"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Friday, February 17, 2012

C David Ramsey: A Day At The Beach: Vietnam

If our lifestyle today came close to what we lived in Vietnam in the 60’s, we would be escorted to the nearest AA office for counseling and supervision. 

Drinking was an important part of our life in Vietnam; of course our work came first. I guess you could say we were trained in the art of beer.  Drink was the accepted thing to do while in country. 

One morning, several of us had time off, so we planned a trip to our semi-private beach. At least we thought it was our beach.  The Air Force at Da Nang first established it as their playground. It was a beautiful place, white sand and warm blue waters. We never gave a second thought that we were in a war zone when we swam at Red Beach. 

The night before, we drove down the tarmac to “scrounge” a few fire extinguishers to chill the beer. Let me explain the meaning of scrounge; if an individual took something for himself, it was stealing.  If he took it to be used by the squadron, it was scrounging. 

When we arrived at the beach we would dig a small hole, line it with a poncho, put the beer in the hole and spray the fire extinguishers over the beer. The stuff in the extinguisher would help cool our beer down to a reasonable degree, or close enough. It wasn’t as good as ice, but you must remember, ice had the same value as gold in Vietnam. 

When we walked down the long trail to the beach, we could see several big ships just off shore. There were big ships, small ships and a ton of landing crafts circling just off shore. We had no idea what was happening, besides we had a greater priority -- get the beer cool. Remember this was early, somewhere around 7:00, and we had been awake for several hours, waiting for our day to relax in the sand. 

The beer we had selected was a vintage choice. There is nothing like aged Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schlitz Beer, stored in some forgotten military warehouse until scum forms in the bottom of the can. Milwaukee would soon be proud as our church keys punched holes in those rusty tin cans. No Sir, no pop tops in those days that might break a finger nail. 

As we sat back sipping on our warm beer, we saw the landing crafts starting to get into formation and heading toward our beach party. We still had no idea what would soon happen, so we decided to stay and enjoy the moment. The first craft broke through, the door made a splash then a group of Marines with full battle gear made an assault on the beach not far from us. They fanned out in perfect order, taking position up and down the beach. No artillery rounds were fired  and neither did the Marines as they came on shore.  Had I been a VC, I would have gotten the hell out of Dodge.  This was an awesome, frightening sight. 

We stood there in our cut off jeans with beer in hand, astounded by what we were witnessing. Hollywood will never produce a scene as glorious as the one we were watching. Few orders were given during that operation, because each Marine knew in advance what he was to do and perfectly performed his task.  I picked up a beer from our poncho cooler and offered it to one of the Marines.  He replied, “No thank you Sir."  I think that was the only time in the Marine Corp I was called Sir.  It was a feel good moment. 

Come to find out, we were not the only people on the beach on March 8, 1965. Down the beach a few hundred yards, reporters had gathered, aided by Vietnamese women with flowered leis which they placed on the necks of a few Marines. Some were holding up signs to welcome our troops ashore. I later found out all this celebration pissed off General Westmoreland.  He didn’t appreciate a good party. 

Our presence on the beach, with cut off jeans and warm beer soon became the topic of a few ranking officers.  We decided it was best for us to leave Red Beach that morning. We were Marines.  We didn’t need that beach to finish that nice aged beer, we could improvise. Later that evening, we safely returned to Dogpatch -- all the beer was gone. I can’t remember if we ever returned to that beach.  It was really nice up there.

C David Ramsey

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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