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Average Joe

Average Joe

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Published by Duke Barrett

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Published by: Duke Barrett on Jan 03, 2010
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05/04/2010

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Every New Years a dear friend of mine and I talk to each other. I am reminded of thespecial relationship we forged from our days together in Vietnam and having just gottenoff of the phone with him, allow me to share some of my thoughts of said relationship.Itis of a military nature, but that's what makes it special.It's for the most part unedited. 
Not Just Your Average Joe
 
Who’s your neighbor?
Some thirty to forty years ago, millions of us “average Joes” were called upon bythe government of the United States to stem the spread of Communism world wide, andin particular, South East Asia in the 1960’s. From 1948 through 1973, this was done notonly by those who chose to volunteer their service, but also by the aid of implementingthe “military draft,” a method where the U.S. Government is issued the authority to callto service all able bodied young men to protect and defend the constitution of the countrythat we call home; the United States of America.Over 9 million men and women served in the armed forces during the VietnamWar years, with 25%, or 1,728,344 of them draftees, with 648,500 of these drafteesserving in Vietnam. Many of those who volun- teered, joined various branches of thearmed forces in hopes of getting better assignments than had they waited to be drafted.The point being here is not to criticize nor defend the “draft” or “volunteers,” for that matter but rather to emphasize the sheer number of men and women who servedduring the years of the Vietnam War and how they morphed back into society, mostly un-noticed by the populous. Most of these veterans with the exception of a few, have takenon everyday roles and some with a relish, in this gigantic stage play of life.It’s almost cliché to say that they could be your mailman, your grocer, your doctor, or even your next-door neighbor, but the fact is, they could be. It is here where I’dlike to point out some of those average Joe’s who at a time were G.I. Joe’s like myself,who’ve blended back into society and whose story of those years ago in a distant land andtheir subsequent adjustment to life “back in the world” need be told.In the telling of this story, I’ll revisit the lives of some of my closet friends, brothers in arms who I’ve had the extreme pleasure and honor to have seen again sincethose day ago. Everybody has a tale to tell and everybody has moved on in his or her ownfashion. Unfortunately for some, they’ve moved on to the hereafter. Others yet are stillhaunted by ghosts of the past, almost stuck in that time of war, and for most, well, theymay be your un-noticed next-door -neighbor, playing out their role in this play.
 
Frank 
I recently wrote a novel titled "The Wall Of Broken Dreams," a story based onmy own experiences in Vietnam as an airborne infantryman coupled with a fictionalromance between my main character “Johnny” and a beautiful Eurasian girl named“Mai.” Johnny met Mai on an in country R&R, at Vung Tau, a resort city in proximity of Saigon, along the South China Sea. Now, while much of that story deals with thatrelationship between the Johnny and Mai, a major part in the story involves a youngsergeant referred to as “Sergeant Frank.” In actuality, Frank is a first name. I will not givehis full name since Frank may not want it known and he ain’t the type to cross, but I’ll domy best to bring sergeant Frank, an original reconnaissance scout from the pages of mynovel to life, as a real person, alive and working here in the good ole US of A since histour of duty was completed over 30 some years ago.Frank is not just your average Joe nor was he an average GI Joe. No, Frank is anextraordinary individual, working in the wilds of Alaska as a hunting and fishing guide.A more natural fit has not been made since Beethoven and the piano. I am proud to callFrank my dear friend. Of all the unpleasant experiences one encounters in a war setting itis also possible to have positive experiences as well. Frank and I have developed a longand lasting friendship as a result of those days of extreme living or better said, extremesurvival. For that I am most thankful.I believe it is no exaggeration to say I owe my life to Frank as do my offspring insome fashion. But on the other hand, Frank owes me for keeping him out of jail bydeescalating a confrontation in a bar with a local citizen one night just outside of FortBargg, North Carolina. I digress. Anyhow, one day while on a reconnaissance patrol in anarea heavily infested with NVA soldiers, Frank and I were sent up ahead to recon a major trail when he spotted a break in the foliage, an unnatural break that would be missed bythe average eye. Not Franks.Bringing us to an immediate halt by a hand signal, Frank carefully pulled back a broken branch only to reveal another young soldier, just like us. The only problem, hewas from another army, The Peoples Republic of North Vietnam’s army. Now, needlessto say, Frank and the young man didn’t have time to exchange pleasantries and not onlydid that language barrier between them make for an uncomfortable encounter, but thatdamn Soviet made machine gun pointing right at us, well, that was down rightinhospitable.I won’t go into detail about what went down, suffice it to say we survived and theyoung soldier and his comrades from the North were not as fortunate. I truly believe thatalmost anyone else, too include myself, would not have noticed that broken branch and probably would have walked right into that enemy perimeter, thus depriving my familyform the joyous homecoming had by all upon my return from that exotic land in South
 
East Asia.But enough about me, back to Frank. After Frank’s military obligation wasfulfilled, he moved back home to the north of Washington State to be near family andfriends and to work in the timber industry. This move also provided Frank theopportunity to engage in his passion, the great outdoors.An avid hunter and fisherman, the choice of living in Washington State and theopportunities for an outdoorsman could only be outdone by, let’s say, Alaska. So it wasonly natural that he contemplated a move there and within a few years, Alas-ka it was.You betch’a.There are reasons beyond hunting and fishing though that Frank has chosen to goto the remotest of the remote. Many people enjoy the great outdoors and many peoplewho live in metropolitan areas engage in plenty of outdoor activities and sports. InFrank’s case however, it was different. Frank needs to be outdoors. He’s the epitome of "the outdoorsman."First, like many of returning veterans of that war, Frank needed to be away from people. An engaging and intelligent guy with a boyish charm, Frank nonetheless needs toget away. People tend to get on his nerves. Not all vets are like this, but he is.The second reason I believe Frank has chosen this lifestyle is his love andunderstanding of nature. I believe Frank to be in total communion with the outdoors andanimal life. He possesses knowledge of nature that the most astute of students andteachers of said subject would envy. The legendary Davey Crockett, who roamed the hillsof Tennessee, would envy this southern born (North Carolina) scout if he were alivetoday.Having stated the obvious reasons for what I, a true city boy, would describe as“the rural life” there is an unseen motive here. Like a cop, a firefighter, a racecar driver,etc. I believe Frank to be an adrenaline junkie. He gets a rush in a perilous situation, Yes,the same rush he got when he jumped out of airplanes at age 17, or on live fire air-assaults into “hot” landing zones in Vietnam at 18, or being the first to volunteer for an asof yet formulated “long range reconnaissance patrol” team otherwise known as LRRP’S(lurps) The rush is part of his being, and he handles it well.Frank, while hunting in Washington states Cascade Mountains, was once backedagainst a bolder by a large Black bear. He didn’t blow it away, no, he killed it with aclean shot from his bow and arrow. That’s kind of exciting. Then he butchered it and packed it home to eat and make a rug. No waste of animal life here. By the way, he saidthey ain’t good eating.On another occasion as a guide in the wilds of Alaska, Frank shot and killed one of the biggest Grizzly bears on record from some sort of ridiculous distance. Like a quarter or an eigth of a mile or so. In other words,a long shot. Now, as a guide he’s not allowed

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