another dead soldier weekend has rolled around once again. pretty much the only time anybody cares about wartime vets especially WW2, korean and vietnam vets these days. that’s fine as we’re used to it.
when i was in vietnam i asked my parents to send me a reel to reel version of the dead’s ‘workingman’s dead’. one of my all time favorite LPs which sits around mid point in rolling stones top 500 LPs of all time. i have to say i was probably the only person in my platoon that liked the album. after a time when i’d play it i would hear, oh no. not that one again. or some such nonsense. yeah, there’s no accounting for taste or so they say.
the LP first appeared in june of 1970. it’s no longer ‘in print’ but thanks to rhino records you can score a copy if you’re so inclined. they released it in 2003 or so and even added a couple of different versions of some of the songs on the original LP. thanks, rhino, very nice indeed.
the album marks the dead’s new venture into vocal harmonies and a country rock sound with jerry garcia dabbling with the peddle steel guitar. which culminated with jerry garcia and guitarist david nelson’s homage to bakersfield, ca country music with their ‘new riders of the purple sage’ LP in late 1971.
‘working man’s dead’ opens with the studio version of ‘uncle john’s band’ one of my all time favorite dead tunes. it’s a semi country rocker with semi sorta religious overtones. or maybe not. later, on track 15, ‘uncle john’s band’ turns up again in a live version recorded at winterland in oct of 1970. the live version gets the standard dead jam thing going. something for the most part always lovely to behold and listen to.
another stand out cut is the studio version of ‘casey jones’. unfortunately we aren’t treated to a live version of casey ‘high on cocaine driving that train.’
at any rate, the rhino version has 6 live tracks including the already mentioned ‘uncle john’s band’ plus an alternate studio mix of ‘new speedway boogie’. the dead were at their best live. no doubt. sometimes really good or head scratching crappy. it was always a crap shoot.
i had the pleasure of seeing them live a couple of times. once here in socal at the rose palace if i’m not mistaken and once again at the filmore in san francisco. i was in the army at the time and made the trip up from ft ord in monterey. they shared the bill with miles davis who had just released his ‘bitches brew’ LP and the two of them filled the night with some stellar music.
ok. so, it’s dead soldier weekend again. raise a glass to the fallen soldiers of the past and continuing wars. and to all of those who’ve seen war close up. even more so to the vets of the great war, WW2. their ranks shrink and thin at an astounding rate with each passing day. there will come a time soon when they will all be gone. and all but forgotten i’m certain. old soldiers never die. they just fade away.
soldiers after all are just your average workingman doing a job no one else will do.
every year the memorial day holiday seems to come around with ever increasing speed. other holidays do too. it’s one of those getting older things. however, memorial day
is somehow a much more personal holiday to those of us who served in one of our never ending wars.
this first appeared a number of years ago and was re-run a couple of years ago. yeah, i have other tales of my time overseas like, the old west meets the old east, and others still unwritten. however, desire and and the muse must first meet for them to see daylight. which may or may not ever happen.
at any rate, happy memorial day to all who’ve served especially to all who gave everything. to my nam brothers and sisters, welcome home. once again.
while noodling around yesterday i came across the yahoo, and elsewhere, story of a young soldier over in the middle east who went to his firing position in his boxers and flip flops, during a fire fight. seems like the secretary of defense, robert gates, is all a gog over the situation. he’s happy about it. well, it’s memorial day weekend or more to the point, dead soldier weekend, and i guess they needed to sound pro troopers and military. plus, i’m sure folks everywhere are getting a kick out of the story.
it makes me think back to my time in nam. i’ve written any number of things about that experience here and other places. if you are a regular, i have no intention of bothering you with details you may or may not remember. if you aren’t a regular reader, you can always go through the archives or rummage through the vault. or just wait for me to trot the old stuff out again. but i digress.
while attached to macv advisory team 48, in nam, we had this major on the compound. he was either s-3 or s-1 or s-2. military jargon for stuff. not really important to this story. other than the fact, he got his pink boxers all tied up in a knot about us peons and other soldiers hitting our firing positions in levi’s and flip flops, bermuda shorts, flip flops and no shirt(my personal favorite) or other variations of civilian attire, or maybe just our regulation gi boxers and flip flops, during alerts.
