Now I Have To Help VETS?

I’m on the planet to help. No other reason – I don’t get one. I get a job, or move to a neighborhood, and it’s to rescue a cat or run the blockwatch. I don’t know how many people I’ve launched into writing, art, and publishing their own work. And I can’t help it – you can hate my guts, but if you come to me for help or advice, I’ll help and give good advice (not my fault if some of you don’t take it).

Now it’s Veterans I’m supposed to help. WTF?

Not any old Vets – Vietnam era combat vets. Oh, great. You’d think people who could swing a mini-gun over a village could take care of themselves, but war fucks everybody up. But it’s not THEM I’m really supposed to help, as give them the time’s voice back, to help this country backpeddle out of the war we’re in now.

Anyway, I’ve ignored Veteran’s Day for years. Dan, who was Vietnam combat, has ignored it. I learned pretty fast that going to Vet’s dinners or Stand-downs just brought in people like me – the Rear Echelon Motherfuckers, who, after all, are in the majority, and don’t shake or just keep silent around anything having to do with the military. I even asked that any REMF I know Adopt A Grunt – help ’em with their paperwork, get their military ID card, get supplies from the Stand-Downs. Use that bureaucratic experience to help these guys, better than just shipping them bullets, bad food and then shipping the bodies back home. Not gotten a lot of response on that one. I guess it’s more fun to talk to other people from the motor pool than talk a mental mess into going to get his medical ID, or even get him a tent and a sleeping bag. REMFs always smell good, nice and bathed. Combat vets can be fucked up.

Dan finally had his say over on Facebook, because I remembered a song he once sang me at the old Madigan Hospital NCO club (no, we were not sober; nobody was much, off duty, back then).

Oh, great. Had a slight memory, and Dan provided the lyrics, sung to the tune of “Camptown Races,” as heard sung in the Phu Bai graveyard, 1971. Now’s he singing the whole thing:

“He’s goin’ home in a body-bag,
Doo dah, doo dah.
He’s goin’ home in a body-bag,
Oh de doo dah day.

Muh’fucker’s dead, muh’fucker’s dead.
He got hit by an RPG –
Muh’fucker’s dead.”

All that was left was his eyes and teeth,
Doo dah, doo dah.
All that was left was his eyes and teeth,
Oh de doo dah day.

Muh’fucker’s dead, muh’fucker’s dead.
He got hit by an RPG –
Muh’fucker’s dead.”

Then, spoken: “Lady, we didn’t keep your son – you don’t keep our body-bag.”
It probably had a bajillion verses. That’s Veteran’s Day around our house….

Now you and I know this is like those insane old songs from World War One, where pilots sang about assembling the engine again, after pulling all the body parts out of the biplane crash. Sounded the usual thing.

Oh, the hate he got from the phonies. One of them said he should die and be carried away in a dump truck. So much for respecting the vets – as long as they keep their mouths shut, right?

I think I know why the REMFs hated so many of the combat vets – those guys came back and allied up with the hippies and marched against the war. How DARE they? I guess that’s what got an old vet in a wheelchair turned away from the vet’s war memorial in Washington DC, because nobody wanted the Dirty Old Street Person to get near the nice shiny memories. It’s okay to cry over the crosses and the graves, but let’s not look at any live ones.

And you people in this war – are you now yelling about having been “lied” to? Don’t tell us you didn’t know the Iraq war and everything that followed was based on a lie. We knew that when we marched in the No Iraq War demonstrations – and I saw sailors from Bremerton hopping the ferry to get to that one and join in to stop the war. Or at least be able to hold their heads up and say they tried, because we don’t always win.

