US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's Hard to Post When ...

you've got medical problems and can't get your head into the right place. Ole body breaking down and spending lots of time with the docs.

But, what they hay! I got a lotta good years behind me and more ahead. Just need to move the concerns aside and get back to producing the words to stories I want to share with you.

Thanks for being patient.

However, a bit of political commentary here. The recent attack on the Christian Market in Germany saddens me greatly. I loved visiting them during my two tours in Germany and my time in Vienna. The sights and smells and tastes of special things to celebrate Christmas. Why do governments allow those into their countries those who do not love and appreciate the culture and history of their nation? It can't and won't ever work.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sonora Symphony has been released

If you like (or dislike) it, I'd love you to leave a review.


(There is a sequel that will come out next year)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lost in The Fog of War

The entire premise of Sonora Symphony is the agony felt caused by the unseen scars of traumatic events. In this case, it is the loss of memory of a veteran of horrible events during combat in Afghanistan.

Ray Daniels awoke in a hospital with no idea of who he was, where he was from, and if there was anyone else in his life. All the prodding and pills from the doctors were unhelpful and he finally had enough. He went Absent Without Leave and we find him in the following situation – the opening passages of the novel:


The Tufesa motor coach speeds through the blackness of the desert night

An Anglo, wearing a soldier's jacket, sits in the right front seat, blankly staring ahead at the highway dominated by the broken white line. He seems hypnotized, gazing into some place nobody else sees.

The bus that moves Latinos across the southwest stops at Las Cruces. The Anglo rouses a bit when the driver gathers his things and removes a bag from the overhead compartment. Another driver steps in, greeting the man he's replacing with a happy, “Hola.” The new driver checks the passengers, eyes opening a bit when he sees the only Anglo among eighteen Mexicans.

Got on in Colorado Springs,” the first driver tells his relief, referring to the Anglo. 

“Got off with the rest in Albuquerque but did not have anything other than a glass of water.”

The new driver stares at the Anglo's military jacket and shrugs. “Seems harmless to me.” He slides into the seat and closes the door and pulls out onto the highway.

After a timeless drive through the night, lights reflecting off the bottom of sparse clouds announce a large city, a roadside sign indicating South Tuscon.

The driver notices how hard the Anglo's hands grip the bar in front of him as the bus brakes to enter the big truck stop.

Even at that hour of the morning, the pumps are filled with big rigs. The driver parks not far from the entrance and announces, “Cuarenta-cinco minutos descanso,” a forty-five minute stop. The passengers gather their belongings and make their way into the truck stop.

The Anglo doesn't move.

Seeing the man still in his seat, the driver comes back aboard and says, “Hey, Sarge. You have to get off here. I must lock the bus.” He has to repeat himself before the Anglo rouses.

The Anglo gathers up his duffel bag and gets off.

I will have them make an announcement when it is time to go.” The driver locks the door and walks inside, leaving the Anglo standing beside the bus.

Staff Sergeant Ray Daniels stands there for several minutes, staring down at the pavement. Without raising his head, he stalks forward, carefully placing one foot in front of the other in a precise military cadence. He searches the pavement for recent patches – signs of improvised explosive devices.

A big triple-trailer rig pulls out of the fueling area and the driver sounds the air horn to awaken the figure walking directly in front of him.

Ray doesn’t look up, continuing his march to nowhere.

The driver manages to slow so the pedestrian in his way passes unharmed.

Ray approaches the highway and strides ahead, looking neither right nor left.

A speeding car's horn blares, the driver slamming on his breaks, followed by the urgent squeal of times. The car swerves and just misses the figure in the headlights. The driver angrily slams his hand on the horn as he gains speed and turns onto the interstate.

A flashing blue, green, and yellow glow of neon comes from a small building beyond a vacant parking lot. A sign announces “Martin’s Diner – Open Day and Night.”

Ray stops and looks around, aware for the first time that he doesn't know where he is.

