it’s almost time for another memorial day weekend. the beginning of summer as it were. time to once again honor all those who never made it back from one of our endless wars. time to pause and raise a glass in honor of those soldiers. happy dead soldier weekend, my brothers and sisters. this post first appeared back in august of 2007.
i spent several hours yesterday on line at the vietnam center and archive, texas tech university. lots of good stuff to noodle around and look at if you are a veteran or a history buff. there’s numerous oral histories and collections in their museum to meander through as well. it’s a very nice place and i’m more than happy to have given them what little stuff i had from my collecting or picking up stuff days from that place long ago. what i was looking at wasn’t the oral histories or the museum stuff but their maps. a very nice and easily negotiable 1:50,000 map of vietnam. map sections blown up to very large jpgs, everything there. all the contours, streams, rivers, and mountains with names so long ago forgotten but still remembered when given half a chance. it’s odd to look at those maps and the places i once traveled thru or lived in and around. seeing the names again brought back a flood of stuff.
i spent most of the time tracing the road trip from saigon to out where i was stationed in ham tan. 80 miles of 2 lane black top or hwy 1 as it was and is still known today. the 40 miles or so out to xuan loc were fairly civilized even boasting mp(military police) speed traps. yes, strange things in strange times. the last 40 miles or so after xuan loc and a right turn were another story. particularly the 30 or so miles of dirt road with the jungle closing in on both sides fighting it’s way back to life after many doses of agent orange. that stretch of road had that certain pucker factor to it. your body telling you, this ain’t right and can’t we just go someplace else, now, please.
that 80 mile road trip was my introduction to the wilder side of vietnam. i’d spent a few days in the company area in bien hoa but i knew where i was going right from the start. when the first sargent saw me his first words were, boy, you going to ham tan. the die was cast and the deal went down a few days later when a solitary deuce and a half rolled into the company area to pick me up.
i made that trip more than a few times in the old smoking deuce hauling building supplies out to ham tan in order to finish a bunker for our generators and large a/c units. units used to cool all the communication gear inside the bunker. that first trip though was an eye opener for sure.
yeah, for 2 hours yesterday i was back on the road again. memories exploding like a 105 round. the last 40 miles of bad road in particular. just like the old duane eddy tune from the early 60’s. i think i’m still there today. oh, i know i am today because the memories of those single deuce and a half trips have been running pretty much non stop since yesterday. then again maybe i never left in the first place.