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Every New Years a dear friend of mine and I talk to each other.

I am reminded of the
special relationship we forged from our days together in Vietnam and having just gotten
off of the phone with him, allow me to share some of my thoughts of said relationship.It
is 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 by
the government of the United States to stem the spread of Communism world wide, and
in particular, South East Asia in the 1960’s. From 1948 through 1973, this was done not
only by those who chose to volunteer their service, but also by the aid of implementing
the “military draft,” a method where the U.S. Government is issued the authority to call
to service all able bodied young men to protect and defend the constitution of the country
that we call home; the United States of America.

Over 9 million men and women served in the armed forces during the Vietnam
War years, with 25%, or 1,728,344 of them draftees, with 648,500 of these draftees
serving in Vietnam. Many of those who volun- teered, joined various branches of the
armed 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 served
during 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 taken
on 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’d
like 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 and
their 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 since
those day ago. Everybody has a tale to tell and everybody has moved on in his or her own
fashion. Unfortunately for some, they’ve moved on to the hereafter. Others yet are still
haunted by ghosts of the past, almost stuck in that time of war, and for most, well, they
may 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 on
my own experiences in Vietnam as an airborne infantryman coupled with a fictional
romance 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 that
relationship between the Johnny and Mai, a major part in the story involves a young
sergeant referred to as “Sergeant Frank.” In actuality, Frank is a first name. I will not give
his full name since Frank may not want it known and he ain’t the type to cross, but I’ll do
my best to bring sergeant Frank, an original reconnaissance scout from the pages of my
novel to life, as a real person, alive and working here in the good ole US of A since his
tour 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 an
extraordinary 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 call
Frank my dear friend. Of all the unpleasant experiences one encounters in a war setting it
is also possible to have positive experiences as well. Frank and I have developed a long
and lasting friendship as a result of those days of extreme living or better said, extreme
survival. For that I am most thankful.

I believe it is no exaggeration to say I owe my life to Frank as do my offspring in


some fashion. But on the other hand, Frank owes me for keeping him out of jail by
deescalating a confrontation in a bar with a local citizen one night just outside of Fort
Bargg, North Carolina. I digress. Anyhow, one day while on a reconnaissance patrol in an
area 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 by
the 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, he
was from another army, The Peoples Republic of North Vietnam’s army. Now, needless
to say, Frank and the young man didn’t have time to exchange pleasantries and not only
did that language barrier between them make for an uncomfortable encounter, but that
damn Soviet made machine gun pointing right at us, well, that was down right
inhospitable.

I won’t go into detail about what went down, suffice it to say we survived and the
young soldier and his comrades from the North were not as fortunate. I truly believe that
almost 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 family
form 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 was
fulfilled, he moved back home to the north of Washington State to be near family and
friends and to work in the timber industry. This move also provided Frank the
opportunity to engage in his passion, the great outdoors.

An avid hunter and fisherman, the choice of living in Washington State and the
opportunities for an outdoorsman could only be outdone by, let’s say, Alaska. So it was
only 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 go
to the remotest of the remote. Many people enjoy the great outdoors and many people
who live in metropolitan areas engage in plenty of outdoor activities and sports. In
Frank’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 to
get 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 and
understanding of nature. I believe Frank to be in total communion with the outdoors and
animal life. He possesses knowledge of nature that the most astute of students and
teachers of said subject would envy. The legendary Davey Crockett, who roamed the hills
of Tennessee, would envy this southern born (North Carolina) scout if he were alive
today.

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 as
of 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 backed
against a bolder by a large Black bear. He didn’t blow it away, no, he killed it with a
clean 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 said
they 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
to kill the prey unless the hunting party wounds the animal or they are in a life-
threatening situation. Apparently the city dwelling tender footed hunter shot and only
wounded the giant Grizzly. The angry bear then backtracked the hunters, a natural
instinct of the bear. Ever aware of this, Frank took evasive moves and got the upper hand
on the pissed off wounded bear and shot it from a safe distance. I could go on and on.

People pay large sums of money for these kind of experiences and as a friend, I
have a standing offer to go hunting with him at anytime. No thanks. I mean I love this
guy and his company but my outdoor activities ceased upon discharge from the armed
forces. My idea of ruffing it these days would be to stay at a hotel with no running water.
I’ve had my share of camping out.

I suppose Frank may not be the typical next-door neighbor where you live, but
he’s somebody’s neighbor and a better and more interesting one you’ll never find. I know
I'd love to have him as a neighbor, that is providing he moves to Las vegas. Short of
another vacation to the north, I ain't moving to Alaska