Strange buzzing and crackling attracts Ray's attention and he looks up. A frenzy of swirling insects surround the halogen lamps, other creatures swooping in to feast upon the tornado of life.

Ray turns back to the small building, its bright lights drawing him. He picks up his pace. He opens the door and stops at the sign inside that says, “Seat Yourself.”

When he just stands there for several moments, the waitress tells him, “Sit wherever you want. We aren't exactly busy.”

Ray shyly smiles and makes his way to the first booth.

After setting his duffel bag on the seat and sliding in, Ray places his hands limply on the table top. He stares out the window.

Care to order something?” The waitress places a glass of ice water in front of him, turns over his coffee cup, and fills it.

Ray blankly gazes at her, unsure of where he is or what she asked him. He looks out the window without responding.

The waitress shrugs and walks to the last window booth, refilling the coffee cup of the wizened old man sitting there. She shakes her head. “He seems sober, Poppi.”

Give him a few minutes, Hija. He may just be tired from the bus ride.” Joe Redmond had watched the bus arrive. The truck stop serves as a transfer point for a number of bus lines catering to Mexicans and others coming and going across the border. That’s why he was surprised to see the Anglo, wearing a military jacket, get off. He watched his progress across the lot and highway, almost jumping to his feet each time the man barely avoided injury or death. He didn't because he knew he couldn't accomplish anything. “His spirit guides are watching over him,” he told the hound lying at his feet.

The stranger didn’t stagger. His pace was steady and measured. He moved as if seeking something on the ground ahead of each footstep.

The way he moved brought a vague memory to Joe. “He's searching for land-mines,” Joe whispered.

And, now that he's close, Joe can see the man’s eyes. They should be the windows to his soul. But the blinds are closed. Joe sighs. Those empty eyes strike a hammer blow to his gut.

Anna Maria sets the coffee carafe on the table and slides into the booth across from him, aware that he's disturbed about something. “You okay, Poppi?”

Joe reaches out for the cup in front of Anna Marie and turns it over, a sign he has something to tell her. She fills it and, when she sips a bit of the coffee, Joe speaks.
Hija, you know I’ve never told you about my military service. But that man reminds me of something.”

Anna Maria smiles and touches his hand. “You don’t need to if you don’t want to, Poppi.”

Joe returns the smile.

A Special Forces A-Team’s base camp not far from the village of A Xan in the central highlands of South Vietnam came under attack by a large group of North Vietnamese regulars. The team sent out an urgent call for help and I went in on one of the five Hueys sent to relieve it. Four Cobra gun ships escorted us. When we got there, I jumped from the chopper and there were bodies everywhere.”

Joe pauses, finding it hard to explain to his daughter the horror he faced. After sipping his coffee, he continues.

I saw a Muong woman cradling her blood-drenched dead baby, swaying and keening in grief. A lone American GI stood at the door of the command bunker. He held a microphone with a dangling cord in one hand and an empty M-16 in the other. His eyes screamed of the abomination he’d just seen.”

Joe sucks in a deep breath to shake off his memories. He nods towards the man in the front booth. “Forty years later and that’s the exact same look I see on that soldier’s face.”

Anna Maria leans over to kiss her father’s forehead before going back behind the counter.

So, boy, what should I do?” Joe speaks to Gogs, his old hound lying on the floor next to the booth.

The dog’s tail thumps before putting his head back on his paws.

The guy seems to have one heck of a problem. Maybe I ought to see if I can cheer him up. Give him the lay of the land,” Joe says to the hound – and himself.

The fact that he cares about the man surprises Joe. Up to that moment, he’d been deep within his own cesspool of sorrow for the loss of his beloved Maria Alondra to cancer. In a horribly short time, she’d gone from the lively, loving woman who’d been the center of his life for nearly forty years to an emaciated shell, slowly dying in agonizing pain. Nothing seemed to stop it.

Joe spends time in the diner because he can’t tolerate being be alone. His daughter carries herself the same, smiles the same, and has her mother’s moods. Joe understands her presence eases his sorrow...slightly. She too misses her mother but has a husband and a son to look after – and now, a father.

