Many ways to die in Vietnam

Knowing when to be quiet...

A close call at Gia Vuc

I mentioned elsewhere in this web site that our units did not have a problem with drugs. Alcohol, maybe... but not drugs. Let me illustrate.

In the mid-60's the term 'lifer' was a derogatory term used (typically) by the younger guys towards the older enlisted soldiers. It didn't seem to matter that being a career soldier was an admirable career choice. Maybe to the young soldier with a couple years of college under his belt, being a career soldier was a sign of not being able to make it in another profession. I must admit using the term from time to time, although I did so more judiciously than some.

While at camp many of the men drank... some drank heavily. I know all of the reasons why they drank: to forget the war, homesickness, boredom, being afraid, miss their families, and the list goes on. It's hard to imagine that these same feelings were not in all of us to some extent or another. But any kind of drug usage (including alcohol) creates a volatile environment. At Gia Vuc camp there were three of us up late at night... myself, another younger fellow and one of the older sergeants. For some reason the younger guy was riding the older sergeant about being a 'lifer'. This had been going on for a couple hours. During this time both the younger and older men had been drinking fairly heavily. The younger fellow just wouldn't back off. Suddenly, the older sergeant pulled his .45 and pointed it at the young guy who was sitting no more than four feet away. I really thought that he was going to pull the trigger. I tried to defuse the situation by supporting the idea of the Army as a good career choice. Even looking down the business end of the .45, the younger guy kept up his verbal attack. I knew that this was the alcohol blurring the good judgment of both of these men. The situation was really tense. After what seemed to be hours the older sergeant holstered his .45 and these men went different directions.

I never forgot this incident. I was scared. I thought the younger man was going to die that night. I think he was so drunk that, to this day, he doesn't know how close he came to dying. I think I talked the older sergeant out of pulling the trigger. I also learned that, no matter how correct you may be -- or think you are, sometimes people just get tired hearing it! Another lesson in life.