Contrary to what some people probably think about the Vietnam war, we weren’t always in battles, fighting for our lives. There was actually a lot of down time in-between patrols. And as I remember, our platoon commander was fairly easy-going and didn’t give us a lot of extra duties; just the necessary things like outhouse duty, consisting of burning and dumping the sewage barrels.
During most of my down time, I wrote letters. Most of the guys didn’t do that so much, but I would write at least one letter a day. My pen pals were mainly my mom, a man from my church, and about three or four different girls. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not some kind of a lady’s man. I was just trying to stay somewhat sane, and I guess I liked people (girls) telling me that they were thinking of me and praying for me. At first Joy, the one I was so crazy about in high school, would write me quite often. But after about 3 or 4 months, she didn’t write quite so often. I actually felt relieved, because I didn’t feel that our relationship was right—of the Lord. Then this other very young girl (about 14 years old) started writing me and even sending me packages of cookies, etc. As I wrote previously, she got my address in Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. Anyway, she wrote me very consistently all through Vietnam and sent goodies. What a ministry she had to me. I remember witnessing to her and she actually became a Christian, but I’m not sure how that happened or what influence I had on her. After I got back from Vietnam and was discharged, I went to visit her and met her mother. I was praying that maybe we could make a connection (a date), but it never happened. I wish I could remember her name. The other couple of girls that I wrote, it wasn’t as often, but I was glad to get their letters and their appreciation of my service.
Sometimes I would join in a game of cards. We always played the same game. I think it was called “back alley.” It was fun and helped to get our mind off of whatever was bothering us. Some of us were just bored. Some of us, like me, would almost rather be patrolling—doing what we came there to do.
Our meals came every day with the mail and supplies—from a helicopter. Generally, it was 2 C-rations a day. One meal consisted of a can of meat and potatoes or something similar, a can of some kind of fruit, a small can of crackers with a chocolate patty, and a small carton of cigarettes (about four in each carton). Every meal had cigarettes in it, so if you weren’t a smoker when you came to Vietnam, there was a good chance that you were a smoker when you left. I smoked for a short time, but not enough to give me the habit. Besides, I didn’t want to have one more thing to make my mom upset about.
Oh, each box of C-rations also included a heat tablet, some matches, a plastic fork and spoon, and a package of instant coffee. Some guys chose to eat their food cold, but I was more civilized and always heated mine up and made coffee too. I think Vietnam is where I got the coffee habit. Now the way I would heat my food up is to make holes in my empty cracker can, turn it over, and put the heat tablet under it. It made a great stove. The heat tablet we had for each meal would burn just long enough to heat up your food and make coffee. I really got to like C-rations. Mmm good! Can you tell that it doesn’t take much to keep me contented? Thanks to God, I seem to learn very easily how to be content in every circumstance.