one other member in the command upon whom he could vent his wrath without fear of reprisal. Mutt took these occasional tirades in pained silence, perhaps somehow sensing that his job in the 605th was in its own way, just as important as that of the company commander, or the first sergeant. Mutt entered enthusiastically into the activities of the company, accompanying us on long morning runs, barking encouragingly at those who lagged, to keep going. He inspected the loading of the flat cars on the train, ensuring to his satisfaction that the trucks, trailers, and other items of TO&E equipment were securely lashed. He attended lectures and classes, and learned the deadly look of a Claymore mine, and the staccato sound made by an M-60 machine gun.
The company finally left for Vietnam, leaving behind two officers, and eight enlisted men as both rear and advanced party. I was one of the officers. Our job was to turn in the buildings, and sever all connections which stretch umbilical like, between post headquarters and the company. We were then to fly to Vietnam so as to arrive before the main body, which was traveling by ship, and there to reestablish these lifelines with higher commands.
Yesterday, I stood in the company street, and looked at the lonely, quiet buildings. The wind whipped through, cold and biting, and the bare limbs of the trees rattled dryly. A piece of paper rode in on the wind, glued itself to an empty mop rack for a moment, then worked its way off, and continued its journey.
Suddenly, my eyes were drawn to a movement behind the closed mess hall. There stood the dog, waiting as he did each evening for the men to finish their meal, and bring him something to eat, and even more important, to speak to him, pet him and invite him to join them. He couldn’t know that the company was gone, that he was one of the casualties of this war. All he knew was that he was alone once more, and even though I went to him and petted him, I found it difficult to face the hurt confusion in his eyes.
He jerked his head once, and cocked his ears, perhaps thinking he heard the drumming boots of a marching platoon, or the spontaneous laughter of one of the men, but realized at once that there was nothing.
There was no way for me to explain to him that it was impossible for us to take him with us, or that there would soon be another company of men occupying these same barracks, and that he, just as any other transferred soldier, would have to adjust to a new company. He shook himself once, as if he had just emerged from a pool of water, and walked slowly down the length of the company street, and on across the parade field. I could almost see, on that parade field, the ghosts of the soldiers who had served in this storied place, stretching back through the corridors of history, the Korean War, World War II, World War I, The Spanish American War, and even those troopers who followed Custer into eternity.
Then the quietness of the deserted company area seemed to close in on me, and I felt very much alone.

 

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