yeah, civilian attire. it was macv and they didn’t care what you wore on the compound if you weren’t on duty or working. well, most of them. any the ways, this particular major was not happy about the way we fell out during those alerts. he made it his mission to see that we all hit our firing positions and bunkers in full regulation military gear. yes, sirree. no more of this civilian attire or gi boxer nonsense. there was a war going on after all, and said war, demanded we be properly dressed for the occasion because mr charlie might not like it. boy, howdy.
said major, even held a few ‘practice alerts’ and those ‘practice alerts’ weren’t over until he personally inspected each position to see if things were being done to his strict liking. yes, indeed. practice alerts for dress code violations in a war zone. no showing up with your weapon and ammo in boxers. nope, not for that major. not good enough. thank you jesus. thank you, lord, for some damn fine smoke and drink to help us all through the night.
well, we suffered through a couple of his practice alerts held in the middle of the night. a lot of pissed off troops and lifers as well. yeah, he wanted every swinging dick on board for his madness.
as it turned out, things were very quiet during the time of his practice alert stuff and everyone passed with flying colors. like what else were we gonna do? frag him? it was bullshit but it wasn’t worth a capital crime and/or offense.
one night, a few weeks after all the hoopla about the dress code and fighting charlie, i was working the night shift in the commo bunker. at the time, macv was using our commo bunker for their toc(tactical operation center) while their toc was getting a face-lift. charlie or the nva, lobbed a few rockets or mortars into our general vicinity.
the alert was sounded and it was all hands on deck. everyone was to go to their alert positions and deal with whatever in full military uniform. thankfully, due to the practice alerts, it was decided, by my signal sargent, my alert position would be in the commo bunker. lucky me, i was already up, working, in uniform, where i was supposed to be and with my m-16 and ammo. woo hoo!!
the incoming rocked my little world but i just opened my secret area door and casually leaned on the door jam to watch the deal go down. a total lapse of military protocol but whatever. i was probably somewhat loaded and had been listening to, ‘spooky tooth’, and reading porn at the time. another breech of protocol i’m sure.
on a side bar drift, the secret area was a perfect place to have a nice non-legal smoke. or take a nap. we had it set up so even if you were dead an alarm of sorts would wake you. though in hindsight it wasn’t necessary. incoming was incoming and could wake a dead man. count on it.
the drifts just keep on coming. WD40. the perfect weapon cleaner, for us lazy folks, was also a very good and efficient smoke cover-up. better than incense. yeah, ok. i did take my m-16 down to the firing pin assembly at regular intervals and properly cleaned it. so there. i could be a good soldier if i felt like it. my life depended upon it.
at any rate, i was just waiting for orders and THE word to send something to somebody somewhere about something or another via my secure radio teletype. real alerts were always something. some worse than others. but always angsty and an adrenaline rush regardless. while i was standing in my doorway watching stuff, in came the major of dress code and practice alert fame.
ah, yes, goddamn. he was resplendent in his steel pot, m-16, ammo, un-tied jungle boots, gi issued undershirt and boxers. yep. that’s it. nada mas. no one, of course, said a word about his poorly dressed alert apparel. lots of subtle snickering to be sure but not a word. after that night, it went back to come as you are for alerts, and the only thing that mattered was the m-16 or some other weapon with plenty of ammo when you got to where you were supposed to be.
it’s interesting to see how things have or haven’t changed. i wonder how melvin laird would have felt? or perhaps dean rusk? or macnamara? at any rate, it’s dead soldier day weekend. a time to say a prayer for those brothers in arms who never made it back. a time to say just how much you appreciate the sacrifice of those who didn’t come back and those who are serving or have served and did come back. whole or not. seems like none of us ever come back whole. a tragic veer if there ever was one.
dead soldier weekend. a proud american tradition since the civil war from whence it got it’s origins. you may not like war, this current one in particular. you may even be in the support the troops but not the war politically correct crowd. tell you what. god bless the child that wears his boxers to a fire fight. at least he showed up and was ready for trouble. god bless anyone who even shows up for the coming fire fights.
make no mistake, it’s not what you wear to a fight. it’s what you do when you get there. happy memorial day weekend!! light a candle for america.
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.