Each night during our first tour in Vietnam, it was common practice to make sure your Brothers close to you were accounted for. It wasn’t a roll call, actually, just a common courtesy to make sure we didn’t have someone missing, which could have easily happened. There were a lot of distractions close to Dogpatch, from drinking, to inexpensive romance just outside the guard shack or, even worse, captured by the VC.
The most common of them was getting drunk downtown and missing the returning truck and then having to get a ride back to base. Even if this happened, the taxi or rickshaw driver could not get past the guard at the gate and this would leave the disabled solder out a mile or so, trying to find his way back home.
With this, the poor Marine would get lost in his pilgrimage back to camp. When this happened (not if/but when) it would send the camp into a panic. That’s why we were under strong suggestion not to go alone down into Danang, but to have several drinking buddies by our side.
After a few, not so cold Ba Ba Ba’s, the wobbling GI would have the strength of the Hulk. Not only was his communication gone, but I have also seen several of his Brothers back away from trying to restrain him, because it makes the GI "bullet proof". I don’t know if it was the look on his face, or him beating on his chest while stuff drooled from his mouth, but it caused his Brothers in Arms to back away.
I had an up-close on this one night, as we were accounting for each other. This particular night, our hydraulic man was missing. (Let’s call him Joe).
“I saw him two hours ago down on the flight line.”
“Was he ok?”
“Not really sure, ya want to go check?”
During this volley of questions, in the distance we could hear a helicopter turning up its engine. Now remember, this was around 10 o’clock at night and this drew some unwanted attention. By the time we got to the flight line, we had several vehicles following along. When we arrived, we could see a bunch of empty 333 Beer cans all around a running helicopter with “Joe” ready to fly out.
An angry ranking officer realized what was happening and he starts to talk Joe out of the chopper. The first thing Joe said was, “I’m going home”. It took about an hour of persuading Joe that he couldn’t fly that thing 8,280 miles back home. Anyway, Joe wasn’t even a pilot; he was just an E4, a young man filled to the brim with formaldehyde, who just wanted to go home that night.
The next day, Joe got a nice lecture on drinking and flying. Thankfully, Joe decided never to drink again. Yep, lot of distractions around Dogpatch. Oh, and be sure you hide those keys ...