The radio broke up our session and Joe had to go to the TOC.

As Joe left, I began to think about my experience with the racial situation in my life. In Morgan Park, Minnesota, where I was born, there was one family of blacks. They were called Negroes back then. The only time I saw one of them was when I went to a high school basketball games to see my brother play; one of the Negroes played on the team. When my family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida when I was eleven, I knew that there was a “colored” town near the city, but since the schools were segregated, I very seldom saw any of those residents; except when I took a bus, then they were seated in the back. In college and seminary, I began to be a little enlightened as to the problems between the races in America, but I didn’t pay a great deal of attention. I was wrapped up in my own life.

I hadn't thought about that happening in Okinawa since I came to Vietnam. I just couldn't grasp the racial problems in our country or in our Army or in my life, for that matter. I guess I was always so involved in my own life and my own activities that I was not aware of the injustice, bigotry and hatred going on between races. I knew that many protesters were saying that Vietnam was a white man’s war to get rid of the blacks; that they were the one fighting the war for whites. After all, many of them couldn't go to college even if they wanted to. Therefore they were subject to the draft more than the whites.

I was in college when Martin Luther King was preaching for equal right for the blacks. I just didn't pay too close attention. I was going to college in Mississippi and for the most part, bought the white party line. I believed the posters that showed Martin with the communists. It was easier for me to say he was a communist and then go on and supply-preach in country churches, run track, and work on campus; after all, I had taken a wife and I was a struggling minister.

All that changed when I was called for jury duty. That began my awareness of the black prejudice going on in the South. I know it's hard to imagine, but I really had no idea of the magnitude of the race problem in America until I was called upon to do my civic duty.

When I reported for jury duty, I was selected. The case we were to try was that of an old Black man that had a small restaurant. He had purchased some equipment and was delinquent on the payments. The company that he owed money to was suing for payment. As I listened to the case unfold the first morning, I head him say he had sent them a dollar or two from time to time as particle payment.

I remembered my Mom telling me to always pay something on a bill no matter what and they can't do anything thing to you. I was thinking that he had tried to pay and that the company accepted the payment he sent. The judge called a recess for lunch and an local business man serving on the jury with me said, "Come on, son, I'll buy you a hamburger before we hang this nigger." I knew I was in trouble.

Like many Americans plagued with indifference at that time, I kept my mouth shut. I just didn't know what to say. After lunch we convened again and I was worried about what I should do. Well, I never found out. The Judge threw the case out, because the fellow had attempted to pay the bill. The company's lawyer apologized to the jury and the case was closed. I left quickly, not aware enough to be embarrassed for my silence. No wonder we had race problems when people like me just did not get it.

Both Black and White men in Vietnam faced death daily. They both were men of courage. 86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians and 12.5 % were Black with about 1.2 % of other races. The percentage of death to me is not important. The fact that any man must die in a war is enough to protest the need for war.

I had just about dozed off after my long story-telling session with Joe. The radio kept breaking the silence in the bunker, but I soon got used to the crackling sound and the occasional voice calling in a common check. Pecker came through the bunker door. He was such a big guy; we had to make the bunker longer than most just so he could stretch out on his cot. "Hi, Chaplain," he called out.

"You off for the night?" I asked.

"Yea, Joe's on the horn and nothing is happening so I'm checking in early," he said.

He began to fumble around in his ruck, grabbed what looked like a bulldrum bag, and said, "I need to step out for a smoke. See you later."

Jim, I know that you have heard that the soldiers in Vietnam are abusing drugs on a daily basis. I came to realize that, indeed, there were a lot of drugs being used here in Nam this year. I was aware that the 4th Infantry Division had executed an amnesty program for Marijuana users. If a troop turned himself in, he would be given amnesty and be forgiven. They would not be given article 15 or a court martial. However, reports indicated that the push of stopping marijuana use, gave rise to the abuse of heroin. Heroin could be used without odor filling the bunker. Thus it was harder to detect, unlike marijuana, which could be detected as the sweet and sour odor lingered in the air.

Some reports given thirty years later would suggest that some companies used drugs at the high rate of 30%. At the close of 1970, one Division reported that draftees in an exit survey reported that 15% had tried heroin and that 7% used it regularly. #4 plastic vials of heroin sold on the streets corners for $4.00 a vial.

I didn’t personally see any of this taking place in An Khe or when I visited Qui Nhon. However, I wasn’t looking for it so I guess, like my not seeing racial problems in my youth, I didn’t see the drug problems in my daily truck in Vietnam because I wasn’t looking for them. I should have been more aware; my hooch maid would ask me every day if I wanted some smoke. I also read in the Stars and Strips newspaper that it was reported in the States that almost every GI was abusing drugs somehow in Vietnam.

