Doug entered and took a seat. I knew he had gone on R & R for some rest and recreation earlier and had just gotten back. He looked worried as he took a seat. I poured him a cup of black coffee. "Sorry, no sugar or milk" I apologized.

"I take it black, Chaplain, that's the way we have it in the bush."

"Did you have a good time on R&R?” I asked.

"That's what I want to talk to you about." He stared at his coffee cup.

"Where did you end up going?”

"I went over to Taiwan. Vic from A Company went with me."

"Well, how was it? What happened? You don't seem too excited about the trip. Or is it having to come back here that's got you down this morning?" I wondered why he wasn’t looking at me.

"We went to Taiwan.” He went on talking. “You know, Chaplain, I got married just before I came to Vietnam. Cathy and I had planned to meet on R&R, but I couldn't get enough money together. Besides, she couldn't get off of work. Anyway, I ended up going alone."

I began to catch on. "You got into some trouble in Taiwan?”

"Yeah,” he said, hanging his head. He couldn't look me in the eye. He paused for a moment and continued. "I really didn't want to commit adultery. I told Vic that I was going to keep straight. You know, like you said about cussing. I was going to be different. At least I thought I could be different."

I knew the answer but asked anyway. "What happened? Can you tell me?"

He began to tell me. He arrived in Taiwan and he and Vic took a cab to their hotel. It was plush and cool and everything looked exciting. When he registered, the desk clerk asked him if he wanted a girl. Doug refused. The clerk couldn't understand. He asked him if he wanted a boy. Doug laughed at him and said no. “I want a hot bath and clean sheets and a steak dinner.” The bellboy took his bag and led him up to his room. It was a wonderful room, with complimentary fruit and wine. He tipped the bellboy and closed the door.

Soon there was a knock at the door. He opened the door and there stood a beautiful woman wearing a see-through gown. "You like?" she said.

“No,” said Doug and closed the door. When he got out of the shower, there was another knock on the door. Again another attractive almost nude woman stood before him with a cart of lotions and fresh towels.

"Maybe you want massage?” she asked.

Doug said. "I finally gave in. I thought a message would be nice and that would be it." She came in and I lay on the bed and before I knew it, I was unfaithful and it was over with."

"It's tough trying to resist temptation." I comforted.

"Yeah, I gave up fighting it and now I'm miserable and afraid I may bring something back to Cathy."

"You can go see Doc and he can check you out." I said.

"I'm going to do that. I wrote Cathy and told her all about it and how sorry I am that I messed up our marriage."

I was shocked. "You wrote Cathy already?"

"Yes, just as soon as I got back. Mailed it this morning. Do you think that was a mistake?” Doug asked.

"Well,” I started out. "Now she has to make a decision. Too bad, now you laid a trip on her. It's your sin and your guilt, but now she has to deal with it, too."

"I know,” said Doug, tears filling his eyes. "I thought she had a right to know."

"I'm not sure about the right business," I suggested. "Your punishment will be that you have to live with what you did. You can't go back and repair the damage. You could have asked God to forgive you and you know he would, but you still have to live all your life knowing you broke your marriage vows. That's a heavy load," I told him.

"What can I do now? I won't get home for another five months.”

I thought for a moment. Took a drink of cold coffee, sat silent for several minutes and finally I said to him, "Look, give me Cathy's address at home and I'll try to write her a letter explaining what you just told me. It may not help, but if it's ok with you, I'll try to help her understand what happened to you."

"I'm not sure it will help, Chaplain, but I don't think it can hurt anything either."

He wrote out the address, took the Kleenex I handed him, dried his eyes and went out the door saying, "Thanks again, Chaplain. Thanks."

The rest of the afternoon I attempted to compose a letter to Cathy. I suggested to her that Doug was very sorry for his actions. I told her about his tears and his genuine sorrow. I pointed out how his fellow grunts talked of nothing else but sex when they were back in the camp and in the jungle. Even in the field and at base camps, the bunkers are wallpapered with Playboy centerfolds. I explained to her about the pressure that he faced when he went to Taiwan. How they thought nothing of sex and that it was on every street corner and that was the way of life in the hotels. I told her I was sorry that they couldn't afford to be together. I told her of my previous experience with Doug and how faithful he had been to attend services and try to keep from being as foul mouthed as his buddies. I suggested that she had every reason distrust him now, but that I felt he would stay straight. He was heart broken for what he did. I didn't make a copy of the letter, but now I wish I had.