There’s so much fakery. The voice of the vets of Vietnam were remembered by the military. No more Bill Mauldins, not if they can help it. I saw a young, starched sergeant on TV today, carefully saying what she’d been trained to say. No more smart-assing in front of the cameras, if the generals can help it. I once broke a trained PR combat vet’s concentration by saying about his story of his wounding: “You did WHAT? What were you thinking???” In great relief he turned and practically yelled, “I KNOW!” After that, his appearance got a lot funnier and free, because he got to say what he really wanted to say, instead of remembering his Captain telling him that, open his mouth wrong, and he couldn’t count the days he’d get it in the neck for THAT.

Nobody wants to hear the real stories. Just the prettied-up ones that let those on the sidelines feel like the Seahawks’ twelfth man. No swearing, please. And make sure your hair is combed and your boots are polished.

And that’s the problem. Vietnam vets were draftees. Dragged away from their lives for corporate bullshit, as ever. I hear people today saying, “Bring back the draft.” Really? People who lived with the draft saw a generation stolen – against their will.

Dan started talking more while I typed for Facebook:

Dan says the funniest “I was in Vietnam” fan-boy – “big fat fucker in a flight jacket” – was sitting in McCormick’s bar in Seattle, wearing a flight patch from a guy Dan knows was shot dead, and whose patches had been sold in Seattle. Guy told Dan ALL about the Screaming Eagles. Dan has a lot more details, but he said, “No, we referred to the 101st collectively as the Puking Buzzard.”(Based on the patch. The 101st now calls itself The Choking Chicken, as a present member informed me.) Dan says he actually felt sorry for the kid because he was wheezing and probably wouldn’t live long. He didn’t want to be who he was, but somebody else – “And a Comanchero pilot was the thing to be.”

A comics artist friend of mine (who had issues) tried to convince Dan he’d been in Vietnam. And corrected him, because what Dan said didn’t fit the fanboy model of SuperSoldier.

Even I had that moment at the vet’s dinner, being told I didn’t know better: As a vet talking to the wife of a troop: I think he had her on. He evidently told her the reason sergeants screamed in your face in basic training was to make you tough in case the enemy captured you. WTF? We ALL knew that was to instill military fear – to make you ever on the lookout for the superior lurking ever somewhere near. But she told me she knew better. Then again, she’s never had a pissed-off sergeant major leap up and make her slam and lock the door on her teletype room, or have an infuriated general backed by the same SMAJ making her prove she wasn’t the one in the wrong before he chased the colonel back down the hallway of the hospital, and she wondered if she could hide under her desk….

Now, as somebody who’s written about crap wars for years, I’ve always referred to the actual vets for reference. You won’t see any sentimentality about combat in my work. When a piece of shrapnel takes off a guys jaw, or an officer attempts to rape one of his own female soldiers – it’s not pretty or fun. However, I have had to help actual vets clear up details about situations they were at, but nobody gave them all the details. I mean, just because an English Desert Rat bought and drank arak, doesn’t mean he knew it was made of palm sugar, and I was happy to supply the detail.

Sadly enough, a German paratrooper who saw Rommel taken away to be killed thought it had been just an honor escort at the time. If we both hadn’t been drinking at a cartoonists’ dinner, I’d have kept my mouth shut. It came out all right, though, when I told him that if he and his unit had attacked the SS, Rommel’s wife and kid would probably have been killed. Bad moments, though, that sit there like little bombs in the heart and mind, waiting to come back out.

Anyway, next time you see a homeless person, don’t take a selfie with the poor screwed-up heap. And no more laws making it illegal to feed them. If you’re a War Fan, you might be starving the gaming pieces you love best.

Oh, and in response to the military fan-boys and/or REMFs who got pissed of when Dan shared an actual Vietnam war song, here’s part of another one that, he said, “used to crack Lieutenant Cross up.”

“All my packs are bagged and I’m ready to go…”

He says he doesn’t remember the rest of it. Any of you old 67-A-1 (F)s or even 11-B’s remember the rest of it? Dan only ever shared his stuff with me, and now he’s letting me type it in, on here.

As he repeated another line from the time and place: “What’re they gonna do to me? Draft me and send me to Vietnam?”