I received a phone call from my nephew last night. I was in a training class so he left a message. He just wanted to see what I was thinking with the announcement of OSL? If it brought back memories? It did. Good ones.
We used to operate our Swift Boats on a pretty regular basis in the rivers of South Viet Nam with the USN SEALS. They were in a word, NUTS and you had to love them for it. They would dream up some crazy scheme and we were crazy enough to go along with it.
One night we took one of the boys as far down the canal as we could get without totally running out of room for a quick turnaround. He was suited up in black pajamas and makeup so he looked just like one of the enemy. We pushed his sampan over the side and off he went into the night.
He floated further down the canal and got out at a village. He sat around the campfire and spoke fluent Vietnamese until he determined which one of the gang was his target. After a time the party broke up. He went about the business of eliminating said target with piano wire. Finis!
An hour later he returned to the boat. The dawn was just breaking on a Sunday morning. We were scooting across a placid calm bay on our way back to Sea Float. The Seal took a swig of something more than orange juice. He offered me a shot from his flask and I passed.“No thanks Chief. I’m driving.”
Two thoughts ran through my mind. One is that he had just greased some unsuspecting dude. Second was what in God’s name was the civilian outlet for this guy? I didn’t quite see him as an investment banker but then again maybe his training would come in handy on Wall Street today.
The funny side of SEALS was always evident. I went over to have a beer with them one time and they told me I should really see this guy’s wine cellar. When a SEAL suggested something you usually did it if nothing more than to humor them. A wine cellar seemed a little far fetched.
So I entered what was really a small closet. I heard the door slam behind me. They told me to check the merlots on the second shelf. They happened to be right next to a coiled up boa constrictor. You see they used to keep the snake in a 30 foot long cage outside the SEAL hootch. Along with a duck at one end. Whenever they heard the duck quacking a lot, they knew the snake was hungry. They would feed him a couple of rats. Elementary, my dear Watson.
After announcing that if they didn’t open the door I was coming through it, they relented. First mistake was going in the closet. Second mistake was drinking with them. No chance.
The SEALS were just part of our riverine forces. There were some other guys that drove Zippos. They were an armor clad long range cigarette lighter that floated. One blast from the turret and the countryside took on a distinctly burnt umber hue. You think I am the crazy one?
I am not trying to get into war stories. But I do want to tell you a little of these marvelous warriors that have been looking out for us all these years. Memories get hazy but we were just a small part of such a bigger force. I am not a hawk and would rather none of our sons and daughters had to carry arms in war.
I really feel anything we did, paled not only to the current special forces but ditto for the marines, blackshoes and groundpounders of today. What they did on Sunday was beyond phenomenal. What these poor devils have had to put up with for the last ten years is beyond the call of duty.
A few years ago a friend had a group of injured vets out to his farm for a weekend. They were straight from Walter Reed. Broken in oh so many ways. They were missing arms and legs. Parts of their brains and psyche had been left on foreign soil. Some had their wives and kids.
I went to as many as I could, to just ask them if they needed anything. I was wearing a Navy sweatshirt. They asked if I had been in the service and what I had done. Then each one floored me. To a man they thanked me for my service. I was speechless.
These men and women are so special and have given so much. Just think about that before we growl so quickly “let’s get them suckers” and “F___ Osama”. I love to wave the flag but I am also so cognizant about what incredible labors we ask these people to do.
Next time you are at a game and the jets scream over or the honor guard brings out the colors, for a moment just salute and say a prayer. God Bless Them All. Every last one of them. Thanks for listening. Thanks Jimmy…. for asking.
Ted The Great