"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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Red Jeep

by C David Ramsey

 Late one afternoon, several of us were sitting in the shade of our hanger at DaNang. It was between pay periods and we were broke. If any of us had any money, we all would have been down in the city sipping some half cold beer, but broke we were, so we just sat around and talked.

I remember someone saying, “If I was home, I know what I would be doing; I'd be driving around in my uncle's red 1957 Chevy picking up girls.”

We were all silent, thinking about the beautiful life we had left back in the states. Then all of sudden, John Olinic said, “I got an idea; let’s paint the Colonel’s jeep red.” We all agreed Olinic had lost his mind.

I told John we would all be busted and locked up for life if we did that. John said, “No, we can get another jeep, paint it red, and give it to the Col.”  John Olinic was like Corporal Klinger on M.A.S.H.  He knew where to get anything anyone needed -- for a small price, or a cold beer. Soon we all jumped on board, sharing ideas for Col. Curtis' new red jeep. General Motors would have been proud of our design effort.

The next day, we went to the ARVN motor transport section on the other side of DaNang. We made up some story about a four star Vietnamese General from Saigon coming up and we were sent to get a good running jeep from their compound. I can’t describe how suspicious they looked, but as soon as we mentioned General Westmoreland, they were all too happy to help.

 We also told them it would be sent back to Saigon, so don’t expect to get it back. Again we were given that look. We then told the Vietnamese officer to write down his name because we would give it to the General so he would be sure to get a commendation. Soon he was all too happy in selecting a nice American Jeep for the Four Star General from Saigon. That nice man even filled the gas tank for us.

When we arrived back at the hanger, we had to hide the jeep in a secure work area. Every night about ten of us would gather and start sanding. Soon the jeep was ready to paint -- and paint we did.  We found some red vinyl somewhere down in DaNang, so we took out the seats to be upholstered. We then glued a nice white CO HMM-162 to proudly tell everyone this Red Jeep belonged to Col. Curtis. We broke down the wheels and tires and painted the rims a nice silver. The green canvas was also replaced with a nice red cover.
Downtown, we found some chrome air horns. It didn’t take us long to remove them from the owner's truck. We placed a tank in the back of the jeep with an air line up to the horns and a pull string so the Col. could blow his horn anytime he wanted. There it was, we had defiled everything the Marine Corp had established with that red jeep, and it was beautiful.

The following Saturday, we asked Col. Curtis to meet the squadron down on the tarmac after breakfast. I don’t think any of our officers knew about our adventure.  If they had, they would have blown a fuse -- plus our heads off.

Then Saturday came.  Col. Curtis had just finished his morning talk as John Olinic started a slow drive up the tarmac.  Heads turned everywhere and I heard several say, “What in the Hell Is That?”

John parked the jeep beside the Col. and said, “Sir, on behalf of all the men in 162 we would like to present you with this gift.  Drive it proudly, Sir.”
The first thing the Col. said was, “You're kidding.” As he walked around the jeep, we could almost read his mind:  Should I admire all this work, or put everyone in front of a firing squad?

 John pointed out the horn and showed him how to blow it. The air tank and horn worked great.  When the Col. pulled the string, a beautiful two-note melody could be heard all over DaNang Airport.  John insisted on a test drive.  At first, the Col. was a little reluctant to get in, but he did, and as he started the red jeep, he turned and started laughing. We then knew our Colonel would be proud driving his red jeep around Danang.

I don’t know what happened to that jeep after we left Vietnam, but I'm pretty sure everywhere it went, it got the same response, “What In The Hell Is That?”

“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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