The stateside media and war protesters pictured the American GI laying around in opium dens, chain-smoking marijuana, bombing out on heroin, and if they didn't use drugs, then they were juicers, drinking booze until they were mindless. I never saw any thing like that going on. Jim, you must keep in mind that my experience was limited to the Central Highlands for the most part.

I personally knew that drugs were used and abused in Okinawa in 1969. Like the race problem, the command swept as much of it under the rug as possible. CPT Kelly who was the commander of one of my Companies while I was stationed in Naha called me late one afternoon. He told me he had a troop in his office that was out of his mind. He had been taking some kind of drugs and was having hallucinations of some kind. The Captain did know what to do and was asking for help. I told him to give me fifteen minutes and I would be right down.

When I got to his orderly room, the CQ told me that the captain had been in his office with Pvt. Handover for the last hour and a half. I knocked on the office door and called out, "This is the chaplain, and I’m coming in.” The first thing I saw was the Captain sitting on his desk. PVT Handover was in a chair in the corner of the room.

"Good evening, Chaplain," said Captain Kelly.

"What’s happening?” I asked.

"PVT Handover tells me that he took some drugs and now they're after him."

I turned to PVT Handover. "Who's after you?" I asked.

With a look of panic, this wild-eyed young solder mumbled, "They’re out there."

The CO said, "He told me he's not sure who they are, but he knows they are after him. Chaplain, I wanted to call the MP's but I think he needs help, not the stockade. I called the hospital, but they said he needed to come down before I could bring him up to the ER.”

The CO continued talking, “I would call Lieutenant Colonel Noble, but he would tell me to handle it. Handover has no history of drugs, but he said he took something this morning, He wasn't sure what it was and now they’re coming after him."

I went over to Handover, kneeled in front of him. He shied away. "Do you know who I am?” I asked.

"Yea, you're the Chaplain," said Handover.

"That's right, and I can get you some help. Colonel Nelson is a psychologist friend of mine who can help you and maybe get you admitted to the hospital. Would you go with me?" I asked.

"I don't want the CO to come," he answered.

"That's no problem," I said. Then I turned to the CO. "Why don't you go out into the orderly room and let me talk to him." The CO left.

Hanover was shivering and his eyes were glazed and wild-like. "You won't let them get me, will you?" he asked.

"No, but you'll have to go with me. Let me call the Doctor and he will meet us at the clinic," I said.

"No, no phone. I don't want them to get me," said Handover as he began to look around the room.

"Who will get you?" I asked again.

"They’re out there, waiting for me and they want to kill me," he said.

I thought to myself: he is really paranoid. I better just see if I can get him to let me take him up to the clinic. "I'll tell you what we can do. Let's sneak out the back door and get to my car and you hide so they won't see you and I'll take you to the Doctor’s. He’s a good friend of mine and he will help you."

"You want me to go with you now?" he asked.

"Yes, we can leave right now. I'll take you in my little car." I went to the back door, "I'm parked right out there," pointing.

Handover didn't move. I went over to him, took his hand and pulled a little and he got up and went with me to the door. I opened the door and pointed to my car. "Come on, let's run."

We ran to the car. I opened the passenger side and he slid in, and sat low in the seat so he could not be seen. I quickly got in the driver's side and started to drive. Handover reached up and locked his door. I drove out of the parking lot. I didn't call the doctor, nor did I let anyone know I was leaving. We had to drive about ten miles up the Island to the Psych Clinic. I pulled up to the front door, got out and then opened Handover's door. We ran into the reception room and up to the desk. I asked the clerk to get Doctor Nelson. She said he was in a group meeting and could not be disturbed.

Handover was looking around the room. His eyes were scary and he was crouching down. I pointed to him, "Specialist," I said with authority, "you disturb Dr. Nelson right now and tell him Chaplain Fowler needs him now, before he (pointing again to Handover) starts acting out."

In a few minutes Doctor Nelson had us in his office. He wanted to have Handover admitted to the hospital. However, Handover would not let him take him to the hospital. He insisted that I do the honor so [they] wouldn't get him. I agreed, and the Doctor called the hospital and by the time I got there, they had a room ready for him and Doctor Nelson took over.

Later that evening the doctor called me back and I thanked him for his help. His voice became loud and he said, “Chaplain, Handover is stable. You did the right thing; he was the worse case of paranoia I’ve seen in a long time. But, Chaplain, you might be the craziest officer I’ve seen in a long time. That was risky, taking him in your car on the highway. He could have done a lot of damage to you on that highway."

"I know it seemed every time he peeked out the window, there was a cop car cruising by. But I didn't think he was dangerous," I said.

"Well, you were fortunate he knew you, because sometimes a paranoid person will get fearful and attack anyone near them," he said.

