I hadn’t thought about my old running buddy, Phil, for a while. That last blog entry got me chewing on thoughts of him. I’ll tell you a bit more about him.
Phil went to the Marine Corps as the result of being a 17 year old driving from Temple, Texas, to Austin with a case of beer in the car. A Williamson County Sheriff Deputy stopped him on a tail light violation, asked for his drivers license and saw the case of beer. Old Phil, being a clever youth, gave the officer a Texas Drivers License with an altered date of birth, so’s to keep from being arrested as a minor in possession of alcoholic beverages.
The deputy wasn’t fooled. He hauled Phil off to the slammer to reflect on his sins. He was offered the alternatives of going to prison for presenting a phony ID, or going into the US Marine Corps.
In Vietnam, at least, Phil was old enough to drink. He became Marine Recon and a sniper. Phil was in the jungle with a squad of other snipers surrounded by a NVA rocket launching unit when the first rockets were fired into Da Nang AFB. The squad wisely stayed hidden and didn’t take any shots, they radioed in the location of the rocket unit and brought an airstrike down on top of themselves.
They’d be dropped into an area where the NVA was expected to set up a battalion or division headquarters, sit there a couple of weeks waiting quietly, and try for a head shot at a senior officer. Once the shots were fired they’d try to sink back into the bushes until things went quiet, then slink out to some place where they could be lifted out.
Phil did two tours over there. When he came back he had such a chest full of medals they snatched him up for Nixon’s Honor Guard. Which Phil believed would be easy duty.
Instead, it was riot control. Wherever Nixon went there were anti-war riots, and Phil and his unit busting heads, which he thoroughly hated, since he agreed with the demonstrators.
Phil hated politicians, hated war, hated the men responsible for sending him over there and making him the troubled, rage filled human being he was during the decade and a half I knew him.
But the Vietnamese body counts were a lot higher because of Phil.
When I last saw him half his face was eaten away by Lupus, contracted as a result of Agent Orange in those jungles. The Veterans Administration was fighting and squirming denying all those guys were ill from Agent Orange, that the problems were Service Connected, so they’d have to offer disability and whatnot.
Phil used to observe that he might have been a lot better off if he’d just let them send him to prison for the beer and phony ID. Then they couldn’t have even drafted him for that place.
I wonder if that old Agent Orange has killed him yet. Another victim of friendly fire with a delayed action fuse.