Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Still Dancing

No doubt music has the power to evoke memories and emotions. Fiddling with my computer tonight, I began searching for a lost file. I didn’t find it. I did find several music files I haven’t heard in a while. One of them was the long version (21 + minutes) of Get Ready by Rare Earth. Every time I listen to this song, it returns me to a specific point in time.

The time is 1971, the place, Vietnam. More specifically, I was working as a clerk typist/Jeep driver at the First Team Combat Training Center in Bien Hoa. I hadn’t arrived in Nam as a clerk. Trained as an infantry mortar man, I carried the base plate of an 81 mm mortar with a 1st Cav line company, patrolling the Jolly Trail System, near the Cambodian border.

I don’t know if I’ve told this story—I probably have—of running into a person I’d gone to college with in Monroe, Louisiana. I was on Firebase Buttons, getting supplied to go out to a forward firebase. The supply sergeant, his name slips my mind, a person I’d bowled with in college, asked me to come to his hooch and drink a beer. We sat on his hammock and popped the tops of two Black Labels.

“Wildman,” he said. “This is the hottest AO in Vietnam. You’re replacing a platoon wiped out by friendly fire, a Cobra gunship that came in hot. I wish I had better news for you. I don’t. You’re going to die, or at least be seriously wounded.”

Goddamn it was hot!

Flash forward seven months.

Luck, karma, prayers, whatever, was with me. I survived without a scratch (well, nothing serious) and finally (I was a college graduate) got offered a job as a clerk, back on Firebase Buttons. The gig lasted until the 1st Cav stood down. Many were sent home (if you had ten months in country). I was sent to Bien Hoa.

This brings me to the song. There were no women (at least American women) around. I lived with a bunch of privates and non-coms in a communal barracks. Some of us were white, some black. None of us had much in common except our stay in Nam.

I was a Spec 4 (corporal), the highest I ever advanced. One night, the sergeants called a party. Before it ended, we were all drunk. There wasn’t a single female present at the party. It didn’t matter. We drank, high-fived, and danced like there was no tomorrow.

Tonight, as I listen to Rare Earth, I remember that party.

I danced like there was no tomorrow.

Hey, tonight, forty years later, as I listened to the song again, I’m still dancing.


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