"Thanks for taking him in, Doc. What was he on, anyway?”

"I'm not sure. But we have had a lot of guys using LSD lately. He looked like he was probably on LSD,” said the Doctor.

Jim, do you remember that fellow that threatened CPT Ford in his office with a dagger one night in Okinawa? Ford called me one night and asked if I could come over to his office ASAP. SP4 Avery was in his office and wanted to talk to me. His voice was kind of strange but I couldn't make out just what was going on with him. I guess I had some sort of feeling that something was wrong. I couldn't place who Avery was, but since his company commander was calling me, I went right on over.

In the orderly room, there were two MP’s with their guns drawn and their ears to the door. The Duty NCOIC told me that Avery was holding CPT Ford hostage.

"What do you mean by hostage?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said. "CPT. Ford said Avery had dagger at his throat and wanted him to call you."

Again, I didn't think of the danger. I went to the door. It was locked. One of the MP’s whispered, “If he opens the door, step aside and we'll rush him."

"I don't think so, Sergeant," I responded. "You stay put."

I knocked softly on the door. "This is Chaplain Fowler. Can I come in?"

The door clicked. I slowly turned the knob. The door opened. I stepped in.

Behind the door, SP Avery was standing next to CPT. Ford, holding a letter opener that was a miniature bayonet at the neck of the CPT. Ford. Avery was well over six feet tall, a large man with an angry look in his eyes. I stopped in my tracks. I recognized Avery as one of the fellows who attended chapel services regularly. I suggested that we all sit down and talk about what was going on.

It turns out that CPT Ford had a shakedown of the barracks (looked in the lockers of the soldiers) this evening. They found Avery had some drugs hidden in his footlocker. The Captain had called Avery into his office and was reading his charges to him and told him he would be held at the stockade until he had his court martial. Avery yelled out, “No, you won’t!” He jumped up and grabbed the dagger off the captain’s desk and pressed it to his throat. "I'm not going to no stockade," he said. "The captain is against blacks. He don't have to put me in no stockade." He was angry and frightened.

He looked wide-eyed and still angry. "What are you on now?” I asked.

"I don't know. I just know that I ain't going to no stockade tonight," he said.

It was obvious to me that he was high on something and that he was dangerous.

I asked CPT Ford, "Do you have to put him in stockade? Can't he be held here in the area under guard until morning?"

Ford looked at me. "I might have been able to do that but I told these troops that I was going to have a shake down and if I caught anyone with any kind of drugs, I was going to put them in the stockade. Now if I change my mind and let Avery get over, the troops won't believe I will keep my word."

"So we have a stand off,” I suggested.

"I'll push this through his neck,” said Avery, pushing the point until it made an impression in the Captain's neck.

There was a brass trumpet sitting on the captain's desk and Avery picked it up with one hand. He also took this out of my locker.

"Do you play?” I asked.

"I'm learning," said Avery.

I thought to myself. What can I do? This guy is obviously disturbed and angry.

The captain said that he couldn’t keep him in the company or he would lose face by receding or changing his command. Avery might do something foolish. "Seems to me we have a stand-off," I said again. "Avery, how about the three of us going to the hospital. They can treat you for drugs, then they can release you to CPT. Ford or to the stockade and he can go on with this court martial." I said to Avery.

"If that won't work, the MP’s outside will break in here and someone will get hurt. I don't want to get hurt, and I don't want either of you hurt, so,” I said to Avery again, "let me take you to the hospital and get you admitted."

Still holding the dagger to the Captain's throat, "He'll have to go with us."

The captain got up slowly. Avery held the dagger to his neck. Then Avery picked up his trumpet in the other hand and headed toward the back door.

"Ok, chaplain, you drive," he said.

We got in the car and Avery sat in the back seat where he could hold the dagger at the throat of the captain. The hospital was seven or more miles from the office. I drove as safely as the roads in Okinawa would let me, being careful not to hit any big pothole and cause the dagger to injure the captain.

I pulled into the emergency room parking lot and we got out of the car. Avery took the trumpet with him. It was now 2430 hrs. He put the horn to his lips with one hand and began to blow. It was a shrill off-key blast that brought the hospital aides out of the emergency room door into the parking lot.

By now, Avery was acting very paranoid and disturbed. With the help of the emergency room staff, we took him into the emergency room. I reached out my hand very slowly and told him to give me the letter opener. He hesitated a moment and he drew it away from the captain’s neck and gave it to me. Captain Ford smiled at me and winked.

The nurse called the duty doctor to come the ER, “Stat.” When he showed up, he refused to admit Avery to the hospital. His reason was that he was not crazy but drugged and that he needed to be locked up rather than admitted to the hospital.