Telling Gogs, “Stay!” Joe picks up his coffee cup and walks to the booth. “May I join you?”

The soldier slowly returns from his void and looks up at the voice. “Huh?” When Joe repeats the question, he shrugs and watches Joe slide into the seat across the table.

Hija, our guest’s coffee is cold.”

Anna Maria quickly brings a fresh cup of steaming coffee for the man and the decanter to refill her father.'s “Care to order?” she asks the newcomer.

The man looks as blankly at her as he had at Joe. Anna Maria repeats herself and he responds with a shrug, muttering, “I don’t have any money.” He reaches into his pocket and lays some coins on the table. They don’t add up to more than a couple of dollars.

Joe wonders about that. “When’s the last time you ate?”
I, uh, don’t know. Maybe yesterday.”

We’ll take care of that.” Joe cheerfully tells his daughter, “Bring this gentleman a deluxe breakfast, Hija.”

The man strains out of his lethargy to protest he can’t pay, mumbling, “I don’t want to impose.”

Joe waves that off. “You're military.”

The soldier obviously searches for an answer.

Joe offers his hand. “Name’s Joe Redmond.”

The soldier looks at the hand for a moment before lifting his from the table. His grip is surprisingly firm and Joe returns it. “Uh, name’s Ray.”

So they tell me,” he softly adds.

Ray’s camouflaged jacket has one patch above a pocket announcing US ARMY, while the other says “DANIELS.” Three chevrons and a rocker indicate the rank of staff sergeant and a subdued patch on the left shoulder shows he’d served in combat with the Eighty-Second Airborne Brigade in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Fourth Infantry Division patch on the right shoulder signifies his current assignment.

The outfit of sweats, athletic shoes, and wool skullcap were thrown together without regard for military protocol. What on earth is he doing here? There are no army bases for hundreds of miles. Joe faintly remembers that the Fourth is somewhere in Texas or Colorado.

Anna Maria arrives with a platter of eggs with a nice medium-rare top sirloin steak, home fries, and toast. She refills Ray’s coffee cup.

Ray peers at the plate for several seconds before tentatively lifting the fork to shove some eggs into his mouth. After the first bite, he comes alive, digging in to satiate his hunger.
When Ray pauses eating to sip his coffee, Joe asks, “Where ya heading?”

The cup abruptly halts halfway to his lips. Ray’s brow furrows. “Don’t think I know.”

Ya all right?” Joe's filled with deep concern. “Need a doctor?

Ray jerks erect, anger flaring in his hazel eyes. “No dammit! No more medics. I’ve had my fill of ’em.”

He then nervously looks around.

Relax,” Joe soothes. “No need to get upset. Just eat.”

Gogs uncurls himself from the floor next to the corner booth and comes over to sniff at his alpha male’s companion.

Ray absentmindedly puts the fork back on his plate and reaches down to gently rub behind the animal’s ears. “Nice hound. Think I had one once.”

Joe sees that he’s obviously been badly hurt. And, knowing the military, Joe guesses they’d probably kept him cooped up in a hospital somewhere.

Ray calms and cleans the plate, drinking another cup of coffee. He then fumbles in his pockets, searching for something. He's unaware of the meager pile of coins he’d placed on the table.

I told ya not to worry. Breakfast’s on me.”

Ray’s eyes brighten briefly and he appears to be ready to ask a question.

Anna Maria returns to fill their cups, so the question goes unasked.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cougar and Cricket – And PTSD

This story is from los Indios of Baja California, who are distant relatives of the Tohono O'odham of southern Arizona.

Cougar walked in the forest and jumped onto a fallen log to look around. A tiny voice came from inside the log. “Get off the roof of my lodge!”

A cricket came out from the rotten end of the log. “You are standing on the roof of my lodge, Cougar,” said the little insect. “You must step off now or the roof-pole will break and my lodge will fall in.”

