Mar 042013
 

The Briefing over at Long Binh, Dee felt dejected.  Sue was assigned to a convalescent hospital by the sea.  Dee was headed for an interior mobile hospital surrounded by jungle.

Diary-January 28, 1968, Late afternoon – Briefing over.

Second day in Nam.  I’m waiting for a chopper ride to a base near the Cambodian border.  It’s an isolated location. The briefing this morning consisted of rules of behavior for interacting with the Vietnamese population.  We were warned to be vigilant; the Vietnamese gardener, male or female, who works by day, may be a Viet Cong guerilla by night!

Dee sketched and colored a picture.

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In three days time, it will be TET, the Vietnamese New Year. On January 31s I’ll celebrate a New Year again .The Major told us that TET truce has been broken before.  I hope not this year. The celebration lasts for over a week.  That would help me to orientate myself.

My other friends have left for their assignments.  We vowed to keep in touch.    Evidently, I used the ‘F’ word last night.  Sue won’t give me any more information.  I’ll just avoid “S” – she’s trouble!   Oh, ‘Minoi’ means sweetheart and it also means friend. I don’t want “S” as a friend.  I can’t trust myself or “S.”

The weather is so humid, I’ll be glad to fly into the cold sky!

Signed: Anxious- Lieutenant Dee. 

“Lieutenant, your chopper’s here.”  Dee looked up from her Diary, and then wrote two more sentences- Destiny awaits me. And I’ll be very careful when I touch booze.”

Dee in her army fatigues, grabbed her kit and headed towards the dust and the whooping noise of the waiting chopper.  As she made her way towards the tail, the rotary blades were  deafening and the smell of fuel was over-powering.  She threw her kit bag into the open space and a pair of hands lifted her onto the floor.  It was then that she noticed the gunner who swung his powerful machine grun out of the open door.  Two grunts or soldiers saluted Dee and the pilot gave her a thumbs up.

The Dustoff chopper ‘s engine went into full thrust and it took off and climbed out of the hot humidity.  The sound of the blades was deafening. There was a rhymic whoop-whoop throughout the entire flight.

Dee scanned the city of Saigon below her and returned her gaze to the gunner.  He was in radio contact with the pilot; his words were drowned out by the engine and whooping blades.

Dee shifted her attention to the two young Army grunts, or foot soldiers.  They had returned from a couple of days of R & R.  They were part of the contingent of soldiers who guarded the base and her hospital.  Both men were talkative.  There was a faint smell of marijuana.  Dee recognized it from rebel nurses who smoked it during training.  After all, this was the Sixties!

The soldiers were eager to engage Dee in conversation, even if it meant shouting.  Dee in turn was happy to meet the soldiers.

“M’am, I’m Buzz and this here is my buddy, Pete.”  Dee smiled at them both.

“Know much about choppers?” yelled Pete.

Dee shook her head.

“Don’t mean to scare you none,” said Pete, “but these chopper blades are held together

by a Jesus nut.”

Dee looked at his young face.

She smiled and shouted. “O.K, Pete, why is it called a Jesus nut?”

His juvenile face broke into a huge smile.  “Well, Ma’am, if that nut comes off, only Jesus can help us!”

Dee laughed, then a sad thought entered her mind.  On any day, either men might be arriving at her hospital.

The flight followed a highway, congested by military convoys, small mopeds, bicycles and oxen carts.  Human beasts of burden trudged along.  On their heads and backs were personal belongings or food for market.  Others had every type of belonging piled high on carts, perhaps, these people had fled from a village near a war zone.

 

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