...I Volunteered for the US ARMY, back in November of 1969. A 3 Year Enlistment, dropped out of College after My 18th Birthday, and signed up. For that I Never 'Allowed' Myself a Complaint, Not even Once! I did Hear a lot of complaining, Countless Times.
I was there for what ever the ARMY could throw at Me!! I didn't Volunteer to GO to Vietnam...Exactly, But, I knew I had 99.9% Chance of being sent there, We were ALL Proud to Go! We were well Trained, and Had all our Shots...All 14 of them, simultaneously in the Arm, under pressure No Needles.
I have thought long hours on How to write this Memory. Just The True Facts.
NOT for the Squeamish!!
...It was September 1970, Can-Tho air base. The 16th Cav had just moved up from Soc-Trang 2 weeks earlier. The air-strip ran West to East. The Cav was stationed on the North Side, at the West End.
Directly across the runway, on the southside, was stationed, the 147th Assault Support Hel. Co. Chinooks. By a turn of events, being my MOS Training was in Chinooks...I was Immediately Transferred over. Damn, a 'New-Guy', again!
I would receive letters from a Girl, KMD, who lived in a suburb of Chicago. Nearly Every Day! or to Once a week. Being in a New Company for a few days, I knew my mail would have to be rerouted before I would ever see it. One early Afternoon I decided to march over to the 16th Cav and see if I was 'Lucky'. One of the Werst mistakes of my life!! Not only did I walk straight across the PSP Airstrip, Highly Forbidden, and warned against, to the point of possible crucifixion...read on!!
I am returning back to the 147th, again crossing the runway, yes, a plane was coming into view, soon to land. No Luck on any letters showing up, this trip for nothing, except...I see the 'First Sargent' there with both hands on his hips. I jump across a ditch that runs along the entire Row of Barracks, approximately 150 feet long and just outside and between the Barracks by 15 feet, and parallel to the Paved Taxi Area, for the Parking Reventments, by the same distance. A greeting? Not exactly!
First meeting of the 1st Sargent. The same sergeant mentioned in Chapter 3 of the showers! "You know that you are Not suppose to cross the airstrip!! And you Left the Company area without permission, or telling anyone"! The First Sargent is Responsible for ALL Personnel within the Company. "Take the Shovel and dig-out and un-clog this ditch!! Til I get Tired, That's an Order!" I replied "Yes! First Sargent!"
The Open Ditch, Imagine a 2 foot Wide Corrugated Pipe, cut in half, Half Buried the full Length with the Top Taken off at the Level to the Ground.
Now the Ditch had been there as long as the Company Barracks were. The 147th had been there since the start of the war, say 6 or 7 years. The ditch was there as drainage for the Monsoon rains, for all those years it had also been used as a Very Convenient Urinal! Just ten steps out the barracks and one can relieve themselves, and not have to make the trek to the 'Ho-Chi-Mein' memorial building...A Pipe sticking out of the Ground with a 'Privacy Curtain', a Tarp, surrounding it.
This ditch was about 18 inches down, but was clogged with sand on the bottom 6-7 inches thick. On top of that was a undrained 'Pond' of rain water, but mostly Human Urine, another 6 Inches DEEP! There was not much fecal matter, that I saw at first.
It was just past noon when I got down into the pipe and began My Punishment. I thought I could 'Straddle' the sides with both feet, and stay Out of the Liquid Stench?! That lasted about 1 Minute, the reality was the Only way I could do this, was to GET DOWN IN IT!! Boots and All, Soaked-Through In the urine, the level came up above my ankles. I Got to Work, Digging. The stench! I thought, 'IT' doesn't get any 'Better' (worse) That This!! I kept digging for Minutes, then Hours, throwing the Sand up onto and past the edges, left and right. Soldiers would come out, on occasion and take a leak. Not just IN front of me, but, a few yards ahead. Not to insult me, but just to relieve themselves. One actually spoke..."You're really doing this, Why!?" I just replied, two words, 'First Sargent!' He knew Exactly what the Situation was!
I kept digging and digging, all the way to the Bottom, moving forward, one foot at a time. Digging to clear this pipe for drainage, when the Monsoons Return. Digging up and making Little Piles of Sand, that soon turned into Mountains of sand, back from the edge, to not fall back in. No One else would ever do this, they would run to the Company Commander, crying like a little Baby, and probably 'Get' the 1st Sargent, Court-Marshalled.
Marlin will Do IT!!! Because He Volunteered for It! And, I'am going to do it, The Best it Can Be Done! I'am 'Building Character', Ha!. I kept digging, I have Not looked to see how far I have come. It was getting Later in the afternoon, the Sargent had 'Disappeared' from the first Minute! I Stayed Focused on More Digging, to Keep from Thinking about what I was standing In, Diseases...Std's. hepatitis, malaria, gonoria, The 'Black Sif', other Infections. Good thing I received My Shots! I kept digging...Is THIS the Best You Got?? This is a 'Cake-Walk'. Thank You for the Opportunity to show the World, what Marlin is Made Of! I'am soaked in this Shit!!
"You talk the Talk! Do You walk the Walk?"
I kept digging, all the way clear to the Bottom. Moving forward. More Hours of Digging! It's getting very late in the afternoon. Some where 4-5 pm. No sign of the Sarg, never checked on Me, that I would know of! It's time! Enough Punishment, sunburned, I pulled myself out of the ditch, boots Squishing. I was about 30 feet from the ending of this Piss Ditch, And for the first time...I looked back at how far I had come, just about 100 Feet. Not Shabby for 5 Hours! Mountain Ridges of Sand 2 feet high. And the Stench, Now EVERYBODY can Smell It! Remember My Name! JACK!!
I have had Enough of this Shit! Marlin is Now, Done. I threw the shovel aside and headed for the Showers. I threw the Boots and Socks in the Garbage, they were unsavable. Never saw the 1st Sargent again, till the last time, he questioned Me at 'the showers'. Punishment fulfilled. I paid My Dues.
I never heard a word about this incident. The coming Monsoon rains, over time, flushed the sand back into the ditch. I have had NO Health Issues related to the Exposure to Urine, thank Goodness. After that one 'Night of the Righteous Gun', on Guard duty, I am On Flight Status.
I ain't Cryin'!
'What does Not Kill Us, Only Makes Us Stronger!"