Who are you to tell me what to do?” Cougar sternly asked although he did step off the log. He lowered his head until his nose was very close to Cricket. “In this forest, I am the chief of the animals!”

Chief or no Chief,” Cricket bravely said, “I have a cousin who is mightier than you and he would avenge me.”

I do not believe you, little insect,” snarled Cougar.

Believe me or not,” said Cricket, “it is so.”

Let your cousin come to this place tomorrow when the sun is high, and we will see who is the mightier,” said Cougar. “If your cousin does not prove himself to me, I will crush you and your entire lodge with my paw!” Cougar turned and bounded off through the forest.

The next day, when the sun was high, Cougar came back along the same trail. He stopped over the log and called, “Cricket, come out! Let me meet your mighty cousin!”

Just then, a tiny mosquito flew up from the log and buzzed into the big cat's ear.

What is this?” growled Cougar, who had never seen or heard a mosquito before.

Mosquito bit Cougars soft inner ear and drank his blood.

Ahrr! Ahrr!,” cried Cougar in pain. “Get out of my ear!” Cougar pawed at his ear and ran around in a circle, shaking his head.

Mosquito bit him again and again.

Cricket came out of the log and called up to Cougar, “Are you ready to leave my lodge alone?”

Cougar said he would, so Mosquito flew out of Cougars ear and into the log lodge with Cricket.

Cougar ran off down the trail and never went that way again.

(I love stories like this. They are so simple but have a great message to the children listening to the tribal elders who tell it to them. Size does not always matter. And here is another that I thoroughly enjoy sharing)

How Bat Came to Be

Once, all creatures talked to one another. One time, Sun didn’t appear as usual. The animals who liked the dark, such as Owl and Raccoon, happily went their ways. However, others worried. How could they find food? Where would the warmth come to cause plants to grow?

They gathered and wailed, crying over how they would no longer be able to see or find food to fill their stomachs.

Little Ground Squirrel, chehkol, was among them and wondered why the Morning Star had not helped her father lift up from beyond the horizon to cross the sky.

Little Squirrel scurried up a tall mountain until he was close enough to call out to Morning Star. “Where is Father Sun? he cried. We are cold and cannot see without him.”

Morning Star looked down upon the tiny creature and whispered, “He moved too low in the sky and got caught up in a very large tree. He cannot get free, so you will all have to live without his warmth and light.” She turned away to continue her journey across the sky.

Squirrel scurried off in the direction from which the sun rose, crying, “Oh my. Oh my. I cannot let this be so. “He ran and ran and ran until, way off in the distance, he saw a faint light. He continued to run up a steep hill, drawing closer and closer to the light.

When he reached the crest of the hill, he spied a massive tree and, as Morning Star had told him, Father Sun was ensnared in its branches. Squirrel became afraid. Father Sun's light was very bright, making it difficult to see, and he was very warm, getting hotter as he drew closer.

Sun saw the little squirrel and called out. “Come help me, little one. I am stuck and cannot move.”

Squirrel tried to get closer but the sun's light blinded him and his heat burned his fur.

Squirrel was very afraid. But Father Sun pleaded so hard that he could not ignore his cries for help. He ran close and grabbed a branch in his teeth, pulling it away from the blazing ball. The light dazzled Squirrel and he had to back away.

Squirrel ran in again and again to pull limbs away from Father Sun. Father Sun's light was so bright that Squirrel no longer saw and had to follow Father Sun's shouted directions to find another limb to pull away.

At last, Father Sun was free. He jumped with joy and leaped into the sky, calling out his thanks to Brother Squirrel.

Father Sun gazed down at the small creature with pity. Squirrel's eyes were blank and his fur had been burned black. He was helpless and would spend the rest of his days unable to eat since he was blind to the world around him.

Father Sun told him he had been very brave. “Is there something I can do to repay you for your courageous kindness?”

Brother Squirrel thought. “I enjoy watching the birds share the sky with you and Mother Moon. I would like to join them but cannot, as I can no longer see.”