Two weeks after I sent the letter, I got an answer from Cathy. She told me that she had gotten both letters on the same day and she opened Doug’s first. It broke her heart and made her so angry that she didn’t read my letter until later. She took off her rings and wrapped them, getting ready to mail to him when she opened my letter to her. She said she didn’t know what to do after she read what I wrote.

She wept all night and asked the Lord what she should do. "Chaplain," she said, "This morning I decided to put the rings back on. I wrote Doug and told him I would try to forgive him this time, and we could talk about it when he got home. I do appreciate you taking the time to write to me. I guess I deserve some of the blame. I told Doug that it would cost too much for me to meet him in Hawaii. We could have borrowed the money. I'm sorry it happened but I do understand his needs and my own for that matter." She signed the letter. “Thanks again. Please pray for Doug and me.”

I guess what I'm learning alone in Vietnam is that women, the war within men, are not only the women here in Vietnam. However, as they represent the sexual thoughts of most men, they indeed are with the men in the field and at war.

The other day a young man came into my office and said, "Chaplain, I'm horny as hell."

"Ain't we all,” I responded.

"If that's true, what do you do about it?” he asked.

"Me?” I answered. Trying to shift the question back to him. "What do you think I do?”

"I have no idea. That's why I asked,” he said. "Do you get a boom-boom girl or do you beat your meat?"
I tried laughing. "You’re serious, aren't you?” I asked.

"I'm going crazy,” he said. "I don't think I can wait till I get my R & R."

"Ok. I'll tell you what I do. I don't beat my meat. But I do masturbate. I find relief in that way. It's not the same as making love to my wife, but it's a whole lot better and safer than poking it in a boom-boom girl."

He was stunned. He looked at me and repeated, "You masturbate?”

"Yes, I do sometimes. Now don't go blabbing to the other troops. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I don't want to stir up any problems for the command. I just happen to think it beats the alternative. Please excuse the pun."

He laughed. "I guess most of us do the same thing. But no one talks about it. I've always been told it was a sin and that it could harm me."

"To tell you the truth, it won't hurt you or me and I'm not even sure it's a sin,” I said. "But if it is, I'm sure the Lord will forgive me for my weakness."

I would be amiss if I did not confess my experience of pushing the temptation envelope to the edge on a hot, sticky, sweaty afternoon. I had gone to Qui Nhon with Hugh, a chaplain friend from a sister battalion, to visit the hospital. His battalion had a jeep that they allowed him to drive. So two Baptist Chaplains were on their own in an evil city. We had spent a couple of hours in the hospital and another hour sitting in traffic on Highway Nineteen. My friend was a little more adventurous than I was. When he spotted a "massage parlor," he suggested we take a hot bath and get a massage. I agreed to the idea. After all, I was sweaty and hot. We had done our ministry and I was ready for the adventure.

Several military vehicles were parked in the makeshift parking lot. We looked around the area, half expecting to see a Baptist deacon or a woman missionary society member standing by watching who went into this parlor. It was a rundown building with orange, blue and yellow painted sides. One wall was made out of split beer cans. When we opened the door, a little bell rang and a Vietnamese man in a grubby dirty white shirt came to the front desk. “You want massage? Got two girls ready now. Five dollars American. You pay me now. Tip girls if you like.” He spoke through large yellow, front teeth.

I looked at Hugh. "Are you sure this is a good idea?' I asked.

"I need a shower and so do you,” he said.

"Come this way, gentlemen,” said the Vietnamese manager.

We went through a door that led out of the reception area into a long hallway with rooms running along both sides. My heavens, I thought to myself, what am I getting into? My last massage experience was in Tokyo at the officers club three years ago when Gwen and I went there for a vacation from Okinawa. Maybe the stories about these places in the city are true.

A very tiny young girl, wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt interrupted my thoughts. She was wearing short shorts. She took my hand and led me into one of the little rooms and said, "Take off uniform.” Too late to back out now, I thought.

Hugh was ushered into the next room.

