Sunset in Saigon Chapter Two


Tết Mậu Thân

My platoon  started on our pass that Sunday morning after formation, a few of the more religious of our  group went for the Chaplain’s mass service as soon as we were released.  I being one of the heathens,  headed for the Rising Sun Enlisted Club and parked myself in front of a pitcher or beer with six others from my squad.  We were divided by race in the United States, but while were in Vietnam,  there were no racial lines between whites and blacks.  I think it was because the Vietcong didn’t care who they sent home in a body bag.   There were eight white guys in our squad, four Spanish, one Hawaiian and one Puerto Rican.   The Puerto Rican’s name was Pancho Santeria and if you wanted a fight, then go ahead and call him a Mexican.  All the other squad members were black, like me.  As I recall, we tended to group together for the most part, in relation to our position in the formation, the guy to your left and right formed a bond that was a little closer than camaraderie with other members of your unit.  Pancho, Buddy Jackson, Swanson, Veitenheimer, Jay Jackson, and Creacy sat the barroom table, with a pitcher a piece in front of them.  We were all fairly drunk by 11 a.m. that Sunday morning.

Veitenheimer regaled us with a story about his life on a dairy farm somewhere in Texas.  Buddy Jackson said ” Oh no, not a another shit kicker’s story!  Let you tell it, you’ve milked every cow in Texas with one hand!  Haven’t you ever had your hands on a woman’s tits or just cows?”  This brought a storm of laughter from our table and a searing look from Veitenheimer.  Veitenheimer countered Jackson’s high side by saying ” At least my Momma don’t turn tricks down at the Eastern Shore! Your Daddy’s probably Ted Kennedy or Spiro T. Agnew”  “Whew! He talking bout yo’ mama Buddy!  You gonna’ let him get away wit’ that?” Pancho said.  They all laughed and Buddy said “White-bread’s all right with me, he dun’ pulled my black ass out the fire mo’ than a few times!” We stumbled out of the Rising Sun around 3 p.m. and back to our Quonset hut barracks on post until 9 pm. that night.  I wished I could tell you that we got some sleep and sobered up some, but if I did, I’d be lying.  We played some poker and drank some more.  I thought over this many years later, in my fourth attempt at drug and alcohol rehab, my substance abuse started in that little corner of paradise, in a far away place and a further away time, in a city once called Saigon. It was Swanson that suggested we go off post and into Saigon to a brothel that he knew about.  Swanson was a selfish, and as some of us found out later, cowardly black bastard.  He said he had dodged the draft for three years until he got caught in a traffic stop in Chicago.  He said it was either go to jail or go to the Nam, he said he took option B.  He too survived the war, but it was at our expense, as we found out years later.   We changed into our civies, and caught a ride on a deuce and a half into Saigon proper.  



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