Father Sun called out to Iitoi, one of the Creator Spirits. When Iitoi came, Sun explained the situation. “You must do something for Brother Squirrel.”

Iitoi agreed. He reached out and touched Squirrel's ears, making them bigger. He then touched Squirrels' throat and changed the way he made sound. Moreover, to grant Squirrel's wish, he stretched the skin between his fore and hind feet to turn them into wings. He finally changed the hind feet to claws, designed so the animal, now Brother Bat, could roost and sleep when he wasn't flying.

Go now, Little One. But, because you suffered so much saving Father Sun, you will join those who live by the light of Mother Moon and you will find cool, dark places to live and have your families.”

And that is how the Bat came to be.

(Gotta love it! Remember, these were Stone Age peoples with absolutely no idea of scientific disciplines like Biology. How on earth did they know that bats and squirrels are of the same genus of mammals? And the sounds bats make are usually far above the range of human hearing. How did they figure out the creatures fly and hunt using a form of sonar? And finally, isn't there something in there about the evolution of creatures?

There is a lot more to the story of Sonora Symphony but this is just one of the ways a tribal elder helps a young man to help him overcome the agony of PTSD.

Share if you enjoy this and perhaps indicate your reaction at the bottom of this post. Thanks.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Rabbit Shooting the Sun With an Arrow – and PTSD

What on earth does the first have to do with the last?

Well, they come from either a fertile – or twisted – mind. Mine at that.

I have absolutely no idea how I came up with writing a story about a modern day warrior and stories from American warriors of the past. And putting the modern warrior from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee (Tsalagi as they call themselves) from eastern Tennessee together with a Vietnam Era warrior from the Tohono O'odham of the Sonora Desert.

Looking back over the years I guess is was a combination of things. The first was most likely my wife's firm belief in herbal medicines for the healing of a huge variety of ills. She brought with her from Mexico a stick of a plant she called copalquin or Birch. It is claimed that it is used for skin infections and different types of fungus. Also used as an antibiotic tonic for scalp conditions. I had a problem with my legs and she shaved of slivers and boiled them in a pot of water, then applying it to my skin. It worked!

But, that is still a far stretch from the story. I am, of course, retired from the Army and have throughout my life, encountered traumatic situations. I think the worst was the death of my mother in an airplane crash. It took me more than twenty years to deal with it. I have also served with those who went through events far more trying than anything I ever did. Some gained strength from their trials while others sank into the bottle or drugs, many ending their own lives.

I've always been deeply interested in American Indians, especially since my uncle told me he had been told by my birth mother that she and my birth father came from Ohio and Tennessee and had Cherokee blood.

And how on earth did I get to southern Arizona and the Sonora Desert? Again, I don't know. Another mental twist? Or something that drew me to it? Growing up, I spent time in the Mojave Desert of southern California moving bee hives and hunting for interesting rocks and semi-precious gems. There were no Indians there that I ever ran into so I had to find a place with them. Thus the Sonora and a tribe the Spaniards called Papago. (Yes, the story tells how they got that name.)

So now, I guess it's only fair that I relate the story within the story of the Rabbit and Sun. It is a Hope legend.

It was the height of summer, the time of year called Hadotso, the Great Heat. All day long, from a blue and cloudless sky, the blazing sun beat down upon the earth. No rain fell for many days and not the slightest breath of wind cooled the stifling air. Everything was hot and dry. Even the rose-red cliffs of the canyons and mesas seemed to take on a more brilliant color.

The animals drooped with misery. They were parched and hungry, for it was too hot to hunt for food and, panting heavily, they sought what shade they could under the rocks and bushes.

Rabbit was the unhappiest of all. Twice that day, the shimmering heat had tempted him to cross the baked earth towards visions of water and cool, shady trees. He had exhausted himself in his desperate attempts to reach them, only to find the mirages dissolving before him, receding further and further into the distance.