She handed me large, white, clean towel. I went to the corner of the room and pulled back a curtain. She pointed to a shower. I got the message. I must confess the shower was hot and refreshing. As I stepped out of the shower, I started to dry myself with the towel. She gave a giggle and began to dry me off. Now what do I do? I thought to myself.

"Come.” She led me to a waist high table that for some reason I noticed for the first time since coming into the room. How did that get here? I thought. She took my towel away from me and left me standing naked and confused. It's true. I was confused. I couldn't speak Vietnamese, and she couldn't speak English very well. I remembered the two teenagers in Pleiku. The little masseuse laid the towel on the table and patted it, indicating she wanted me to lie down on the table.

Her hands were soft and light as they worked the muscles in my back and legs, working the pleasantly scented oil into my fresh-cleaned skin. I decided to allow her to do her thing and began to relax. I remembered that I had only three weeks to go before my R & R came up and I would be in Hawaii with Gwen. The girl’s small hands worked my stiff neck muscles and than down to my backside. She took each toe and rubbed them softly, massaged the bottom of my feet and worked her way up to my inner thigh. Then she tapped my side and turned me over. There I was, at half-mast and wondering what next.

"Ho! Ho!" She said. "You say good morning." She moved her hand along my thigh. "I give you special massage, you tip five dollars." She told me.

"No, I no tip,” I said.

"I do for three," She held her hands out in a pleading manner.

"No, I don't need it today." Who was I trying to convince?

Then she said, "You want more, special?”

I was afraid to ask what that might be. "No, no, just massage." I tried to say.

I believe she got the message. The flag went down and she handed me a dry towel and went out the back door. I got dressed, feeling good about several things. I was clean, I was relaxed and I had no guilt. Well, not as much guilt as I could have had.

I went out to the reception area, a little fearful that a GI might see the cross on my uniform. Hugh came out right after me. I looked at my watch. "Thirty minutes." I said as I pointed to a sign that advertised one-hour massage. Hugh started to complain to the man of the house. He smiled and shrugged his shoulder. Hugh leaned on the desk and looked him in the eye and said, "We should get a refund. We didn't get a whole hour. You owe us thirty minutes," Hugh argued.

The man shrugged again, reached in the drawer and handed us printed card that said, "Next massage half price." We both began to laugh and walked out. I never asked Hugh if he got the special and he never asked me if I gave in and got the special. All I could think about on our trip home was how anxious I was getting to get through the next three weeks so I could take my R & R.

As I keep saying, “Women are the war within man. Especially when man is at war.” One way that the Army attempted to negate the women war within men at war was the concept of R&R, rest and relaxation. It was good for the grunts and it was great for this chaplain. Rest and relaxation in the midst of war. What a concept! "America,” what a country! I wonder if the United States would have been victorious in WWI and WWII if it allowed the men to stop fighting for a week and go off to a romantic island with their spouses or with their significant others.

Women followed men in other wars and waited behind the lines or around the campfires to provide comfort for the soldiers. In Vietnam the men had excused absences to go to their women.

I chose to go to Hawaii where I planned to spend five loving days on R & R with my wife. It was the hope and the plan of that meeting that kept my morale up and my libido in check.

The chaplains in Hawaii were in charge of setting up the program for mates to meet. We had a plush suite on the beach at a reduced cost. Planned tours were available for those who wanted to go on them, but only the waiting wives attended them before their warriors arrived on the island.

Sex was implied in the programming for the week. When the wives’ husbands got off the plane from Vietnam, there was one place they wanted to go, a wonderful motel on the beach.

However, not all R & R's are successful. Every month or two I heard of GI's being stood up when they arrived in Hawaii. It seemed to me a new form of a Dear John letter. It was a Dear-John-I'm-sorry-but-I-just-couldn't-make-it-to-Hawaii, enclosed-is-your-ring. Have a nice war. Personal relationships cannot always be put on hold and even in the middle of a tour of war; a soldier fights a war on two battlefields simultaneously, in Vietnam and Home.

Sorry for the rambling letter. A woman in a war zone is an important combat factor. Men are often battling both war and women. The human urges of men and their moral duty are fighting battles that they don't always understand.

Jim, keep me in your prayers.




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