So there the three of us stood on the ramp to the emergency room. It was now 0145. Avery was coming down from his high. Captain Ford was over his need to have him jailed, but would not give in. He was still determined to have Avery arrested and put in the stockade.

"What happens now?" I asked.

Avery said, "The Captain won't put me in the stockade."

"Ok,” I said. "I guess you could run. I'm too tired to argue with you and I don't think the Captain here will stop you. But we will report that you’re AWOL and have an all points bulletin put out on you. The Island will be crawling with MP’s looking for you. You have threatened an officer and could be armed and dangerous and who knows, they might just shoot you on sight."

"Hey,” said Avery. "What the hell’s going on here? I don't want to be shot."

Then I said, "I'll tell you what we can do. The CO won't let you back in the company. You don't want to run, we can't pretend nothing happened. How about letting me take you to the stockade with CPT. Ford and I'll have them put you in. That way I'll be the one who put you in the stockade and Ford will not be the one to do that to you."

Avery was silent. "It's sure hot this morning,” he said. "Ok, chaplain, it will be cool if you put me in the stockade."

The three of us went to the stockade at 0200. I told them that Avery was coming in on his own and needed to be locked up because he was on some drugs. Avery was acting or putting on an act for the guards. He was acting crazy, saying things, and accusing them of trying to steal his money. He gave them all a really bad time that convinced them he was high on something. They put him behind bars and the captain and I returned to his company.

We were both tired and didn't say much on the way back to his HQ. As I let him out of the car, he leaned in though the window of my car and thanked me. "You know, chaplain, you might have saved my life."

"Mine, too," I answered.

I did not have any kind of experience with drugs like that in Nam. However, I would venture to say that my observation of drug use in Vietnam was limited to my command assignment. I just didn't have the experience like I had in 1969 in Okinawa. I think my view of drugs in Vietnam is like watching an accident happen. It depends from which perspective you view the situation. I'm sure drugs are a problem; it just so happened that I did not see the problems in my view of the accident of Vietnam.

I had just put my journal down when Pecker returned. "Oh, sorry, Chaplain. I didn't mean to wake you."

"I wasn't sleeping. I was writing a letter to a friend," I said.

"Who's the friend? Or is that none of my business?” asked Pecker.

"He's a chaplain friend of mine from Okinawa, Jim Miller. He is a mentor of mine that taught us how to get along with liturgical religious rituals and gave me strong support in the chapel that I was in charge of. I sort of use him as a sounding board, someone to let out my frustration on about this war," I said.

Pecker smiled and slyly commented, "I use a joint."

"Maybe you can help me," I suggested. "I hear a lot of the grunts use drugs, but I haven't seen much abuse myself, at least in our battalion. How many guys do you think are on drugs or use drugs on this firebase?"

Pecker was silent for a moment. "My guess would be about one or two out of five. If you count the amount of scotch used by the officers, it might be higher." He laughed.

"Do you mean that 2/5th of the troops are high out here?" I asked.

"No, they are not all high. Most only smoke when they come in from the bush. The officers know it. But they don't say much if you're sort of quiet with it. The amnesty program isn't working too well. Those who are afraid of getting caught smoking are taking to cigarettes laced with smack. You can’t smell that. Someone told me that the VC in the village were putting heroin in the marijuana they sell so they can get the GI’s addicted. That sort of scares me, but so far I haven't noticed any problems," he told me.

"When did you start using marijuana?" I asked.

"Me,” he laughed. "I was smoking pot since I was in high school. Vietnam has been great for me, in that pot is so cheap over here." He went on. "Most of the users I know all started long before they got to Vietnam. They can just get it so easy over here, and cheap."

"Aren't you afraid that it might cause problems if something happens out here and we're run over, like what happened on Warrior?" I said.

"Not really. I was smoking that night, but my reactions were fine. You guys had been drinking wine and beer all night at the party but everything worked out ok," he said.

"What about in the bush? I'm told that very little is used out there," I said.

"Closer to none, I would say. The guys police themselves. Damn! Our asses are on the line and I won't let anyone use drugs if I can help it. Of course, I don't go out too much anymore. Only when the CO has me go with him on his recon runs to the companies in the field," he said.

"I hope you don't get hooked on anything over here. You don't want to bring home any unwelcome souvenirs," I said.

"I hear you, chaplain. No sweat." He turned off his light and we both went to sleep.

The next morning, I flew back to Radcliff. When I got off the helicopter, Dave was not around and so I had to walk back to the battalion area. I really didn't mind. It was a cool morning for Vietnam and all I had to carry was my chaplain's kit. It was good to get back, even if it was going to be a short visit.

When I got to my hooch I made a pot of coffee and got out my writing material and continued my letter to Jim, about the men in Vietnam.


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