Now tired and wretched, Rabbit dragged himself into the shadow of an overhanging rock and listlessly crouched there. The red dust of the desert caked his soft fur. His head swam and his eyes ached from the sun's glare.” Why does it have to be so hot?” he groaned.” What have we done to deserve such torment?” He squinted up at Sun and shouted furiously,” Go away! You are making everything too hot!”

Sun took no notice and continued to pour down his fiery beams, forcing Rabbit to retreat once more into the shade of the rock.

Sun needs to be taught a lesson,” grumbled Rabbit. “I have a good mind to go and fight him. If he refuses to stop shining. “I will kill him!”

Rabbit's determination to punish Sun made him forget his weariness and, in spite of the oppressive heat, he set off at a run towards the eastern edge of the world where the Sun came up each morning.

Rabbit practiced with his bow and arrows as he ran and, to make himself brave and strong, fought with everything that crossed his path. He fought with the gophers and the lizards. He hurled his throwing stick at beetles, ants, and dragonflies. He shot at the yucca and the giant cactus.

He became a very fierce rabbit indeed.

By the time he reached the edge of the world, Sun had left the sky and was nowhere to be seen.

The coward!” sneered Rabbit, “He is afraid to fight but he will not escape me so easily.”

So Rabbit settled in to wait behind a clump of bushes.

In those days, Sun didn't appear slowly as he does now. Instead, he rushed up over the horizon and into the heavens with one mighty bound. Rabbit knew that he would have to act quickly in order to ambush him and he fixed his eyes intently on the spot where the Sun usually appeared.

Sun, however, had heard all Rabbit's threats and watched him practicing to fight. He knew that he lay in wait among the bushes. He didn't at all fear this puny creature and he thought that he might have some fun at his expense.

Sun rolled some distance away from his usual place and swept up into the sky before Rabbit knew what happened. By the time Rabbit gathered his startled wits and released his bowstring, Sun was already high above him and out of range.

Rabbit stamped and shouted with rage and vexation.

Sun laughed and laughed and shone even more fiercely than before.

Although almost dead from heat, Rabbit would not give up. Next morning he tried again but, this time, Sun came up in a different place and evaded him once more.

Day after day, the same thing happened. Sometimes Sun sprang up on Rabbit's right, sometimes on his left and sometimes straight in front of him but always where Rabbit least expected him.

One morning, however, Sun grew careless. He rose more leisurely than usual and, this time, Rabbit was ready. He swiftly drew his bow. His arrow whizzed through the air and buried itself deep in Sun's side.

Rabbit was jubilant! At last, he had shot his enemy! Wild with joy, he leaped up and down. He rolled on the ground, hugging himself. He turned somersaults. He looked at Sun again – and stopped short.

Rabbit's arrow pierced Sun, making a gaping wound and, from that wound, there gushed a stream of liquid fire. Suddenly, it seemed as if the whole world had been set ablaze. Flames shot up and rushed towards Rabbit, crackling and roaring.

Rabbit took to his heels in panic and ran as fast as he could away from the fire. He spied a lone cottonwood tree and scuttled towards it.

Everything is burning!” he cried. “Will you shelter me?”

The cottonwood shook its slender branches mournfully. “What am I to do?” he asked. “I will be burned to the ground.”

Rabbit ran on. Behind him, the flames came closer. He could feel their breath on his back. A greasewood tree lay in his path.

Hide me! Hide me!” Rabbit gasped. “The fire is coming.”

I cannot help you,” answered the greasewood tree. “I will be burned up, roots and branches.”

Terrified and almost out of breath, Rabbit continued to run. However, his strength was failing. He could feel the fire licking at his heels and his fur was beginning to singe.

Suddenly, a voice called to him. “Quickly, come under me! The fire will pass over me so swiftly that it will only scorch my top.”

It was the voice of a small green bush with flowers like bunches of cotton capping its thin branches.

Gratefully, Rabbit dived below it and lay there quivering with his eyes tightly shut, his ears flat against his body.

