We made our way toward the pad, and Top pointed out Speedy's bunker. “Drop your pack and stuff off here and I'll take you over to the TOC so you can meet the CO's. You are planning to come to the party tonight, aren't you?"

"You bet. I wouldn't miss a steak dinner in Vietnam on a bet."

"I'll see that we sit together.” Top nodded “I can't believe the Division Band is coming out in the morning. This is a real crazy war. A far cry from what it was like a couple of years ago."

We came up to the wall of sandbags that surrounded the large hole with the two-conx container one at each end. We came to the steps leading down, with the flag and warrior feather guarding the entrance way. "This is where the TOC is located. The CO and XO bunk in the containers with the operations. They have a cot for a bed and a bottle for comfort."

The door was open to the TOC. The CO's were sitting on the cot and the XO was on talking on the radio. They both stood. I attempted to salute, but they reached out their hands for me to shake.

"Welcome, I'm LTC. Anderson and this is LTC. Sterling, my replacement."

Sterling grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously. "Welcome to the Red Warriors, Chaplain. I'm looking forward to getting to know you. What's the weather going to be like tomorrow?" He let out a little laugh and the others laughed with him.

That question threw me. I had no idea why he asked me and I gave him an “I’m not sure answer”.

Later I asked Top what was behind the question. He reminded me about the new movie, “Patton,” that had just made its way to Vietnam and was being shown on every firebase and compound through out the country. In the movie General Patton had an encounter with his Chaplain. Patton ordered the Chaplain to pray for the weather to assist his plans for the invasion. Top couldn't remember if Patton wanted it to rain or to stop raining but it really didn't really matter. The Chaplain said a prayer and the weather suited the General’s plan of attack. So he gave the Chaplain a medal.

Now, for the first month or two every time I reported to Colonel Sterling, he would kid me by asking, "What's the weather going to be like?”

"I have no idea Sir,” I would answer. He would smile and go on with his mission.

Looking to the SGM, LTC. Sterling asked, "You have a place for the chaplain for the night?”

"Yes sir." There was twinkle in his eye and a bright smile on his face. "He's bunking down in "Speedy's Hooch.”"

The CO laughed. "That will be an experience. We'll see you tonight Chaplain, at dinner. Plan to give the invocation."

"Right sir!” The SGM and I turned and left the TOC.

To make conversation as we walked back towards Speedy's hooch, I mentioned that I had heard a rumor at base camp was that we were going to be moving in a couple of days. "Is that true, SGM?”

Top let out a curse. "Damn, not again. Who told you that?”

“I heard it at the brigade briefing last night."

"Don't mind my cussing. It doesn't mean anything. It's just that all we do in this f###ing battalion is build firebase after firebase. We just get comfortable and s##t; we have to move. My back is killing me; I've dug so many holes in this damn country that I feel like a gopher."

We stopped at Speedy’s hooch. "Chaplain, I'll see you tonight at the dinner." He turned to leave.

I stopped him. "Wait minute, Top. I was planning on having a service later this evening before the dinner. How do I get the word out?”

"No sweat, Chap. I'll take care of it. How about four thirty, just before chow?”

"Sounds great. I'll hold it in the Artillery section, next to Blind Faith." I told him.

Speedy was not around when I got to his bunker. He had put up a makeshift shade, using his poncho liner. He had attached it to the side of the bunker and used two more stakes or poles to give it enough height to sit under. I got down in the hole that led into the bunker, and pulled away the door that was made from a sandbag that was split open.

Inside a foot-wide trench that was even with the entranceway ran down the middle. On either side, about two feet higher than the bottom of the trench was space for an air mattress. The top of the bunker was lined with logs holding two layers of sandbags on top of them, leaving a space about three-feet above the two shelves. It was dark and musty smelling inside, so I chose to sit out under the makeshift shade, planned my first service and prepared an invocation for a dinner party in the jungle of Vietnam.

Sitting in the shade, I felt a cool breeze blowing. It felt cool because my fatigues were soaking wet. Just as I sat down, Speedy came up to hooch. "Can I get you a beer or a coke?” he asked me.

"A coke would be just fine."

He went to the far side of his bunker and opened the ice chest under his poncho. He threw me a coke and laughed, "It don't matter, coke or beer they both cost only a dime at the PX."

"Thanks," I said. “I owe you one.”

“No sweat chaplain. I hear you’re going to hold service up at Blind Faith at four- thirty. I'll see you there. I have to get down to the pad. Another chopper coming with some FNG’s."

"What are FNG's?” I asked.

An odd expression passed over Speedy's face. It was as if he was trying to figure out if he should answer me. Finally he said, "Well, I guess for you, it could mean Fine New Guys." He laughed and went on down to the pad.

It didn't take me too long to figure out that the "F" stood not for "fine" but for that four-letter word that echoed though Vietnam. “F###ing New Guys."

Jim, I won’t try to clean up my letters from the four letter words that fill the air over here. I hope you and anyone who reads these letters will understand that I am resolved to try not to use them myself, but it seems that cussing over here is the normal language of war.

One of the chaplains I met at base camp who had only a month left in country told me that after a couple on months in this country, he found that he used curse words in his dreams. He sometimes began to think in four letter words when he was preparing his sermons.

I closed my eyes and laid back in the makeshift shade with my paper and pen resting on a full sandbag and went off into my dream world again, remembering how I got into this nightmare here in Vietnam and Firebase Warrior.

There it is, Jim, not a normal letter. What’s the weather like? I hate it here or it’s not too bad here. I miss my family. What’s happening where you are? Blah, blah and laugh, laugh. I would like these letters to let you in on my inner feelings, fears, dreams and hopes. I hope they make sense to you. I will try to continue to keep you informed as to what is happening to me in the year ahead.




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