A War Story

AirStreamers are gregarious as white pelicans. We love to talk with other ‘Streamers about all things aluminum, campgrounds, repairs and improvements. I’m the exception to that rule, but Kat ain’t called “The Mayor” for nothing. She really digs that Airstream stuff.


Thus it was a shock when Kat found a late model Airstream with an Angry Bird perched on its awning arm, and instead of a WBCC number, a sign advising NO TRESPASSING.

Don't Want No Visitors
Don’t Want No Visitors

Moments later doing laundry, Kat saw the guy smoking. His truck had Semper Fi decals on the back window, and later she spied him walking with a cane and a pit bull. She reasoned that his was one vote she could do without. Then he entered the laundry while she was starting a second load.  Her heart briefly stopped from panic: had he seen her filming him from within his trailer?

semper fi

“Ah, only one washer. Oh well, I’ll try later.”  Kat’s heart beat resumed.


Later I went to that laundry for our sheets and towels, and there he was! He is a wiry, late sixty-something, with a slightly grown-out buzzcut, waiting for the one dryer with our stuff to quit. I asked if that was his Airstream, and he replied “Yeah.” For some reason, I went on “You’re a Marine, Vietnam era?”


“Yeah. 3rd Division, Khe Sanh.”


3rd Marines
3rd Marines

There were maybe 5,000 of our guys at Khe Sanh. What are the odds this Marine was there?   L  o  n  g .   My BS detector was clicking like an Angry Bird whose nest has been raided by a raccoon when he asked “Were you in ‘Nam?” My detector replied “Yes, and no.”




“Well, the Army made me an infantryman, and motivated me to the point where I was slavering to kill old Victor Charles and use his blood as war paint. That motivation evaporated once I got there and noticed that so many of us were going to replace KIAs, or worse. The officer in charge of our in-country reception area asked if anybody could type, and I piped up. ‘Sir, I can type 70 words a minute with no errors. Sir, my mama taught typing and she hammered it into me like a Fort Polk Drill Instructor. I can totally do this, sir!’ He pulled me out and sent me to First Infantry HQ in Di An (I knew to pronounce it “Zeon”). The XO of the division’s HQ company had set up a five minute timed writing typing test for about 100 new troops who claimed keyboard skills. With 67 WPM and only two errors, I led the league. I spent a year in division HQ, with three weeks off on medical leave for carpal tendinitis. The CG of the Big Red One, MG Orwin Talbott, offered to put me up for a Purple Heart. (He loved the way I edited his correspondence.) I thanked him, but asked if instead he could get me discharged early?  If I didn’t have to waste my last seven months after ‘Nam stateside, my college career could start in September. The general grinned and clapped me on the shoulder. Then he made it happen. I know; I typed his paperwork.”


The Big Red One
The Big Red One

The old Marine just shook his head: “You Army guys always had it easy.”

First Infantry Division Monument in D.C.

“Uh maybe, but Marines used typists too. DoD required it.  Your unit had some.”




“Then you just didn’t know about it, ’cause ain’t none of ’em was good enough to earn my HQ name.  I was known as Sergeant Underwood.”

My Weapon of War
My Weapon of War

4 thoughts on “A War Story

  1. Also pleased to hear a happy story, and especially on this topic.

    Quick thinking of you, as always, Jackson.


    Thank you for your service, all of you.


    On another note, that little toy on the grumpy guy’s window, next to his No Trespassing sign, kind of belies his schtick, no? 😉 🙂


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