With a thunderous roar, the sheet of flame leaped overhead. The little bush crackled and sizzled. Then, gradually, the noise receded and everything grew quiet once more.

Rabbit raised his head cautiously and looked around. Everywhere the earth lay black and smoking but the fire had passed on. He was safe!

The little bush which had sheltered him was no longer green. Burned and scorched by the fire, it had turned a golden yellow.

People now call it the desert yellow brush, for, although it first grows green, it always turns yellow when it feels the heat of the sun.

Rabbit never recovered from his fright. To this day, he bears brown spots where the fire scorched the back of his neck. He is no longer fierce and quarrelsome but runs and hides at the slightest noise.

As for Sun, he too has never quite been the same. He now makes himself so bright that no one can look at him long enough to sight an arrow and he always peers very warily over the horizon before he brings his full body into view.

I hope you enjoy this. Maybe another story soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Kiwis in 'Nam

Here's an excer[t from Bullets and Beans that tells of something few people today know. The New Zealanders and Australians had a presence in Vietnam in an important - and dangerous - supporting role. They were some of the most friendly guys I ever met and they always made us Yanks at home in their messes - the equivalent of our clubs.

My personal thanks for the way I was always treated.

The Caribou with the New Zealand flag on the tail was in easy walking distance. Due to the wind crossing the open field, David stuck his cover in his pants pocket and made his way to the aircraft with the rear hatch down for loading. One last pallet had been rolled into the interior and David stood aside as the forklift backed out.

G'day, Mate. Yer lucky we're not chocka t'day. Come on board.”

David handed the boarding pass the Flight Sergeant Smythe who he knew from the Kiwi NCO club he frequented. He'd quickly learned there was no way he could ever out drink any New Zealander as they were obviously put on beer as soon as they were weaned from breast milk.

David found a vacant web seat against the fuselage next to a window and settled in. The interior was piled high with supplies and equipment, six American infantrymen already aboard, returning to their units from Rest and Recuperation at one of the hotels on the beachfront. They didn't pay attention to him as most were already asleep.

The Canadian-made aircraft was an STL, meaning it took off and landed in very short distances. Although the landing strip was long, designed to handle Air Force C-130 Hercules, the pilot wasn't about to do things the boring way. The pilot had the two engines revved high and once the chocks were removed, they practically leaped into the air. The Monsoon was not that far away but there were just wisps of clouds below. David had already seen the swamps and rice paddies s, as the ride was smooth, like the others, he dozed off. The soldier's art of being able to sleep when and wherever.

They were only in the air about thirty minutes when the engines sound decreased and they began a steep descent. At the last second, the nose lifted and the engines idled. The second the wheels touched the ground, the propellers reversed and everyone was pleased they'd strapped themselves in. He had no idea where they were, only that rice paddies appeared on both sides of the aircraft.

The plane stopped and Smythe came through calling, “Right there. All ye cuzzies git up and follow me.” He led them to the rear door that was lowered. Everybody stopped and stared to discover they were on a dirt road between two rice paddies. All wrinkled their noses in disgust at the smell coming from the rice paddies. A small village was about fifty paces from the nose of the plane.

Awright, chaps, let's put the muscles to it and get this here thing turned around.”

Because the wing was atop the fuselage, they went to the nose and out their backs to turning the plane around. None were surprised when half a dozen women shuffled from the village to help in the effort. Their men were not about to lower themselves to such work. Leave it to the strange whites and women to do such things.

The turn was so tight that the pushers needed to be careful not to stumble into the turgid water of the paddy. Once it was reversed, Smythe watched two of the GIs grab up their stuff and join the infantry squad that had come for their supplies. They were loaded onto two handcarts pushed by local women and were soon on their way.

No sooner had the rear door started to close when the pilot had the engines at full power. He didn't even wait for full takeoff speed before lifting the nose. David could hear the bottom of the bird scrape along the dirt of the road as the craft clawed itself skyward. They were rapidly airborne, climbing to get above small arms fire and the damned RPGs.